As the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity rolls around for its 65th edition China’s presence at the festival continues to grow in terms of attention, delegate numbers, and sponsorship. For the second year in a row there will be a day dedicated to China related talks.
Is it that Chinese agencies and brands do not place a high value on foreign awards shows or perhaps there are deeper questions to ask such as how is creativity and innovation different in each country and culture. Could it even be that international award shows like Cannes are fundamentally biased against the type of creative work coming out of new giants like China?
SHP+ has been interviewing creatives on the state of creativity in China. For the next interview we talked with designer Rene Chen, the managing director at Jones Knowles Ritchie’s Shanghai branch office, a global design agency that focuses on brand identity and packaging design campaigns. She spoke at Cannes in 2016 on the topic of creativity in China and two years later she still has an interesting perspective to share about the nature of creativity in China’s advertising market.
SHP+采访了几位创意人士，了解中国的创意发展。这一次受访者是全球化设计公司Jones Knowles Ritchie的上海总经理Rene Chen，她也是一位设计师，该公司专注于品牌识别和设计宣传。2016年戛纳创意节上，Rene做了关于中国创意的主题演讲，如今，两年过去了，她依然有很多话要说，从很有趣的视角谈谈如何定义和理解中国广告市场的创意。
JKR Managing Director, Shanghai | JKR上海总经理
Photo Credit | 照片: The Drum
1. How is the state of China’s creative industry in comparison with the West or is it even possible to make this comparison? 中国的创意产业跟西方相比如何？或者说二者能否相提并论？
On the one hand I’m very protective of China and believe it is a very creative place but I also think that China’s creative industry has a long way to go. In 2016, I spoke at Cannes Lions about protecting and defending Chinese creativity. My main message was that it is important to distinguish what type of creativity we are talking about; as I see it there are two styles of creativity, innovative creative and adaptive creative; China leans more towards adaptive creative.
I would not say China is lacking in creativity rather it understands and works in a different creative way than the Western world. Innovative creative, which the West excels at, is about taking risks; it is about breaking things and being rebellious, this type of behavior is just not in China’s cultural DNA. Take as an example how each culture deals with rain. In China if it rains people stop what they are doing and use this as an opportunity to take a rest and then go back after the rain; whereas in the West when it rains they ask ‘why is it raining’ and ‘what can I do to stop this rain or work through it’. It is like this with creativity, in China it is not about breaking or disrupting things but more about modifying and reshaping. Both methods are very valid forms of creativity, just different ways of approaching the issue.
2. Can you elaborate more on your understanding of the difference between creativity and innovation? 能具体说说你是如何理解创意和创新之间的区别吗？
The terms innovation and creativity are frequently mixed up partially because of today’s focus on technological innovations. People have started to equate the two terms with the same meaning as they believe any new technology or innovation is also the product of creativity. I think there is an important distinction between the two, however. Creativity is actually all around us, whereas innovation is something that starts from scratch and is perhaps more closely associated with what we think of as invention. In China we can see creativity even on the street level and almost in a comical way, for example, the motorists that are able to stack so many chairs on the back of their bike, this is one form of creativity. Innovation, on the other hand, is about dreaming up something that is totally new and has never been experimented on before.
3. How do you think the creative process in China effects the growth or stagnation of creativity and do you see this process changing here? 你觉得中国的创意流程是否推动或者阻碍了创意的发展，这种创意过程在变化吗？
Let me share some examples that can explain the range of the creative process right now in China. We have a huge international client that we are helping grow in the local China market and so the team we work with here are local Chinese but they are very open minded and have a good sense of where China is in its development stage. This client is great to work with because they are not too proud thinking that it is China’s time to dominate and they are also not overly obsessed with the West, falsely ascribing standards and goals with the term ‘Western’. If we get more clients with this sort of mindset I know that China’s creativity will really shine.
On the other hand, just this year we are still working with local clients where whether it is the top management that does not appreciate or understand the value of the creative process, or it is the middle management that is overly protective, risk-averse or simply wants to save face, all of these close-minded ways of thinking in the end stifle the creative potential and our results.
Right now China’s consumers are actually very open and willing to try new products and ideas. I would have to say the issues with China’s creative process lean more towards the clients risk-averse mindset, but I really think this is just a matter of time before this changes too.
4. Are you optimistic for the future of China’s creative industry? 你对中国的创意产业很乐观吗？
I’m optimistic about the growth of creativity in China but not innovation. I think to answer this question it is important to think about Chinese culture. We are all different in terms of race and culture and in turn we all work and create in different ways. Our differences indeed are what make humanity beautiful, the challenge then is for each culture to understand its strengths and learn how to leverage them. So in the future I actually don’t see China as a very innovative nation but I think it is and can become an even more creative nation than it is today.