Jon Wilkins, global MD of Accenture Interactive’s Creative Council and judge on the creative business transformation jury at Cannes 2021, explains how the great creative work of the past two years points to a paradigm shift in our industry

Cannes 2021, it’s fair to say, has been a festival like no other. There’s no shortage of reasons for that—but one of the less obvious and most significant is something that has become gradually more apparent since I began the judging process.

Sifting through masterful creative transformation stories from over a two-year period has been no small task, of course. The high number of entries combined with the complex stories they all individually weaved made for a dense and tricky judging experience. Having taken time to reflect on it, however, I believe there’s a pattern emerging which confirms the existence of a new reality we’ve been witnessing unfold now over a number of years. Specifically, I’m talking about a paradigm shift in the role of creativity.

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We previously understood marketing communications as the process of creating ideas which generated awareness. Now, it’s a case of creating value which generates awareness—and then telling an engaging story about that value.

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We previously understood marketing communications as the process of creating ideas which generated awareness. Now, it’s a case of creating value which generates awareness—and then telling an engaging story about that value.

Looking back at the highly-awarded campaigns of Cannes 2021, I think we see this shift borne out. This isn’t a futuristic trend coming up on the horizon, this is something which is happening right now—it’s the mainstream culture of creative communications. And it’s been fascinating to observe the difference between those who understand this change, and those who are still grappling with it.

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Turn and Face the Strange

The ramifications of this are equal parts simple and significant. In its most basic terms, this can be attributed to the following attitude in the minds of global audiences:

“I will judge a company based on what they do, not just what they say.”

Nobody can deny that this changes the function of creativity. An understanding of this is built deep into our DNA at Accenture Interactive. You can see it in the way we prioritise experience, how we help clients intertwine their words with their actions—both internal and external.

The old model of creative agencies, one that focuses primarily and often exclusively on communication, simply can’t cater to this new dominant attitude. Consumers are too weary and cynical of storytelling without action. Today, creatives need to affect the change in a company that they know will transform it. It has to run deeper, and be more meaningful, in order to create the value businesses need from us.

Creativity Beyond Communication

That’s why I walked away from the jury at this year’s Cannes Lions feeling so optimistic about the work we do at Accenture Interactive. There have been clear trends in the Creative Transformation category which point to an affirmation of the work we do.

For example, it’s becoming more common to see a company create a scalable model and give it away freely in order to generate wider value in society at large. We’re also seeing creative transformations which affect companies incredibly holistically, touching on parts of the business model such as the supply chain, the partner network, and how they manage their own staff internally. All of these things are vital parts of the stories these brands tell about themselves—stories that people can credibly buy into and believe.

Another sure-fire sign that attitudes towards creative transformation are maturing is that we no longer see ‘tech’ as a magical silver bullet. Don’t get me wrong, tech is still an enabler and a brilliant one at that. It’s just that, five years ago, we might have seen a self-described ‘technological transformation’ win an award in this category. But it won’t win one this year. Just like communications, tech alone is not enough to create a valuable business transformation about which creativity can tell an engaging story. It has to be bigger, and it has to run deeper.

Fundamentally, transformation is about a series of brand actions which add up to meaningful change and a compelling story. Everything about Accenture Interactive, from the diverse talent at our disposal to the way we prioritise a holistic brand experience, says that we understand this new model of the creative communication process. It’s a model which enables creativity to achieve a lot more than just communications.

It’s a great time to be a part of this team. What excites me now is what we can achieve with it.

Jon Wilkins

Global Managing Director – Creative Council, Accenture Interactive

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