Cannes Musings: What’s Creative?

Posted by JeffMores on June 12, 2014


By Elise Mitchell
CEO, Mitchell Communications Group and Dentsu Public Relations Network
2014 Cannes PR Lions Jury Member

When is something truly creative? The question keeps coming up among our jury team as we deliberate over 1,800-plus entries in this year’s Cannes PR Lions awards competition. It’s dominated dinner conversation and been the focal point of many a robust debate in our jury sessions.

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Of course, no one in the normal course of work and life stops to ask themselves: “Is this idea a creative one?” Rather, it’s a natural reaction you have to something that simply grabs you. You know it when you see it, as the saying goes.

But this week, I’ve begun to think more intentionally about how I define creativity, especially since my role as a juror – one of 21 jury members from 19 countries – requires me to have a distinct point of view on the subject. It is, after all, a creativity festival. And more importantly, I believe my ability to effectively judge public relations campaigns of all shapes and sizes depends upon it.

So here are some thoughts about creativity and what it means to me.

  • Something is creative if it has a fresh take and puts things in a new light. For example, introducing a new solution to an old problem, which is often seen in fields like technology where innovation really shines and the right insight can spark a truly remarkable concept.
  • A creative approach causes me to stop and rethink how I have previously looked at something, and I become more willing to consider changing my beliefs, perceptions or behaviors as a result. Creativity can play a crucial role in changing the conversation about pressing and perhaps long-standing social issues, and inspiring people to finally take action.
  • If something is creative, it breaks through the clutter and the mundane. This can often be seen in the simplest ways such as a tweet, an event, a headline or a photograph.
  • Creative ideas often surprise and delight by connecting the dots between two otherwise unrelated things. For example, a sponsorship or initiative that brings to life a brand promise or product attribute in a very clever way.
  • A creative approach resonates and is relevant. Or as some of my friends from the UK have told me, “It’s just bang on.”
  • Not surprisingly, creativity in its finest form evokes an emotional response of some kind, maybe even a visceral reaction. A good story is one of the most powerful ways creativity spurs emotion, especially when it is about people experiencing the ups and downs of real life such as adventure, conflict, love, loss and resolution.

It’s only Day 3 of our week-long judging process, but based on what I’ve seen so far in entries from around the world (and contrary to what some might say), creativity is alive and well in the public relations industry. Whether it’s in the form of an impassioned approach to a cause, a spectacular one-time event, a story that has moved me to tears, or a full-blown campaign with global reach, I’ve seen some of the finest work of my life here in Cannes.

I can’t wait for Day 4.

Be sure to check back for Elise's next blog from Cannes Lions 2014, which explores the question, "What are the criteria for an award-winning entry?"