As the belief goes, we are in a knowledge economy. Gone are the mills and factories of the Industrial Revolution, with office blocks of varying degrees of character in their place. Although the definition of "product" may have indeed changed, what has not changed is the perception of quality. The globalisation of industrial production may have shifted, even polarised, our views of what quality is. from cheap T-shirts to artisan baking. This has translated into a change of what creativity is and stands for, in the sense that while there are still "good ideas" and "bad ideas", interconnected networks make access to intellect much more accessible to all.
The impact on advertising should be for the quality to go up. After all, global get-togethers such as Cannes mean that countries have a benchmark to measure their own work against, and for commentators to compare the shift in capital production or consumption, with any perceived shift in where the most acclaimed ideas are coming from. Some have suggested that, rather like Eurovision, the shift in transnational focus away from the west means that the UK's command of awards – even the UK's potential of getting anywhere commanding anything – are over.
But Cannes is just one platform, and the real story is less to do with the UK being not as great as it used to be, but more to do with new players catching up. That's the view of Saatchi's ECD Kate Stanners, facing the challenges of the agency and of the sector head-on: what the talent pool looks like, how it creates great work, and how that work is useful to consumers. She feels that Cannes this year was rather more evenly-distributed in its prizegiving: emerging economies producing some interesting work alongside the stalwarts, and what we are seeing is a rebalancing of what creativity looks like across globalised markets, as well as trying to address how to keep executions locally relevant in way that consumers find culturally authentic. In fact, Stanners' views of the 2011 New Directors' Showcase, a Saatchi initiative which pulls visual talent from across a wide spectrum of disciplines, is that northern Europe remains very much the dominant force.
As the daughter of Leo Burnett copywriter Bob Stanners, who with Norman Icke created some of the most memorable campaigns for McDonalds, Bradford & Bingley and Cadbury's Flake, Kate has advertising in her genes. Success at GGT led her to become one of the first hires at St. Lukes, an agency whose relentless focus on creative talent retained Stanners for a decade. She was then led once again to a start-up, Boymeetsgirl, before joining Saatchi & Saatchi at a well-documented, turbulent time, but offering considerable opportunities in within a global network, itself a young subsidiary within Publicis.