Cannes Q&A: Innovation with Paddy Collins
We chat with Paddy Collins, Creative & Digital Transformation Lead at Google UK, about the Innovation category.
What’s your view on the altered (simplified) structure of Cannes as a whole, which was introduced last year?
It can only be a good thing. What’s impressed me has been the willingness to listen to legitimate worries that the whole festival had become a bit too big and sprawling. A simpler, tighter structure means more focus on the work and the winners. Selfishly, I’m very pleased to see the field of Creative Strategy get some proper recognition.
If you were on the Innovation jury, what would you be looking for in the entries this year?
There should be clear evidence that the ideas were not only successful, but also replicable. The ideal entry for me identifies a seemingly intractable problem and then solves it in a way that can be widely adopted. The Ministry of Communications & Technology of Colombia’s MyLine, the [Grand Prix] winner last year, was almost perfect in this regard – taking an existing infrastructure of landline phones and using Cloud computing to give them a new lease of life. Something like that is brilliant, because having proved it can work in Columbia you can easily take it to a dozen other countries with a similar problem.
I think we are on the verge of hitting a sweet spot where the tech becomes accessible enough that creatives can really unlock its potential.
Is creativity keeping pace with new tech or lagging behind?
Technology is screaming along at such a pace it is hard not to feel that creativity is playing catch up. That said, I think we often underestimate how much they rely on each other. AR is an example. The underlying tech in something like Google’s ARCore [platform for building AR experiences] is incredible, but we’re only in the early stages of seeing it adopted. We need creative people to find better solutions than just using it to sell me a sofa. I think we are on the verge of hitting a sweet spot where the tech becomes accessible enough that creatives can really unlock its potential.
If 2017 was the year of the chatbot and 2018 was all about voice recognition, what’s the innovation trend of 2019?
I think we’ll see Artificial Intelligence referenced absolutely everywhere. Some of those references will be intelligent, and some, sadly, will be artificial.
Any attempt to fully automate the creative process I suspect is a fool’s errand.
Does AI represent an opportunity for or a threat to creativity?
It represents the most enormous, and most widely misunderstood opportunity. Any attempt to fully automate the creative process I suspect is a fool’s errand. However, when I see AI being used more narrowly – say to create original images from a set of examples or perhaps to explore and uncover some non-obvious correlation in a set of data – then I think that gives creatives a very powerful new tool.
Which recent work would you deem truly innovative and why?
From a product point of view, adidas recycling waste plastic pulled from the ocean into brand new trainers [adidas Parley] has been one of the more impressive, and under-reported, stories of the last year.
From a brand or perhaps a PR point of view, I’ve never seen a company stick to their principles the way Patagonia have. Handing back the savings they made from corporate tax breaks to climate change organisations, while refusing to take bulk clothing orders from companies that don’t match up to their ethical standards? They say a principle isn’t really a principle until it costs you something...
Increasingly, I think we will take into consideration not just the raw effectiveness of the entries but also how sustainable they are.
How do you think this category will evolve?
Increasingly, I think we will take into consideration not just the raw effectiveness of the entries but also how sustainable they are. With MyLine, they used Cloud computing to essentially move the point of computation to a different location. That saved them from having to create a big infrastructure to carry the project and meant they could build a leaner idea that left little to no destructive footprint.
What, for you, is the most exciting part of working in the advertising industry now?
I was honoured to be asked to judge some of the Young Lions work this year and I was blown away by the high quality. The entries I saw had a confidence and boldness that made me feel that the future of the industry is in safe hands. I’m excited to see how we ensure that bravery and diversity of thought is preserved and will flourish.
I’m excited to see how we ensure that bravery and diversity of thought is preserved and will flourish.
Will you be attending Cannes Lions this year and if so what are you most looking forward to?
I’ll try to be there for at least some of it. I should probably tell you about the panels I want to attend but honestly, the Friday night closing party on the YouTube Beach is always special!