Rob Reilly Headshot

Creativity – the world’s most valuable tool

If we had the power to fix all that is wrong in the world, what tools would we need? Rob Reilly, Chief Creative Officer at WPP, is clear what he would reach for

Creativity is our most valuable asset. It is a problem-smasher. It can potentially address the most challenging problems of our time in the most extreme circumstances.

I would want integrity and authenticity in my toolkit too – they are equally valuable – but creativity is what we need when we don’t know the answers. It enables us to imagine what we do not yet know. And it enables us to work things out then scale solutions.

And for us, in the creative industry, it is our tool. When we apply creativity to a challenge, problem, or opportunity, and with like-minded people on both the client and the agency sides, the results can be really powerful. Our craft, coupled with mind-blowing execution, brings this creativity to life. This is how we achieve meaningful, life-changing outcomes.

But creativity is not just a problem-smasher for us, in our industry. It is what the world turns to when faced with existential problems – like the need for a vaccine quickly, a virus that threatens us all, or the quest for a solution to a natural or manmade disaster.

Life-changing is no exaggeration

Creativity is truly capable of shifting the dial. For example Nike's work with sustainable materials, its embrace of the circular economy, and its use of up to 50% recycled materials in its products are good for the world and business.

When Google partnered with Harvard professor and sociologist Dr. Ellis Monk to release a new skin tone scale designed to be more inclusive, that was truly exciting, not least because the scale was released generally, to be used for research and product development. We need more of this creative thinking to be shared, and we should celebrate it more when it happens.

Creativity to do good in the world should not come at the expense of the business. Any ideas that deliver nature-friendly solutions – while also protecting the business eco-system and all its employees, supply chains, customers, and investors – are truly sustainable.

And we can also use our creativity tool to tackle challenges that never seem to go away, like how to make education engaging, interactive, immersive even, and inspiring for our children. As creatives, we should be able to imagine what is possible, even for entrenched systems that defy change, and make that change happen.

Finding fairness – getting beyond words to outcomes

Fairness is a passion at WPP, and creativity is helping us to play our part. We teamed up with the WHO Foundation to create the $5 Vaccine campaign, which gave people everywhere the chance to play their part in vaccinating the world by spending the price of a coffee on a shot that could save someone’s life. That was truly creative.

Inequality often equates to inaccessibility – not just for vaccines but also to healthcare, representation, and access to basic needs – and if we have the tools to make a difference, we should be sharpening them and using them.

And there are so many places in the world where – despite the most challenging circumstances – vibrant artistry and technological ingenuity somehow shine, despite the odds. As an industry, we embrace all types of creative talent.

How does this all show up in the awards?

We trust brands with every aspect of our lives – they are there for us when we brush our teeth each morning, and they help us express who we are. When we were cut off from family and friends, brands were there for us. They were familiar and trusted when everything else was uncertain and unfamiliar. That's a huge privilege. It gives brands a unique role to play as we navigate uncertain times. Brands can also help challenge stereotypes and be our trusted companion as we embrace new, more sustainable models of consumption.

I see this year's Cannes LIONS Festival of Creativity as a celebration of our industry. We have had to think differently for two years, and this could be creativity's shining moment. The Titanium Lions celebrate game-changing creativity. It is an award for provocative, breakthrough ideas that point to a new direction for the industry. This is where we see creativity making a change for the better.

published on

15 June 2022


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