Finding creativity in today's world

Where do creative professionals turn for inspiration amidst a global lockdown?

Finding creativity in today's world

Everything that we experience in life is from a single perspective; our own. Humans are driven by ego, with all that we encounter being defined relative to ourselves. And yet, our ascent to being the dominant species on the planet (I nearly wrote our planet, there goes the ego again!) is derived from our ability to socialise and organise. By seeing beyond ourselves we’ve been able to achieve things that would have otherwise been impossible.

There’s a learning for brands in this timeless truth. 

The brands whose creative efforts will flourish and reap rewards in today’s world, are those who are best able to look beyond themselves. Brands that understand they have a responsibility to the societies that birthed them. Brands that focus more on paying attention than on demanding attention. Brands that seek to add value rather than extract it. 

It’s easier said than done and needs revisiting permanently. Take the recent Burger King ad on International Women’s Day, for example. That ego driven desire for attention, led to an approach that sought to extract value from IWD more than it sought to elevate and empower women. And Burger King normally gets this stuff right

There’s also a clear commercial benefit from looking beyond yourself. A recent McKinsey study has shown that “Over the past five years, the likelihood that diverse companies will out-earn their industry peers has grown”. But the lack of diversity in senior roles demonstrates that  unconscious bias (which is, of course, driven by ego) is still holding us back from making good business decisions. There is a safety in looking inward, a comfort. But that comfort can lead to some terrible decision making. You can bet that the people working on the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad felt great when they signed off on it. Back slapping all round in the comfy bubble. 

The pandemic has forced many of us to look beyond those daily working bubbles.

While this disruption has been incredibly challenging for the creative industries, for many creative professionals it has actually helped them generate more great ideas. In our recent Ideas Report, for which we surveyed 35,000 creatives across the globe, we found that inspiration doesn’t have to come from far either. That although we’re faced with limitations, creatives have found new ways to be inspired and to inspire. 

To better understand this we’ve asked a number of the industry’s greatest minds - The Cannes Lions Jury no less - to share where they’re getting their ideas, and how they are staying inspired.

Eduardo Maruri

VP Global Creative Board & President/CEO Europe, Grey Worldwide & Sustainable Development Goals Lions Jury President

“Lockdown and restrictions opened my mind to new things. I have been experiencing things that I have never experienced before. I do things that I did not used to do; I got into electronic music which is making appreciate and admire DJ’s all over the world. I watch the opposite of what Netflix suggests. As a storyteller, I am fascinated with the way the stories of the most unknown documentaries are told. 

I became the creative director of my son’s Tik Tok account. It now has 650K followers. I even participate in some of the stories. I spend time with him thinking of ideas for his feed—there is a lot of inspiration in Tik Tok. Through that, I have met new friends. My new group of close friends is probably the most diverse I have ever had. I am 54, and I have never felt younger, more connected with the real world, and as inspired to create new.”

Illustration by Sergio Membrillas

Jax Ostle-Evans

Managing Director, Stink Studios & Digital Craft Lions Jury President

“I’ve found a sense of delight in the creativity I’ve seen in the community and in the experimentation that has been happening over the last year. It’s been inspiring to see local businesses transition so quickly and become such an essential part of the rhythm and buzz of daily life. 

Restaurants, pubs and bars have refused to be silenced by lockdown. Instead, they morphed into delis, hosted pop-up takeaway nights in collaboration with other local businesses and became an essential part of the community. The Friday night pizza queue at our local market in East London has become a social highlight of the week.

The limitations of lockdown life have also awakened the creativity in many of us individually. We started socialising in our front gardens and picked up hobbies like baking, reading, knitting and garden sports. I hope that spirit – the creativity, enthusiasm and support – proves to be a permanent change.” 

Merlee Jayme

Global President Dentsu Mcgarrybowen/Chairmom Dentsu Jayme Syfu & Radio & Audio Lions Jury President

“What did Einstein say about creativity?

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the world.

Even when you can't travel. I might add.

I accepted this global job at the height of the pandemic. Sixteen time zones changed my body clock.  I worked from home for more than a year. My creative mind missed my biggest source of great ideas: obsessively observing people in airports, streets, cafés, and bars. 

But, I discovered that the lockdown can unlock many ideas. I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone at home. I forced myself to do something surprising - something that made my heart beat a little faster. I don't cook, so creating anything from the kitchen scared me. I tried cutting hair too - my husband's, my mom's, my dog's - felt like Edward Scissorhands. Doing things differently jolted my brain too. I combined Yoga with video calls and watched ‘animes’ without subtitles. 

The rush and fun refreshed my way of thinking. Seemed to work. I won five major pitches since I stayed home.” 

Illustration by Sergio Membrillas

Dream big or go home never rang so true as in 2020. 

Wyclef Jean

President and Chief Strategy Officer, Sodo Mood Lab & Entertainment for Music Lions Jury President

“In today’s world, creativity can be found everywhere. Everything has closed and slowed down, but for me, it has provided an opportunity to go deeper and open up a whole new world of creativity. To keep things flowing, I always spend time moving. Whether it’s in the gym or out running on the street, movement is one of the most important things for me when it comes to aligning my body, mind, and spirit to stay creative. 

I make sure I get into the studio every day I am able. There is nothing like a space that soaks up creative energy and gives it off whenever you need it. In my studio I make the music that comes to me. A lot of times, I am inspired by the next generation of geniuses that I see battle rapping on youtube or being word smiths on instagram. They never fail to remind me why I do what I do and keep me on my toes so I always stay fresh and sharp.”

Liz Taylor

Global Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett / Chief Creative Officer, Publicis Communications NA & Print & Publishing Lions Jury President

“Little boxes and constrained spaces. It’s where we’ve been spending our time, in places never intended or designed to be inspirational. I found creativity in creating a workspace for myself during the pandemic. A first-time DIY wallpaper project, the perfect playlists, a carefully curated collection of notebooks, pens, post-its. Can’t go wrong with good old school art supplies. A one-room design project morphed into something much bigger. Filling a whole house with furniture,light, artwork. Endless rabbit holes of artist books and mid century furniture collections. Pinterest pages became some of my closest companions. Getting lost and inspired by set designs on binge-worthy shows (Thank you, Queen's Gambit). And always, perennially, pandemic or not—movies, books, more books, more movies… There’s no better creative retreat to get lost in.”

Phillipa Brown

Worldwide CEO, PHD & Media Lions Jury President

“I’ve heard many people quote Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

And you know what? It’s so true.  

Whilst the pandemic and lockdown have impacted teams’ spontaneous creative thinking, it has allowed for different ways to generate ideas and created a breeding ground for creativity. From my own personal experience, there are three things I am now doing differently:

  1.  I’m walking so much more than I ever did and I love it! I walk everywhere and for long periods of time. When I’m walking, it gives me white space to think and is often when I generate my best ideas. Things around me inspire me and on many occasions, I’ve come home and scribbled down my thoughts.

  2. I’ve been dreaming lots more than I ever recall. I now keep a notepad by my bed and the next morning, I wake up and read my scribbles. There’s often some of my most creative and best thoughts within those scribbles.

  3. And finally learning from my kids who help me creatively. They’ve really inspired me and have generated lots of creative ideas. I can now say, I know everything there is to know about TikTok and what’s ‘cool’ to teenagers these days. Spending so much time with them and sitting down to dinner as a family every day, has been great personally but also for work – they’ve become my daily research group!”

Illustration by Sergio Membrillas

Dan Gee: Whether it comes from looking deep inside, or lifting your eyes to the horizon to find new sources of inspiration and challenge, it’s not easy to get that necessary objectivity. Which is why, at WeTransfer we help our advertising partners with that challenge. We help them understand the mindset and preferences of our users, and guide them to use this understanding to create advertising that respects the people on In this way, contrary to much of the digital world, we create advertising that is impactful without being intrusive. Award winning ads that people (actually) like. If you wanna find out more, you can meet me at Suzy’s Rendezvous. 

This piece is in collaboration with LIONS: the home for creativity. See more of Sergio Membrillas' work if you love these illustrations as much as we do.