There has been much talk in recent times about how the advertising industry could (and should) use its considerable wealth of creativity (and wealth) to help change people’s behavior for the benefit of the world. That message was amplified yesterday when former President Bill Clinton addressed the ad world’s elite in Cannes. Invited to the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity by Brazilian media group Grupo ABC, Clinton called on the assembled to channel their creative energy toward coming up with world-changing ideas.
While Clinton’s message was simple—that those whose with the power to persuade could have great impact when those energies are focused on the greater good—his insight and global context made the point impressively.
In his very presidential way of weaving in strains of thought from science, global politics and philanthropy, he shared with the audience the very real but oft-ignored fact that genetically each person is only .5% different from another. He used this as a platform to call on the audience to focus not on differences, but on our common needs, goals and power to affect change when working together.
"We are living in the most interdependent era in history," he said, noting how countries like the U.S. can’t hide from issues like the Euro zone debt crisis, or how climate change cannot be dealt with from a single geo-political vantage point. Instead, he advocated for change through creative networks of collaboration.
Early in his talk he told the story of a competition in which business students submitted case studies on how to deal with the challenge of climate change. The winning entrant was a team from New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus and was composed of four students from India, Pakistan, China and Taiwan.
"The point is," said the president, "young people could care less about what their parents are fighting about. All they cared about was how to solve common challenges. They are living in the future."
Focusing specifically on the ad world’s power of communication, President Clinton talked of the enormous amount of misinformation in the world. He took the opportunity to admonish U.S. Republicans for their role in denying climate change as a matter of political ideology rather than a matter of fact and gave kudos to the Brazilians, many of whom were in attendance, for their country’s ability to collaborate around protecting the rainforest, despite the cost to economic success.
"A lot of the facts that will form the trends of the future are not apparent to people. The communicators will have a profound influence on how the next 20-30 years will turn out," President Clinton said. "People need honest communication. You can do that."
While President Clinton spent much of his time discuss the need to communicate for positive changes around topics such as climate change, which is a prime focus of his Clinton Global initiative, he charismatically wooed the audience when he declared his love of DirecTV’s recent advertising, recounting the premise of "Don’t Have a Grandson with a Dog Collar" nearly word for word, prompting on-stage interviewer PJ Pereira, chief creative officer and co-founder of Grupo ABC agency Pereira & O’Dell, to declare DirecTV the winner of the first Presidential Lion.