Creative Cooperation in Cannes

This is an installment of the ” ‘sup, Diplomacy? – World Edition” series, featuring Heather Cosson’s trip the International Festival of Creativity in France.

Written by Heather Cosson, master’s candidate in the Public Diplomacy Program at Syracuse University.

This summer, I attended the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, France. Through Newhouse and SU Study Abroad, five students attended Cannes Lions to learn about how to use the newest trends in digital marketing and social media to reach international audiences. Students were chosen for their knowledge and passion in utilizing digital technology and social media platforms to communicate internationally.

The class was called International Digital and Social Media Platforms, and we live-tweeted the conference using #NewhouseIDSM. According to Social@Ogilvy, I was the top tweeter at Cannes Lions.

NewhouseIDSM with our professor, Dr. Ward and award-winning creative director, Fernanda Romano. Fernanda is in the grey dress. I’m in the floral dress.

At Cannes Lions, there were many amazing sessions, but the session that had the greatest impact on me was Creativity Against Terrorism.  This session discussed how Lowe + Partners, an international advertising agency, worked with the Colombian government to encourage members of the FARC to demobilize and rejoin society. The campaigns were based on reaching the FARC members and appealing to their humanity. The Colombian government did not criticize the FARC or target their campaigns towards delegitimizing the FARC, instead they tried to bring them home.

Among the many campaigns Lowe + Partners created to encourage the FARC to demobilize, the campaign that inspired me the most involved plastic balls that had blue lights in them. These balls were filled with messages or trinkets from citizens asking for their family members/friends to demobilize and return home. The balls were sent down the waterways into the jungle and the blue lights shown through the night. While the messages did not reach the specific people they were written for, the humanity and emotion in the campaign convinced FARC members to demobilize. In addition, when FARC leaders demobilized, they participated in the campaigns by sending messages of peace in ads. They told FARC members that they were being treated right and they were now free.

More campaigns need to be founded in humanity and emotion. That’s how you connect with people. American diplomacy efforts should include more of this.

Bill Clinton spoke at Cannes Lions about how advertising can change the world.

According to Clinton, creative cooperation is what the USA needs to create a better, stronger country. He is exactly right. Currently, our country is so politically divided. We cannot get anything accomplished because people are mistaking compromise for weakness and are not willing to work together. This needs to be changed. Public diplomacy is about connecting with people, cutting through the differences and finding common ground. If we want to do this internationally, we need to be able to do it in our country first.

Bill Clinton told a story of a time when he was called to Brazil. The government was trying to increase technological progress while preserving the rainforest. Top members of government met with execs from oil companies and other companies that had an interest in the hydro-technology they were working on. Everyone sat around a table and, despite their differences in career fields and interests; they spoke respectfully, working towards finding a solution. While a perfect solution was not possible, they wanted to find the best one.

“In a complex world with a lot of variables, there is wisdom in diversity,” Clinton remarked.

We cannot do everything on our own. It takes many people of different backgrounds and opinions coming together to create a better world. This is why public diplomacy needs to be a top priority in our country. We need to build and strengthen relationships if we ever hope to begin creating this better world. As was the case in Brazil, there is no perfect solution for all of the world’s problems. We will not solve every problem, but by working together, we can get closer to perfect. Every day we should strive to be a little closer to perfect than we were yesterday.

How can we do this? By working together and by listening and learning from people with different experiences than ourselves. By putting this knowledge together to create something great. That’s creative cooperation.

Participating in the workshops and discussions during Cannes Lions reminded me of the strength and creativity that can be found when people from different backgrounds and cultures work together. We all see things differently, but if we come together and explain our points of view, together we can create something amazing. This is what we need to work towards.

Stay tuned for more great stories from the Public Diplomacy cohort.

Until then, follow me on Twitter @HeatherCosson.

Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization, agency, or department.

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