As Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity rolls around again 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 full day dedicated to China related talks.
In terms of awards and honors, however, last year China’s numbers lagged relative to the size of the country’s submissions and the size of its advertising market. What is holding back China’s market from earning international recognition for its advertising work? Is it that Chinese agencies and brands do not place high value on foreign awards shows or are there perhaps deeper questions to ask – such as how is creativity and innovation are 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 creative giants like China?
SHP+ asked local creatives, producers, and designers in China’s creative industry a few of these questions. Leading up to the festival we will feature these interviews. The first interview comes from AQKA’s Creative Director Eric Cruz.
AQKA’s Creative Director | 雅酷创意总监
1. What is your definition of creativity 你如何定义创意？
Creativity to me is the beautiful shaping of ideas and insightful, compelling problem solving that moves people and culture.
2. How much do you feel your cultural background impacts this definition or your understanding of creativity? 你认为自身的文化背景对你的定义有何影响，对你对创意的理解又有何影响？
Who you are and where you come from, the totality of your collected experiences from the cultures you existed and interacted with informs every decision you make. I’m Asian by birth, American by upbringing, but consider myself a transnational globalist, which I believe is the inevitable fate of everyone. I’ve been fortunate enough to live and create across 5 countries (USA, UK, JP, Malaysia, CN) over the last 20 years, which allowed me an insightful perspective on the forces that shape culture at large across the different cities and cultures I’ve collaborated with. The future is one global community and this is an exciting prospect to me.
3. China often is accused of being a copy-cat, is this a misunderstanding of China’s creative industry development or do you find this to be a genuine issue in China’s market? 中国总被人说成是山寨，你觉得这是对中国创意产业发展的误解吗？还是事实确实如此？
To answer this question we have to look at the natural evolution of humanity across history. I consider China the product of collective evolution. It was isolated and closed off from the West for nearly 40 years up until the end of the Cultural Revolution, awakening in the early 80’s and coming of age in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics. During its initial rise, yes it looked at what the rest of the world is doing, but in my opinion its now surpassing the West. If you think about it, the West has had 230 year to industrialize. China did this in 28 years. Digitalization took 32 years to happen in the developed world but 10 years in China. So while it’s incontestable that China has been massively influenced by the rest of the world, it is now “coming of age” recreating phenomenons like Silicon Valley, at unprecedented rates. It is now beginning to pave their own path.
To say that China is copying the West would also be to ignore history. Gunpowder, ink, printing, and paper currency are all innovations that came from China. Those are technologies that happened 3-4,000 years ago. So we have to consider this question of intellectual property in a bigger context than the last century.
And in the global race towards global supremacy, China isn’t exactly sitting by the sidelines. About the same time that people were debating whether WeChat is a copy of Facebook, a few years later Facebook soon started becoming influenced by the new innovations introduced by WeChat.
So to me it’s a global dialogue about how we all help and influence each other. China is not just “catching up”, we’re now seeing it supersede the West. And in terms of creativity and innovation this will be redefined in the years ahead.
4. Why do you think Chinese brands and agencies have not received many international awards? 你认为中国品牌和广告公司没有斩获太多国际大奖的原因是什么？
To me this is only a matter of time. We saw the same pattern with Korea. Back in 2006 South Korea didn’t register in the global awards circuit, but countries that are fast followers soon become innovative hubs. South Korea became the fastest growing economy of the 1990’s, by 2010 it was acknowledged as one of the most innovative countries in the world.
Now its China’s turn. The difference between Japan and South Korea’s rise to success and creative innovation is that China’s scale is unprecedented. China’s national drive to innovate, spear headed by the Chinese government’s Vision 2020 to make China the innovation capital of the world, multiplied by China’s economic purchasing power will give birth to an economy of a scale we have never seen before. Herein lies the opportunity for creativity to flourish. We are at the cusp of this major transformation that the world is about to see. It’s only a matter of time.
现在轮到中国了。跟日本和韩国相比，中国的成功崛起和创新创意的规模是前所未有的。中国有国家推动创新，政府提出了Vision 2020 ，要把中国打造成世界的创新中心，再加上中国经济的购买力，这将会带来史无前例的经济规模。所以，创新也有了蓬勃发展的机会。中国将迎来重大转变，世界将会拭目以待。只不过是时间早晚的问题。
5. Is there an example from your work or others in the last year created and produced for the China market that stands out as very creative or innovative? And how do you define the difference between creativity and innovation?在过去的一年里，有没有哪部中国创作的作品很有创意或者很有创新性，说说你的作品或者别人的作品都可以。你如何界定创意和创新之间的区别？
Our goal is to fuse ideas with innovation and blend art with science to tell compelling stories in the digital age. So we see the marriage of creativity and technology as our starting point. Considering China is one of the most mobile savvy and digitally connected countries in the world, it is ripe for innovative storytelling, products and services, given the high mobile penetration and critical mass.
We’re fortunate enough to have worked on projects that have allowed us to exercise our creative muscles using technology to tell innovative brand stories in the connected age. Below are a few projects that highlight this:
Nike Basketball : Rise 1.0
The world’s first LED and AI enabled basketball court that taught ballers how to play better through data science, was Nike’s biggest effort in basketball worldwide in 2014 and 2015, and we were amazed that this happened only in Shanghai and nowhere else in the world, which demonstrates China’s growing influence and importance.
Nike Running : My Sole Story
My Sole Story is a data storytelling platform for marathons across China, an example of data storytelling that takes your data and creates a dynamic story that chronicles your training journey, dedication and comittment from start to finish.
Nike Women : Believe in More
A cinematic journey into actress Zhou Dong Yu’s life from a failed athlete to one of China’s biggest stars. We told a lesser known story of how sports and gymnastics helped her become who she is today.
6. Are you generally optimistic or pessimistic about the growth and development of creativity in China’s ad industry?对于中国广告产业的成长和发展，整体来讲，你是乐观还是悲观？
I am super excited to see the leap frog evolution that will happen in China in the coming years. I think China is fast becoming the new playground for creative innovation in the next decade. It is well underway and we will see a great explosion in years to come. The appetite and hunger to innovate and make a mark for itself is there.