Finding a way in the digital age does not mean twisting the editorial line to meet SEO demands, noted Anna Wintour, artistic director, Conde Nast, delivering the opening talk on 21 June at the Canned Lions International Festival of Creativity 2016. Introduced by Christopher Bailey, chief creative and chief executive of Burberry, Wintour presented four pointers in her keynote for creativity in the new age, across disciplines.
‘Ever more ambitious’
The New Yorker’s investigative story on the Church of Scientology (2011) was the first of many examples cited by the keynote speaker to emphasise the importance of pursuing the big ideas. She urged the audience to not get lured by immediate impact with less effort, led by the notion that people can be distracted online.
The New Yorker’s expose, which ran online and in print, was 25,000 words long and pursued by the journalist, Paul Haggis, for a year. Full time resources and lawyers were engaged by the publication to build the story.
“There was nothing ‘digital age’ about that piece. But it was the most read online, and the most intensely read,” noted Wintour.
She advocated presenting content of immediate interest, but with lasting significance. The content was so rich that it became a bestselling book, and a critically acclaimed TV series on HBO.
Ceding that ‘it would be ridiculous to ignore the speed and possibilities of the digital age’, the speaker contended that to build a large audience online, one must pursue the big ideas.
Citing the case of the movie Boyhood, she said, “Aiming higher works in all creative fields. (On Boyhood) We see these victories as surprises. But many could have been predicted by their effort and audacity.”
‘Dare to be different’
Another story became the pivot around which the speaker urged differentiation in creative fields in the new age. This one was a story by GQ on hermits, pursued ‘for ages’, which became ‘a blockbuster’ in print and online for the magazine. It was, said the speaker, the best ever for the title.
“We live in an age that prizes authenticity,” noted Wintour, while making the case for bringing personal experiences to the table.
Citing a personal case of failure, she said, “Stepping out of the mainstream requires great courage and confidence.”
‘Use all your gold’
The speaker pointed to the case of Wired, which identified the waste built into the system because of the teams split as print and online. Integrating them and using all the content at different stages of the content generation process enabled a jump in audiences, explained Wintour. The belief that putting up smaller content pieces online prior to the larger print story being published would harm readership had been disproved.
At Vogue, there was an instance of a security breach and a resultant leak of a shoot. The magazine’s reaction was to publish all the pictures from the shoot online, ahead of schedule. It ended up as one of the most viewed pieces of content online for Vogue, revealed the group’s artistic director.
‘Make interesting friends’
Collaboration is an imperative in the new age, noted Wintour. She quipped, “I’m surprised at how much time people spend in their own offices.”
“Be as inclusive as you can. The landscape is so atomised that people are looking at supportive relationships,” she added.
Pointing to American street photographer Brandon Stanton, and the HumansofNewYork.com, the speaker noted how he had expanded the scope of street photography. After New York, he went to Syria and Jordan to tell the stories of those in refugee camps, and is currently engaged with children suffering from Cancer.
“Just because I am a fashion editor or street photographer or ad executive, it doesn’t mean I can’t apply my skills elsewhere. That’s something we should all be doing,” surmised Wintour.