On Creative Talent and the Creative Approach

With BBDO's Josy Paul

In one of the most highly rated sessions at LIONS Live, Josy Paul gave a raw and honest account of his career journey and shared how the more he’s brought his whole self to work, the more it’s enhanced his creativity. Josy talked openly about failure, rejection and embarrassment and how by embracing them, you can create celebrated agencies, cultures and work. Here, Josy Paul, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of BBDO India, responds to your questions on how to seek out creative talent and how to adjust your creative approach.

Chairman and Chief Creative Officer
BBDO India

How did you find your voice as a young creative in the work you did?

I think it was my belief that everything in the world is connected and that it is my creative duty to find the connection. I was a physics major, so I was constantly looking for patterns in the universe. When I came out of college it was quite natural that I came with this belief. And that game would go on. And then I remember, at work, I would tell people, “Throw me anything and I will connect it.” People would show me images or a statement and say “Josy, why don’t you connect it to this brand or problem?” and something would happen. And that’s how people began to notice me.

What are you looking for when hiring creative talent? What stands out in a creative portfolio? The truth is that you hire people, not portfolios. You are looking for difference, you’re looking for diversity. You’re looking for people who can bring you new influences and new backgrounds so that your work can be richer. And often a portfolio may not reflect that, because the portfolio tells you about the past. The person tells you about the future.

How has the advertising landscape changed in the past ten years and what should we look out for? Very early, at the start of our agency, BBDO in India, we realised the fragmentation of media is resulting in greater pressure on the idea. And that the idea has a responsibility to bring the media together. The idea was the glue. And so we chose action to bring it all together. And we said create acts, not ads. Because action is media-friendly, action is media-neutral and action is commitment. And you know, there’s credibility to action. And so we created a lot of work that was based on action and many of them were turned into brand movements that were recognised worldwide. But going forward, what’s next?

Everybody is looking for the next big thing. But it’s too early to say. The wheel is still spinning and nobody really knows where this is going. You know that the future will still belong to storytellers and story-doers. But how? I think the next big thing is going to be small. It’s going to be about small, potent story actions that create instant impact.

Further insights from LIONS Live and WeTransfer’s Ideas Report

Natascha Chamuleau

Chief Advertising Officer, WeTransfer

It’s interesting to see doubt arise from our research as an instrumental part of the creative process. Before pursuing an idea, 25% of the creatives we spoke to question whether they have the right skills to pull it off, while 13% ask if they’re the right person for the job. There’s a fine line between reasonable doubt and self-limiting beliefs. If you’re a creative leader, it’s part of your responsibility to foster the creative development of emerging talent. To give them space to do their best work— within your agency or outside. I love that Josy says you hire people, not portfolios. Even, or maybe especially, with a fast-growing independent workforce, building relationships and giving opportunities to diverse creatives is paramount to expanding your horizon and improving the quality of the work.

Simon Cook

Managing Director, Cannes Lions

Josy highlights two important aspects - the need to look for difference, and diversity when hiring talent, and this idea of creating acts, not ads. With diversity and its impact on creativity - we know the evidence is there. Research from McKinsey shows that diverse teams perform up to 35% better than non-diverse teams. In her LIONS Live discussion, UWG’s Monique Nelson articulated why this is so important for generating creative ideas: "We do know that complex problems need diversity to answer them. That means we need a little bit of everyone to come up with the best solution.. that is the same when it comes to being creative”. We all know the importance of diversity - now it’s about implementing the hard work to make it a reality: with goals, measurement and constant reflection on how to improve. On creating acts, not ads - if you look at the winners from Cannes Lions over the past few years, there is a growing trend towards the winning work no longer looking like your typical “ad”; instead the prominent pieces of winning work focus on solving consumer (sometimes societal) problems - driving engagement to help build momentum. With the five-times Lion winner 'Changing the Game', Microsoft realised people with disabilities had difficulties using their consoles so created an adapted controller in response, and nine-times Lion-winner 'Viva La Vulva' saw Essity create an entire new visual language to show the female form and destigmatise attitudes towards women’s bodies. Pedro Earp summed it up at LIONS Live: “we need less advertising, and more business solutions.”