Every year at Cannes there is an eclectic mix of famous guest speakers. There are big names from the worlds of advertising, music, fashion and film, which makes it really hard to pick the talks you want to see. However, from the second I saw the schedule of guests, I knew there was one talk I had to go to. And so, today I went to a talk with none other than the incredible Will Smith… and yes, it was just as amazing as I had hoped.
The talk was called, ‘The pursuit of impact’ and began with Will telling us anecdotes about his childhood. He spoke animatedly about his grandmother finding his rap notebook when he was just ten years old. Naturally, it was filled with profanities and she scolded him for not being creative enough and just relying on curse words. Mortified by his grandmother reading the offending rap book, Will said he realised his work could have a profound impact on anyone, be it his grandmother or a thousand fans. He wanted to challenge himself to be impactful in meaningful and creative ways, instead of just relying on the status quo, which is something I will try to bring into my work when I’m back.
Moving on from embarrassing childhood memories, Will Smith spoke about how his own children help him to understand what it means to stay relevant. He recalled his son telling him that ‘cheating is dead’, in the sense that technology invades our lives so much that it is decidedly harder to be unfaithful. Technology has taken away our privacy and ability to keep things secret. Will related this back to advertising; owing to the rise of social media and the notion of the citizen journalist, it is now almost impossible to sell a bad product or completely lie in an advert. If you claim your product or brand does something and you’re lying, it will only be a few minutes before people are criticising you online and your lie is exposed. Will concluded that, ‘smoke and mirrors in marketing and sales is over’, and that we should seek to have deeper, more honest connections with people in order to succeed.
The last part of the talk revealed some side projects that Will had been working on in secret. Most notable was a company called Just Water, that currently make water bottles that are 80% renewable, with an aim to be 100% renewable in the future. This linked in with the opening section of the talk when Will said he wanted to be creative in a meaningful way that had a positive impact on other people. Overall, I was truly inspired by his whole talk – and also slightly starstruck. Make sure you check outhttp://www.justwater.com/ to read more about Will Smith’s initiative.