Cannes blog: Rejoice the return of the big idea

Move over wearables, ideas that stick have reclaimed the Palais, says Rethink's Aaron Starkman.


By Aaron Starkman

What’s the latest in wearable tech? Well, the answer may surprise you. Here it is:

Who cares? Honestly. Who cares?

Ideas are back. And they’re back in a big way.

Oh man, we had a rough go of it there for a while didn’t we, ad land? Marketers and agencies were scrambling to figure out what to do with Facebook and Twitter, and there’s still some of that going on with Snapchat, even Tinder, plus a few more.

But for the most part, we’ve figured it out.

We should give ourselves a colossal industry-wide fist bump for that. We just emerged from the weeds stronger than ever.

In Canada for instance, the work presented at Cannes has been incredible this year. And yes, some of it involves technological, Buck Rogers-like gadgetry or using Twitter in innovative ways (“Surrender Your Say” is a good example), but here’s what’s different lately: there are big, amazing ideas attached to it.

This wasn’t the case three years ago. There were a lot of head scratches in the Palais here in Cannes as a bunch of gadgets started to win prizes – gadgets void of big, powerful ideas. “And the Gold Lion goes to the flux capacitor.”

The fact is most of us got into this gig chasing the big idea, not the flux capacitor. And the big idea is what’s getting acknowledged by consumers and award shows alike lately.

Ideas are what define the industry. It always was this way, and it always will be. We just got distracted there for a little bit.

So welcome back. The truth is it’s not a new frontier anymore. We have technology and social media house-trained. The ideas that are connecting with consumers may be in different mediums and communicated in different ways, but make no mistake – just like 10 years ago, the ideas that truly connect can be easily described on a napkin (or 140 characters, take your pick).

The awards handed out so far in Cannes this year are proof the big idea is the big dog, yet again. Just look at the “Scarecrow” initiative for Chipotle or the work by Taco Bell promoting its breakfast where it had, what seemed like everyone in America named Ronald McDonald vouch for the Taco Bell breakfast. Both of these examples are simple, and straight to the point. Bonus marks for having a clear enemy. Consumers and Cannes judges love someone to hate as long as it’s not the brand being advertised.

And hey, just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with coming up with the next flux capacitor. Just make sure it’s in tandem with the next most interesting man in the world.

Personally, I can’t wait to see some more great ideas as the week unfolds. Stay tuned. My next post on simple great ideas may come from my Flux Capacitor.

starkmanAaron Starkman is partner and CD at Rethink.