I’m not trying to show off my French fresh from my return from the French Riviera, but all that I saw and heard over the past week in Cannes was perhaps best summed up by this French epigram: The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.

Over and over, in spoken word and moving pictures, there was ample evidence of this.

Sample these:

From Sir John Hegarty:
“Big data. Jesus Christ! Give me a break. We’ve always had data. Why do we need to brand it? You can call it fast data, shiny data, strong data, for all I care. What matters is how you create an idea from what you know.”

“Things really aren’t changing that fast. We still watch James Bond, you know.”

From David Droga:
“Follow the idea, not the money.”
“The one who compromises the least is the one that wins.”
“We’re good if our peers think we’re great. But we’re great when the real world thinks we’re good.”

From astrophysicist Dr. Neil Tyson:
“If you stop making mistakes, you’re no longer on the frontier.”

From Mondelez’s Dana Anderson:
“Go after doable innovation. Don't try to boil the ocean.”

And on and on. It has always been about genuinely engaging with people. We just have to do it real-time and perhaps, real fast, now. And while the advertising industry is a business, advertising has never been about business. It’s always personal. That’s why authenticity continues to be critical. That’s why we need to use human-driven creations to create human-driven connections. That’s perhaps the most effective way to be less predictable, even if not more predictive.

Talking the talk is easy. But there was great advice on how to walk the talk too.

For example:
Don’t merely be customer-centric. Be customer-eccentric. Look beyond your average customer, and see where the influential fringe is and how you can engage with them.
Or:
Resist the seduction of the good-looking. And embrace the ugly. The world needs more weird.

Don't set out to create meaning. Instead, set out to help people find meaning. While a great story will always be the way of the future, the best stories are those that visibly enable people to play a part in them. Or, in the language of today, publish into the zeitgeist, as the good people at Buzzfeed like to say.

All said and done, the innovators don't merely set out to disrupt for the sake of disruption. They use unexpectedness as the starting point to create better or different norms that people want to embrace. They hold mirrors to slices of life that feel like the fringe but are just unreflected norms that merely need to be brought into the spotlight for more people to see their relevance.

After a week of wandering the seminar halls of the Palais de Festivals, the streets of très chic Cannes, and browsing through the award-winning work in the galleries, I’m convinced that ultimately this is all we need: Reminders. Constant reminders, on loop all the time. To do what we came in this business to do: create. Truly, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

About the writer:

The writer, Narayan Devanathan is the Executive Vice President and National Planning Director at Dentsu India Group. Moving from Euro RSCG (where he was chief strategy officer), he joined Dentsu Marcom as the National Planning Head back in 2011.

Devanathan, who has more than 19 years of experience in the advertising business, has worked across capacities in planning and copy with leading advertising agencies in India and the United States. Some of the key brands that Devanathan has helped build are the Reckitt Benckiser portfolio (including Dettol, Strepsils, Lysol, Mortein, Airwick, Harpic, Easy Off Bang, Veet and Vanish, among others), Fair & Lovely (digital for Unilever), Sprite, KFC, American Express, GE Healthcare, Mitsubishi Motors, Baskin-Robbins, IBM, Motorola, Cisco, Teacher's (Beam Global Spirits), Hennessey, New York Life Insurance, Pramerica Life Insurance, MetLife, Corelle, CorningWare, Pyrex, GNC, WD-40, and Bombardier Recreational Products.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect in any way of Adgully.

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