Takeaways from Cannes Lions on the Power of Millennials, Curiosity, Purpose, and Transparency

June 22, 2016

That’s the thing about the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity: It sits at the nexus of the business world and creativity, and it brings together people from the marketing world and the entertainment world on stages all across town. And there’s more in common between these worlds than you might think, and marketers can draw as much inspiration and takeaways from a panel of agency executives discussing strategies for retaining creative talent as from a session featuring Hollywood’s Will Smith.

Debunking Misconceptions about Millennial Talent

Publicis hosted a panel of agency and marketing executives discussing talent brand. The panelists agreed that companies and ad agencies should be pivoting from focusing on talent acquisition to retaining their talent and empowering their employees, especially their Millennial employees, with purpose.

The panel agreed that misconceptions surround the work ethic of Millennials. The panelists disputed the characterization of Millennials as entitled, lazy and spoiled. Unanimously, they agreed that they regard Millennials as highly valued talent — in particular because of their curiosity.

Hire for the why. Nurture the why. Encourage the why. Reward the why. — Kathy Ring, CEO, Starcom USA

Millennials are digital natives and have only experienced a world where access to information is unlimited. Because of this asking “why” — about projects, about how things are done, about anything — come naturally. Millennials ask “why” as a path to finding meaning and purpose in their work, something that is critical to them. The panel agreed that hiring curious people is a good rule of thumb, whether that talent is Millennial or not.   

Millennials want to be empowered to contribute. — Penry Price, Vice President, Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn

The panel also agreed that Millennials value experience. They also want to know how they can contribute on both professional and personal levels. Starcom’s Ring said millennials believe that it’s their responsibility to curate their career and their experience within a company.

Will Smith on Listening to Your Audience

In his session as Cannes Lions, Will Smith, the actor and former hip-hop star, addressed many themes about the entertainment business, and most of these these themes had relevance for marketers. For instance, he discussed how technology has increased transparency and made it more important than ever to listen to your audience and their feedback.

Smith said he used to be product focused but he has shifted to being people-focused. He noted that he had produced some inferior products (Wild West West, anyone?) that he tried to market to the public. But the combination of technology and social media means that entertainers can’t cheat anymore. Smith said it used to be that marketing could bamboozle people with advertising because there was a lag before people found out that your movie was weak. Now, good products and good movies are essential, because people will know quickly — and globally — if you’ve delivered a worthwhile product. People are Tweeting in real time about the experience. Smith said people are posting on social media, “Wild Wild West is [junk], go and see Vin Diesel’s movie.”

In addition to producing quality entertainment, Smith said Hollywood is thinking globally and beyond words. He said that storytelling is important, but it’s not so much about language. It’s more about homing in on the emotion that is universally relatable. That is a sure-fire way to have a global impact despite differences in language, geography, and culture.

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