Cannes: Creativity conquers challenges

Cannes: Creativity conquers challenges



Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the flagship event for our industry, time and time again pulls out all the stops to remind us just where the bar is set for creative success. It’s rising, we all know that, and it’s becoming harder and harder to reach.

Creativity against all odds

Ad blockers bringing campaigns to an almighty halt before they’ve taken off. Gen Z purposely avoiding advertising all together. The majority of TV viewers fast-forwarding through ad breaks. All make it a challenging time for creativity to capture attention.

While many creatives stand back scratching their heads at the shift in adland and the challenges that come with it, there are many agencies and in-house teams pushing through. With great ideas and solutions, creatively delivered, these are rewarded with seriously impressive results and industry-wide recognition. And of course, a few Cannes Lions.

It’s a festival not just about celebrating success, but also about inspiring. If they can do it, we can too! And what use is it to not even try to better ourselves, improve the creative output and rally against the challenges?

How are brands managing to break through the noise and capture consumer attention?

There’s never one simple answer of course, but here are a few things I’ve taken away from this year’s festival.

1. Encouraging consumers to become the marketers

We live in a time where it’s easier than ever to share our opinions with an audience. Whether it’s a political opinion or a mention about the weather, a quick Tweet or Instagram story has become the perfect way to have our say.

This love for sharing opinions and following others’ opinions, has been the drive behind the growth of influencer marketing… and fake news, of course. But while most would only class those with huge social followings as influencers, this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, everyone who shares an opinion online influences in some way, and brands seem to be catching on to this.

2. Making it personal, for the many

Personalisation has been a big trend over the past year, encouraging anyone and everyone to become influencers. Brands are offering ways consumers can put their mark on things, make it theirs, which then automatically encourages them to share it with their social circles.

So, while it can still be a great idea for brands to work with big name influencers, it can also be a win–win situation for a brand to encourage the average consumer to become a marketer – or at least, a content co-creator.

Xbox seamlessly took on this approach with their campaign The Franchise Model. Their task was to increase sales of customisable controllers – a challenge due to the fact they cost 50% more. However, when consumers were given the chance to make money from their designs, they did all they could to shout about what they’d made, in the hope of making themselves some extra cash. While doing so, they were advertising Xbox’s products, despite not being traditional ‘influencers’.

Microsoft Xbox and McCann London. Winner of Cannes Lions Grand Prix in eCommerce.


3. The shift within the charity sector

Over recent years we’ve begun to see a shift in the way charities communicate. Consumers no longer buy into the black and white emotional videos, filled with eye-contact shots and a piano backing track. They’ve seen it too often and this only creates more distance between the consumer and the cause. A shame when something extremely worthwhile is overlooked because of this. Often the reality, but now also the creative opportunity to change.

People want something they can relate to and, this year in particular, the charity sector has finally woken up to this. We’ve seen charities switch from playing victim, to fighting with edge, confidence and attitude. They are humanising their campaigns, rather than solely focusing on stats and figures. As a result, we’ve seen campaigns which people can identify with and more importantly, want to give their attention, time, money and genuine interest.

One example of a great campaign within this sector was by male mental health charity CALM, and their #project84. In short, they placed 84 statues, modeled on men who sadly took their own lives, and placed them on top of the ITV studios in London, Southbank. A bold approach to raise awareness of such a devastating issue.

CALM and Adam & Eve/DDB. Winner of two silver lions and a bronze lion.


Another example is from stock photo site Getty, who joined with street magazine FiftyFifty for their Repicturing Homeless campaign. They gave a group of FiftyFifty sellers from the homeless community a makeover and photographed them posing as various job roles. Getty then used data to track the most tagged and searched words on their site, so that these photos would appear frequently. When people then paid to license the photos, a donation was made to FiftyFifty to support homeless communities. A great way to change people’s perception of homeless citizens.

Getty, FiftyFifty and Havas.


4. The power of the logo

The growing importance of audio, thanks to voice recognition products such as Alexa, may soon cause a change in branding. Considered your brand’s visual identity? Sure. But have you considered your brand’s audio identity? Brands now need to start thinking about more than just what their brands look like. Can they be recognised by just a small sound alone? Brands such as Intel and McDonald’s can through their famous audio logos, and it’s time for other brands to take note of this and extend it into the sound of voice search.

But while we wait for more sound-driven branding campaigns to come out of the woodwork, the power of the traditional logo is still as important as ever. Here are two campaigns highly celebrated at Cannes this year, due to their creativity and simple yet effective use of their brand logo.

Lacoste did an excellent job when they wanted to raise awareness for endangered species across the globe, in support of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They simply changed their iconic Crocodile to each of the different animals in danger of becoming extinct.

Lacoste, BTEC Paris and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Winner of Gold Lion for Design.


Another impressive branding campaign was from McDonald’s, when they cleverly created billboard road signs to direct drivers to restaurants for their Follow the Arches campaign. A brand confident enough in their branding to rely on just their two colours and tiny fractions of their logo to grab attention.

McDonald’s and Cossette. Winner of Cannes Lions Grand Prix in Outdoor category.


5. Campaigns with cultural relevance

Campaigns surrounding cultural movements often do well. A lot of the time they have an already awaiting and passionate audience, supportive of the campaign topic. When this is mixed with an incredibly engaging and creative idea, it’s a recipe for success thanks to alignment.

This year at Cannes, two of the most talked about campaigns are extremely culturally relevant right now. Supporting Environmental Health, they helped to generate significant amounts of buzz around an already hot topic.

So, while our industry can help to drive cultural movements, we can also jump on the back of trends at the right time, which is often a more guaranteed route to campaign success as you capture the moment and groundswell of willing.

The most awarded campaign of this year’s festival was the Palau Pledge. Palau Legacy Project managed to get every person who entered the country to agree to be kind to the environment by signing a pledge in their passport. A huge idea, which generated fantastic results.

Palau Legacy Project and Havas. Winner of the Titanium Grand Prix, Sustainable Development Goals Grand Prix, Direct Grand Prix and Gold in the Brand Experience & Activation category.


Another example is from Ladbible, who joined with the Plastic Oceans Foundation for an awareness campaign, The Trash Isles. The aim was to make people think about the devastating effects of dumping rubbish in the oceans, and they did so in a pretty epic way. They created a whole nation, which grabbed people’s attention, kept them engaged, and encouraged them to support the cause.

Ladbible, AMV BBDO and Plastic Oceans Foundation. Grand Prix in Design and PR.


Creatively inspired, now what?

There are thousands of things to be learnt from Cannes each year, and the festival is fantastic for shaking up and motivating the industry as a whole. Once again, I feel incredibly inspired and can’t wait for what the next year has to bring. Challenges and all.

More from CustomerJourneysJoinedUp