Riccardo Fregoso, McCann Paris: “A great idea is the most effective way to make brands stand out”

September 29, 2016

ECD at McCann Paris, Riccardo Fregoso is a multi-award winning creative and one of the keynote speakers at this year's Kaktus festival. With his background in philosophy, he provides more analytical (and radical) thinking in his work yet he is passionate about popular culture, new technologies, language and new trends in design. The title of the lecture? “Napoleon, Burgers, Drunk Robots, Scary Cheese, Kick-Ass Youth, Je Suis Charlie, Organic Comic Books and much more… Europe: a very French survival guide“


Which integrated communications trends are most dominant in France at the moment and which trend will, in your opinion, mark year 2016?

There’s a clear trend into mediums that will no longer need a physical embodiment (I mean, a physical, concrete media support, a classical advertising media space), and there is a very specific reason for that. The human body is on the road to becoming the direct medium for most information. We’re in constant transformation, and technology is already shaping our environment, our interactions, our language and ultimately our way to define ourselves. Virtual reality and daily life tracking will become a common place. According to Kevin Kelly’s “The Inevitable”, we’ll keep expanding what we interact with, in three major thrusts: more senses, more intimacy and more immersion. European advertising is already interacting with this multiplication of senses: think about “Pokemon Go” for example, where we can somewhat say that all happens in a “disembodied space” between the human body that walks around in the “real world”, and the augmented reality that “contains” the game. A “limbo space”, not easy to define, and not easy to control. Let’s see how advertising is going to play with that.

Is a great idea alone enough to get a good business result nowadays? Can ideas “set the world on fire” in your opinion?

What’s the definition of a “great idea”? If we avoid taking creativity in its infinite complexity, and try to focus only on its functional relation with advertising, we could define a great idea as the most effective way to make brands stand out. And of course not all ideas are capable of that. In order to, as you say, “set the world on fire”, an idea needs to create culture. As Douglas Holt recently wrote: “Iconic brands are cultural innovators: they leapfrog the conventions of their categories to champion new ideologies that are meaningful to costumers” (Harvard Business Review, March 2016).

A truly creative work has to increase the cultural relevance of a brand. Exactly how the best works awarded this year at the major festivals have done. Take “Brewtroleum”, or “McWhopper” for example: these works generated tremendous consumer interest because they went beyond entertainment. They represent a real, profound evolution in the perception of the values of a brand. They stand for clear, positive values: ecology, and peace.

To which extent do you think all the changes in the EU, refugee crisis and other problems European countries are facing have affected the creative industry?

Europe is in crisis: migrant crisis, financial crisis, Brexit, terrorism, search for identity… There are two ways to react: building walls, or break them down, and take every single crisis as an opportunity to do better. Playing for diversity, innovation and dialogue over countries and cultures. For what I can see, most of the time creativity stands out for positive solutions. In France, there are many initiatives that go in that direction. Think about the Young Lions winners this year at Cannes, a French team capable of changing people perception on refugees with a video shoot in just 48 hours. But I can’t say more… You’re going to discover the other initiatives during my speech!

On this year’s KAKTUS Festival the theme of your lecture is very interesting and current. What can the Festival attendees expect from your lecture and what can Europe learn from the French “survival guide”?

Here’s the central concept of my speech: let’s try to see the potential where everybody is seeing failure and difficulties. In the last months, France has been at the very center of many crisis: which is why French creativity can show the way, and become a laboratory for new forms of expression, leading to some quite inspiring principles on how to survive a crisis, by using it as an opportunity for a fresh start.

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