Awards and Events in association withCreative Circle

Ronald Ng on Forgetting Old Muscle Memory and Building New Strengths

Advertising Agency
New York, USA
As clients’ needs shift dramatically, the jury president of the Creative Business Transformation Lions and MRM global CCO talks about inside-out creativity

First launched in 2020, the creative business Lion has become a roaring herald of where the creative industry is heading, or would like to head. Bringing together creative ideas and deep understanding of business, agencies have the potential to solve really crunchy, systemic problems or to spot untilled ground for growth. And, says jury president Ronald Ng, clients are hungry for such thinking. So, ahead of the winners announcement, we caught up with Ronald to uncover his thinking on the category - and why the creative industry itself needs to transform.

LBB> How are you preparing for the jury room this year?

Ronald> Every jury experience is a learning experience. And this time, I am fortunate to have a group of experts with diverse professional backgrounds which include consultants, strategists, creatives and marketers. That said, we all agree that this is a brand-new future-facing category and we have the responsibility to continue to define and shape it. Our group has met virtually three times and have run out of time on every call. We can’t wait to meet in person in the judging room.

LBB> What is it about the Creative Business Transformation category that you’re judging that really excites or interests you?

Ronald> Firstly, that this category exists. Marketing and communications is often seen as a solution to building or fixing brands and businesses, but I’ve always been passionate about businesses transforming holistically from the inside out to ensure lasting progress and growth. Today, you need stakeholders across the organisation to be connected by the same mission. From internal operations, training programmes, policies, the products, services and customer experiences, choice of suppliers and partners, and of course, marketing and communications.

LBB> And how will you be encouraging the jury to assess the work?

Ronald> Our jury has virtually met quite a few times because of the newness and lack of precedence for this category. First things first, transformation is table stakes. To win a lion, entrants need to demonstrate that the business has transformed with breakthrough creativity. And of course, with real results. In addition to the clear definition provided by the organisers, I created an additional criteria guide which will hopefully set the stage for a robust and focused judging experience for everyone.

LBB> What are the current big debates within that Creative Business Transformation category that you expect to see coming through in the judging?

Ronald> The first debate is actually a non-debate. This is not the category for campaigns, ads or stunts. There are 20 other categories for that work. However, if the campaign is the outcome of truly transformed business practices, actions and decisions, that’s a winner. Last year’s Grand Prix, Carrefour ‘Act for Food’ is a great example of truly impactful and lasting transformation. I’m looking forward to having many inspiring debates in the judging room.

LBB> The whole premise of Creative Business Transformation - that creativity can overhaul businesses in really powerful and unexpected ways - would seem a no-brainer to anyone who understands creativity… but to what extent do you think clients are really open to and engaging with creative thinkers on that level?

Ronald> I believe clients are seeking wider engagements with their partners to help them find modern and bigger solutions for the business. In the last few years, we have seen the dramatic shift of clients moving from just campaigns to true relationship building solutions, be it inside or outside of the organisation. Cross-disciplined partners who can help their clients connect the dots between strategy, technology, consultancy and creativity will be the ones who survive these disruptive times.

LBB> What impact has the pressure of the pandemic had on that? Has it changed perceptions on the role of creative problem-solving in business?

Ronald> Covid has been devastating for many people and businesses, and I hope we truly turn the corner all around the world. But there was a silver lining during covid. Businesses have had to move at lightning speeds to stay in business – from being relevant to pivoting the organisation’s approach, products, services, customer experiences and go-to-market strategies. It’s been very challenging, but difficult times have also brought out the best in people and businesses.

LBB> It’s the first in-person Cannes since the start of the pandemic, and is such a pivotal moment for an industry that’s been massively disrupted. How do you think that’s going to shape your thinking about your category in particular?

Ronald> Nothing beats being with people in real life. And the fully booked Cannes hotels and restaurants this year is an indication that the creative community and marketers can’t wait to be in person too. For judging, virtual sucks. Like I mentioned earlier, judging experiences are inspiring learning experiences. When you’re in a room with some of the most thoughtful professionals in the industry, you grow. I love the off-the-cuff discussions, interjects, coffee break chats, non-verbal expressions and camaraderie. And that’s even more important for our Creative Business Transformation jury because it’s only Year 2 and we are still defining what this category means for the future of our industry. And no virtual heart, clap or smiley face emoji can beat that.

LBB> The business transformation space is one where the agency world and the consultancy world kind of comes crashing up against each other.  How do you assess the dynamics between these worlds now?

Ronald> No matter which world we work in, we need to forget old muscle memory and build new strengths. Consultancies are adding creative offerings and creative agencies are expanding into consultative spaces. In the end, those who can truly remove internal silos and bring their diverse offerings together will be successful. The creative industry needs to transform itself before we can help our clients transform their businesses.

LBB> In your eyes, what have been some of the most powerful examples of creative business transformation that you’ve seen?

Ronald> I’ve seen many strong examples in the entries this year, but cannot comment just yet. But from last year, my favourites were Carrefour ‘Act for Food’ and Michelob Ultra ‘Contract for Change’. Both transformational for their businesses and their industries.

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