The legendary screenwriter William Goldman once wrote about the Hollywood movie-making process that “Nobody knows anything.” The context for the quote was a studio system chock-full of giant egos, unsubstantiated opinions and my-way-or-the-highway judgement calls. A system in which every studio but one turned down ultimately went on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time and was nominated for nine Academy Awards.

The almost-fate of Raiders of the Lost Ark was just one of many examples of a system big on self-confident bravado but not so much on copper-bottomed guarantees of success.

Goldman’s line has been floating around my mind over the last couple of weeks as I’ve been reflecting on my time in Cannes this year and preparing downloads for a few clients and industry bodies.

From conversations in fancy hotels along the Croissette to boardrooms back here in Sydney, it feels like we’re all in search of that magic formula for great work that works its arse off. For categorical answers to the perennial questions: What’s hot? What’s not? What’s next? What will be category-defining (in both an award and business sense)?

We could look here at the trends from Cannes this year. And get into some of the rosé-assisted debates that were in full flow over there: about Big Data’s role in the creative process, AI being a fancy term for ‘computer program’, consultancies’ impact on the creative landscape, what constitutes a ‘Titanium’ idea these days and so on.

But I think the best lens on any of these debates is the work itself. When I look at the ideas that really smashed it this year, that won Lions and got talked about most in the foyer of Le Palais and on the terrace of The Carlton, it’s such a diverse, almost unclassifiable set.

From Nike’s amazing ‘Nothing Beats A Londoner’ to the taboo-breaking Bodyform Blood Normal; from the band that created a song based on the Facebook Live delay to the life-saving common sense of Prescribed To Death; brilliant press campaigns like Budweiser ‘Tagwords’ and Snickers You’re Dramatic When You’re Hungry; to work that harnessed technology, social platforms and completely new media, like Re:Scam, #ElTornado, Nike A/R Jordan, Project Revoice and our own Palau Pledge (you didn’t think I’d write a whole piece without mentioning that did ya?!).

In seeking to join the dots between the conversations I had in France and the work that rose to the top, my sense is that “Nobody knows anything” applies to advertising just as much as movies. Which, far from being an issue, is bloody exciting.

Sure, we can geek out on stats, endless industry reports around what did well and predictions about the next big thing. But the more I think about the work I loved this year, the more I think that Cannes’ value is as a reflection of the glorious chaos that is creativity.

Damon Stapleton put it brilliantly in a recent blog where he said, “The simple answer Cannes gave me this year is don’t worry about trends and where things are going, just deal with what is right in front of you.”

I love that. For me, it comes down to this: there is no magic formula, no silver bullet, no template; awards are there not to dictate but to inspire.

At the end of the day, we’re dealing with creativity not science. The thing that got so many of us so excited about being in this industry in the first place, the thing that still gets me out of bed in the morning more than anything is…possibility. And today, there are no limits on that possibility.

The answer to the problem in front of us might be an ad, a stamp in a passport, a projection on the moon or a something that none of us have thought of yet. So rather than trying to analyse the trends and predict the future, let’s take a deep breath, tap into our instincts and embrace the chaos. (Although, perhaps before you embrace it too enthusiastically, do pause for thought, because remember, “nobody knows anything” – and I absolutely include myself in that.)

Ant Melder is Executive Creative Director at Host/Havas and an AWARD Committee Member.