Q&A with Lori Feldman: Collaborator, brainstormer, campaign guru

photo of Lori FeldmanThe Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is a magnet for the world’s most inspiring people—professionals who took big creative risks to rise to the top of their fields. We were honored to chat with several of these individuals during a packed week at Cannes Lions. Join us as we learn what inspires them, who they work with, and how they create.

Lori Feldman can’t stop thinking of new possibilities. She’s an executive vice president at Warner Bros., but she still finds gaps to scribble down thoughts for her next campaign or project. We sat down with Lori to talk about her competitive instincts, her favorite campaign ever, and how she makes sure she never forgets her best ideas.

Tell us about yourself and why you’re at Cannes Lions

I’m Lori Feldman. I’m the Executive Vice President of Strategic Marketing at Warner Brothers Records. I’m also on the Entertainment for Music Jury at Cannes. We sorted through more than 500 entries over the last week, [which is small compared to] other juries that have more than 2,000.

We’re the youngest jury at Cannes. We’re only two years into this category of Lion. The music community isn’t quite absorbed into the submission process yet. I think it’s gonna grow by leaps and bounds over the next few years.

So, when do you feel most creative?

I feel most creative when listening to music and when I’m watching other work. When I am listening to music from our artists, their lyrics, sound, and vibe start to inform the ideas we have and the partnerships we can dream up. When I see great work, I immediately start thinking about our artists and what we can do to elevate what’s been done, and how we would have done it differently. Or whether I can apply this, make a left turn, but still apply the principles. That’s why I was in love with doing the jury work, and I try to participate in this type of debate whenever I can, because to me it’s super inspiring. It’s like when you go to the gym and the girl over there is doing really well, and you say to yourself, “I can do better.”

How do you think about enabling a team around a creative vision?

I can really only speak to my team. We are a highly collaborative group. There is a round table in my office. We sit around it three or four times a week, and we brainstorm. And we brainstorm, and we brainstorm, and we refine, and we refine, and we come back to it the next day, and we get to the point where it’s a qualified, sellable idea. Everyone takes part. The assistants are involved, everyone. I’m definitively a believer in the power of lots of brains and lots of perspectives. It’s why a jury works. There’s just loads of perspectives in the room.

If you’re not collaborative, if you don’t allow all the voices to be heard and have a talent for molding that into something cohesive, then you’re not going to get very far.

We collaborate and create our ideas, then there’s the further collaboration with our artists. It takes our collaborative effort, and then we have to go sell it and collaborate even more with the potential brand partners. [chuckle] At that point, you’re taking someone else’s objectives into account, and their goals, and their ROI and their KPIs and all of that. If you’re not collaborative, if you don’t allow all the voices to be heard and have a talent for molding that into something cohesive, then you’re not going to get very far. Creativity is a highly collaborative process. It cannot be done alone in a room.

What does it take to bring big, bright ideas to life?

I think it takes total and utter belief in what you’re trying to achieve. If you don’t believe that it’s great, and you don’t believe it can be done, then you definitely will not get it done. There’s not a chance. You have to commit entirely and get other people to believe it.

You can come up with a great idea, but it can sit on your desk. It happens all the time. We have more ideas than we can truly bring to life. I guess the good news is that we have this bucket of ideas that are quite formed, that we can adapt for different opportunities.

You have to commit entirely and get other people to believe it. And the only way you can get other people to believe is if you believe it.

How do you get from that commitment to the idea, the idea as it exists in life?

You’ve got to convince other people to help you make it happen. That’s why I say you have to be committed to it, because you’ve gotta get other people to believe it.

For us, it’s all about finding the right brands, who want to invest in this idea, that this platform works for them, it’s strategically aligned with who they are as a brand, who the artists are, and collectively, it makes sense to all parties to partner on it. Sometimes, it’s a needle in a haystack. You just don’t know where the interest is going to come from, but you just gotta keep pushing, use all of the tools, data, creativity, and inspiration at your disposal. I use this phrase all the time, “Push the boulder up the hill.” You just gotta keep standing behind it and pushing it up the hill.

How do you think about fueling your creative energy?

There’s so much material out there that we have access to, and that’s good and it’s bad. There’s so much to go through every morning, that often I just don’t get through it. A lot of people don’t get through it. And then there’s all this incredible stuff sitting out there that you may not know exists.

I have a half-hour commute in the morning on a train. I don’t have to drive. I try to just roll through as much information as I can. I see what arrives in my Facebook feed, and what’s trending on Twitter, what’s on a few of the advertising blogs that I follow, and just try to get a grasp on what’s different today than yesterday.

Then I’m always shooting off emails. I have so many ideas so fast that I forget them just as fast. I try to shoot off the emails as fast as I possibly can and blind copy myself so that it comes right back to me. We have 140 artists on our roster, and an endless amount of clients. I don’t want the good ideas to fall by the wayside because I didn’t send myself a note.

Is there a creative moment that you’re particularly proud of? A creative accomplishment that comes to mind?

I was involved in a really fantastic campaign with Coca-Cola: Andra Day, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and the Essence Festival. We celebrated women who not only did well in business, but who gave back to their communities. The film we created was called, “I Rise,” and it was based on Andra’s hit song, “Rise Up.” We covered Andra and her story, and then we did the same with three other women who have risen up in their communities. We put Andra’s image on 40 million cups at McDonald’s, and if you Shazam’ed the image, the films would come up. And then it all ultimately came together at the Essence Festival where—because of our extraordinary publicist and our partnership with Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and the festival—Essence put Andra on the cover of the magazine and she performed on the main stage. There was a boulder and a hill, and we all got it [up and over].

It was such a well-crafted campaign, but at its heart, it was just women who were striving to be great. I was super proud of it. I was walking down the street with Andra in New Orleans for the Essence Festival. Coca-Cola and McDonald’s were giving out shopping bags with Andra’s image on them. That same image was on the 40 million cups. Women are flying out of their cars saying, “Andra Day, I got my shopping bag! I rise!” It was unbelievable.

For more insights from top creatives, see our Q&As with podcaster David Rheinstrom, DJ Hesta Prynn, designer Chris Rowson, PR vice president Marcus Peterzell, and creative shop head Weera Saad.
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