Croisette kings on creativity: Michael Roth

Interpublic's chairman and CEO looks beyond the old-school "creative" department

As the great and the good of the advertising world descend on the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, we ask the leaders of the big six holding companies what this means to them.

What does creativity mean to you?
I’ve been in this business for more than a decade now and, in that period, the definition of creativity has evolved. Today, inspiration and great ideas are no longer solely the purview of the ad agency "creative" department. What wins at creative awards shows is more dynamic and multichannel than ever. That’s because marketing communications have to build businesses in an ever-changing and increasingly fragmented marketplace. We have to communicate using every platform and consumer touchpoint. We can tell stories that become part of the popular culture. We can create utility or services around our clients’ brands that become part of a consumer’s life.

What hasn’t changed is that our work has the capacity to connect with people at a deeply human level – creativity can make us laugh, cry and question priorities. This gives us the ability to impact our clients’ businesses, as well as create positive changes on social issues and in communities.

How important is creativity to Interpublic’s growth? What can you, as a network leader, do to nurture it?
Creativity is key to growth. It’s a major reason we come to awards shows and festivals. They not only recognise creativity but also show us a path forward for how the digital transformation and the related changes in consumer behaviour will affect the creative industries.

The ability to attract, retain and nurture creative talent is the focus. We want the best talent to want to work with us. So we are upfront with people and true to our word. They know that we mean it when we say we will invest in them and the vision they have. We also dedicate significant resources to training multidisciplinary talent and driving collaboration and integration. By staying nimble, we can not only move at the pace the industry requires today, we can ensure that our people are challenged and stay engaged. All of this leads to more creativity.

How do you persuade clients of the importance of creativity?
We show results. Great ideas work — whether in PR, digital, media investment or more-traditional channels. It’s all about marketplace results. It doesn’t hurt when our agencies are winning at places such as Cannes. One example is Lowe SSP3’s groundbreaking work for the Colombian ministry of defence that not only won awards but demobilised guerillas in the Colombian jungles, and was credited with contributing to the peace process in that country.

Fundamentally, we are focused on work that moves the needle both in terms of our craft and from a business perspective.

What’s the most creative thing you own?
Assuming you mean what Interpublic owns, that’s like asking a parent to pick from among their children. Every single one of our agencies is able to bring creativity to its clients, whether it’s a sports marketing shop or a specialty company in the field of shopper marketing. Each delivers creativity in a unique way and it’s often more powerful when two or more of our agencies partner and bring their joint resources to bear on behalf of a client.

In the end, it all comes down to talent. None of what I have described is possible without great talent. We’ve always said that talent is our most vital asset – even as our company dealt with a number of legacy challenges a few years back, we never stopped investing in talent. Because it’s terrific minds and creative thinkers at our agencies that make all the difference.

And if you’re asking about the most creative thing I own personally, I’ll go with the conductor’s baton I used when the New York Philharmonic recently honored Interpublic. I love music and to have the opportunity to lead the incredibly talented artists of the New York Phil through On Broadway was a pretty big thrill for a guy from Brooklyn.

This article first appeared on

Cannes Lions 2015 Coverage

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