Opinion: Can such a competitive industry act collectively?

Creativity, People

To think that one agency or just one creative leader can single-handedly shine a light on what the future will be like is utter nonsense. That reflects not only an individualistic view, but also nothing more than ego, in a way. After all, if there’s one thing we can learn from the world today is that the future is emerging from movements where people from different places connect and make change happen. But now, let’s think for a while, what about the VPs, CCOs, CEOs and agency presidents, what are they doing to invent tomorrow?

Let’s look at the Cannes Lions Festival, for starters. Every year, thousands of leaders gather at the Palais to talk and find inspiration on the different topics going on around the world. And that’s pretty cool. It shows that this is a great moment of unity in the creative industry. But, if you think about it, this happens only for a week. What have they been doing when they’re not in Cannes, then?


They all come back to their own daily routines, their clients, and, therefore, their awards. Each agency acting within its own universe. Acting individually at the same time as all of their campaigns and strategies are saying: We need to engage people. Let’s connect brands to make the world a better place.

The conclusion is, in a world where brands are built to be less controlling and more collective, open-minded and generous, many agencies and leaders are still focused on their day to day. On their own success, their Linkedin profiles, and their desire for change, which may sound collective but in fact is still guided by an essentially individual pursuit: to be better than the others.

This is when people step up, opening doors to new paths. Leaders who show us that agencies can go beyond the expected and known way. Professionals such as Sarah Watson, BBH New York’s CSO, who, even in the rush of everyday life as a mother, a wife, and Chief Strategy Officer of one of the largest agencies in the world, still finds time to give life to Beautiful Minds, a BBH nonprofit initiative in partnership with Google whose mission is to connect top planners of different NY agencies so they can come together and help young planners.

There’s also John Boiler, founder and CEO of 72andSunny, who, in search of ways to help young people become more experimental, created 72U , a three-month program hosting creatives from different parts of the world so they can learn and explore the intersection between art, culture, technology and story-telling together, through a series of activities ranging from the making of a documentary to a social app, and even to a pop-up park at Venice Beach.

72andSunny is recognized as one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies 2015 and is a two-time “Agency of the Year” winner for Advertising Age and Adweek.

Of course, some may say they lack the time. Okay. Time really is a challenge, especially in this industry with ever-tight deadlines. But my question is: do we lack time or unity spirit? Do we lack time or the will to reinvent our very business model and operation? Do we lack time or courage to look at ourselves and find that a new tomorrow may come of less competitiveness and more generosity?

That’s why I ask you now: will we soon enough act the same way we expect brands and clients to? And you, as a leader, what have you done to turn your creativity into something not only relevant to your career, your team and your clients, but also to the lives of people who aren’t around? Have you ever thought how surprising it would be if agencies, you and other leaders could connect to shine a light on a new path?

Have a coffee and think about it. Often the change we expect from the world must start in ourselves.

André Chaves is a Connector at Papel&Caneta.org, collaborative project that has been connecting game-changing leaders from different agencies around the world so everyone can inspire each other and work together to make positive changes happen.