Cannes day 5: Art

Jack Blog

June 21st, 2012 By Jack Morton

Theme for the day from many of the sessions I attended at the Cannes festival of creativity: art.


“Advertising is, at its best, an art form” (Alain de Botton).

“Your job is not being an artist. It’s being an f***ing great salesperson” (Amir Kassaei).

Philosopher Alain de Botton, present thanks to Ogilvy&Inspire, an effort to broaden the industry’s conversation about sources of creativity, suggested that advertising at its best is an art form. This was an interesting assertion—especially coming a day after the artist JR drew such a stark line between his art and the job of advertising, and just minutes after DDB’s Amir Kassaei declared  “Your job is not being an artist. It’s being an f***ing great salesperson”. As a reformed art historian, I find definitions of what art is and is not to be frustratingly pointless, but I loved de Botton’s assertion that the ad industry can help move consumers closer toward the true sources of happiness (freedom, reflection, friends) rather than simply convince them to buy more products that fail to satisfy their desires. Kassaei urged the industry to stop being complicit in generating “empty growth”; “Let’s stop blaming the bankers”. 

#2: Dissecting the art of creativity

Four top creatives from BBDO made a case for the craft of advertising, dissecting the construction of three ads (not made by them) as carefully as an art historian assessing a painting. My favorite of the three: the unbelievably moving “I Am Mumbai” ad for the newspaper Mumbai Mirror. In a future Cannes, it would be terrific to see a similar analysis of the craft behind experience design and execution. Meanwhile, I loved CMO of P&G Marc Pritchard’s message that marketers can inspire creativity by “fighting for freedom”—starting with creative briefs that simply state the business problem rather than providing jargon-dense directives that stifle thinking.

#3: The art of creative collaboration

President Bill Clinton spoke to a very packed house at day’s end about how the industry can use its talent to address the three major problems faced by humankind: inequality, instability and climate change. The messages he came back to again and again: use your talent to remind people that our similarities outweigh our differences, and that the great promise of our age—thanks to both technology and globalization—is contained in people working together across identities, interest groups and geographies in creative collaborations that solve rather than simply debate the problems we must fix.