The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity was an eight-day gathering of the brightest minds in marketing and advertising. I came to the festival with the idea that I would somehow discover the one dream job that I wanted to have, my purpose in life. There were many themes displayed throughout all the events, such as authenticity and diversity. Yet the word thrown around that troubled me the most was creativity. What does that even mean?
As the week went on, I started to find out. But first, a little context. As someone who was the “smart girl” in high school who went on to go to business school, my college experience revolved around balance sheets, product positioning, gross margins, customer acquisition models, and winning alternative dispute resolutions. And I absolutely loved it. Business and commerce are what run the world and I am so thankful I had a quality education that gave me the structure and the tools to comprehend and one day manage a business on my own. It wasn’t until my senior year that I decided to complete the digital marketing emphasis that I began to realize that marketing and business have a whole different side that didn’t involve a SWOT analysis.
But the word still haunted me. I came to Cannes Lions thinking there were those people who were “creative”, meaning they could come up with hilarious skits at a moments notice, or had a pun for everything, and I didn’t consider myself to be part of this crew. I would just sit behind the scenes and analyze the effectiveness of their creativity in terms of brand alignment, positioning, legality or product life cycles. And I would be content with that.
By day four of the festival, we attended the Cannes Lions Night School. When I walked into a room with stress balls scattered around the floor and Jon Burkhart talking about truly ballsy content, I was instantly intrigued. What could this wildly energetic guy calling out all the Serbians in the crowd teach me about creativity? Our first activity was to grab a handful of LEGOs and create a model of our future self, whether in our full-time careers or side gigs. I grabbed a couple of LEGOs and made a horrendous little figure – short, monochromatic with beady little eyes. I could make some overarching connection between my ugly LEGO creation and my life, but quite honestly, it would be a stretch. All in all, it got me thinking about where I want to be in 10 years (a truly daunting thought) with something simple as a plastic toy. Our next activity was to take two images of items that were hanging around the room and incorporate those items into an ad for Corona. There were no limits to what we could do, and the ideas developed were nothing short of random, with Tom Cruise portraits coming to life, Barbie dolls, boomerangs, pennies and more. Somehow, this activity changed my entire way of thinking. I found myself actually thinking of potential ads using these prompts and suddenly being “creative”.
By the end of the festival, did I find that perfect dream job that I want, or figure out my life goal? No. But I strongly believe that we aren’t supposed to have one “dream job.” Having one thing that we want to dedicate our lives to can be wonderful, but it can also close a lot of doors that life, hard work, and luck open for us. Personally, I don’t think I ever want to find what I want to be when I grow up; there’s beauty in that endless search for it. And along the way, you can discover passions and things you definitely never want to do (cough, accounting). Despite this, I did learn one critical thing – there’s no such thing as “creative” and “not creative” because we all have a channel where we can explore our creativity. For some, it’s coming up with a joke on the spot, others with revolutionary ways to treat an illness, and others are simply creative enough to figure out how to peel a mango without making a mess. And no matter what we end up doing in life, we always need to live by Robert Kraft’s words, “caring makes us better, people can’t pay you to care.” We all have a little creative juice in us and it’s up to us to not only find it, but use it to leave this world a little better than we found it.