Timely. And timeless. A code for winning at Cannes.

Blog by James Nester, Executive Creative Director, Weber Shandwick UK and EMEA

Like waiting for your exam results, your child to be born, the new season of your favourite show to start, your Guinness to settle, or this blog post to get to the point, time moves slowly when you’re shortlisted at Cannes.

So we were pleased and relieved when we heard that as well as winning a Silver PR Lion, our #BrutalCut campaign for ActionAid was the only UK campaign to win a prestigious Glass Lion – a category that celebrates ideas intended to change culture by addressing gender equality.

Winning at Cannes has the potential to transform an agency, helping us impress CMOs, land bigger-budget briefs and propel the careers of those who played an integral role.

But there were 43,101 entries this year. With such colossal competition, how do we keep winning?

Every year, I look through the winners, trying to crack the code. Because if we crack that, we’ll transform our work and all become billionaires.

Last year after Cannes, I wrote about “Blurred Lines”: the premise that the best ideas in the world usually come from merging unexpected disciplines and channels. Which is why you see the same great campaigns winning across totally different categories – PR, Cyber, Promo, Direct, Film – and why we all need to keep embracing different specialisms.

Very true – and you can see the same again this year.

So here’s a formula inspired by the work this year. In fact, it’s based on all the greatest creative work, of any type. A code so true that I’m going to hold myself and all work up against it, from now on.

Great creative work is Timely. And Timeless.

Timely, because….

… great work taps a bigger cultural context. Riding a wave of surging public interest can give an idea unstoppable momentum.

great work is inextricably linked to the time of its conception, to society’s concerns, fashions, memes, hopes or dreams. It can only live now.

… great work is expressed in a way that can only live now, too. It uses new technology, new creative techniques or new media channels.

Work that doesn’t feel Timely is easy to spot. Just ask yourself, could I have made this idea five years ago? Hopefully, the answer is no.

Timeless, because

… even though society is changing faster than ever, mankind does not. The work that makes us laugh, cry, the magic that send shivers through our spine, the stuff we talk about and share with friends does not fundamentally change, and never will.

… if an idea doesn’t contain a universal seed of human truth or meaning, it’s just jumping on a fad. A bandwagon. A gimmick. Another bit of marketing fluff that will be washed away by the relentless surge of content that floods our newsfeed, every day.

we want to create work with a legacy. Big ideas that stand strong in the face of time – that enable us to continue creating new executions for our clients for years, not just one-off tactics that nobody cares about.

Work that isn’t Timeless is easy to spot. Just ask yourself, will this idea still feel interesting and powerful in five years? Hopefully, the answer is yes.

So, let’s try to create “Timely and Timeless” work. If we do, we will have even more cause to celebrate next year.