Alvaro Meléndez
News & Views
Cannes Lions: A Tale of Love and Hate

Cannes Lions, and advertising awards in general, is something that I have always found fascinating. On one hand, seeking awards can be an adventurous adulation that ends up blinding people and leading them to lose perspective of what they do. On the other hand, it can act as the fuel needed to get people to try things that no one has ever tried, to invest a lot of life in ideas that change the world. I must confess that I have not always been the biggest fan of the festivals, but I have always loved great advertising. In the last 15 years, I have spent more hours working on ideas than sleeping, and I have done it because I’m lucky enough to call my hobby also my job.

The latest edition of Cannes Lions has now come and gone. As we sit here today, there are many happy new winners and many detractors, too. Perhaps one of the most relevant cases of the latter is that of Arthur Sadoun, CEO of Publicis Groupe, who announced the company will not participate in any awards shows during 2018. Sadoun attributes this to saving costs in order to finance a new artificial intelligence tool that will connect his 80,000 employees in 130 countries, which bears the name of the Publicis’s founder: Marcel. Sadoun is sure that this innovation will give his company a competitive advantage that awards cannot.

Time will tell if Sadoun’s decision is a proper one. For me, however, there is much to be gained by doing well at Cannes and other award shows, because what gets awarded is usually truly great, meaningful marketing work.

I really liked the article by Deacon Webster, “Why CMOs Should not Hate Agencies That Are Lion-Obsessed”, in which he presents the idea that outstanding advertising is valuable because it focuses on people and this is precisely what any CMO wants to achieve: being relevant to the people to whom the brand is directed. People will be more likely to buy a service or product when they have passion for the brand. Or as David Ogilvy said: “You cannot bore people into buying your product.”

Or ask James Moorhead of Wieden + Kennedy if he is sad to have won so many Lions at Cannes in 2010-2011 thanks to his Old Spice campaign “The man your man could smell like”. It managed to double sales in only six months and put the brand back on the world map.

Our job as advertisers is to help our clients achieve their goals through creativity and storytelling. We are specialists in generating relevance. The brand that does not want to be more relevant does not need us.

I want to focus on what Cannes does best: reward great creative ideas that have a positive impact on the world. And we have enough evidence to confirm that creativity generates business, too. Last week, McKinsey published a study: “How winning companies turn creativity into business value and growth”. The takeaway is clear: the most creative brands are also the most successful. Sometimes, clients can shy away from the ideas required to make this type of impact. But one client once said to me, “A great idea is like a beautiful butterfly, everyone will want to touch it until it is destroyed.”

We live in a convulsive world. Advertisers often hear, “They are not saving lives; what they do not is so important.” I tend to disagree. It is in our hands to generate ideas that make the world a better place: more fun, healthier, more just, more conscious.

Here are some examples of the result of extraordinary creativity with a relevant purpose. These cases have all won awards, but have also generated sales and had a true impact on the client and society. One often goes hand in hand with the other.

#itsnotmyperiod, U by Kotex

Today many women continue to be discredited by and ridiculed because of their period. The #itsnotmyperiod idea seeks to generate conversation and awareness around this subject by establishing a social experiment in which the protagonists travel their own path, falling into the stereotype-trap and then discovering their error and becoming aware.

With #itsnotmyperiod, U by Kotex achieved the highest market share in its history in Canada and is currently nominated for WARC awards in best use of brand purpose.

“Cuánto, Más allá del dinero”, Banco Santander

After such an economic crisis to which the world, and specifically Spain, have been affected, people have expectations and attitudes of much distrust towards financial institutions. Santander created a film that puts money in perspective, highlighting the experiences that we have on a daily basis. This film won the Entertainment 2017 Grand Prix and also achieved the fastest opening numbers in the brand’s history.

#optoutside, REI

Some might say we have been suffering the consequences of a consumerism that is finding more moments to invite people to buy things they don’t need. REI is a gadget store that helps you explore the world outside your door. For the retail bonanza day Black Friday, REI decided to close its doors and invite people to go explore the world instead of shopping.

#optoutside achieved more than 6 billion impressions and took home many Lions in 2016, including the Titanium Grand Prix.

Fearless Girl, SSGA

SSGA believes that responsible investments achieve economic prosperity and social progress. With the “Fearless Girl” campaign, they seek to raise awareness on gender inequality in boardrooms and generalcorporate leadership. The statue of a girl facing the famous charging bull on Wall Street has been a statement that the world has not been able to ignore. Cannes didn’t ignore it either—it was just awarded it with 4 Grand Prix, making it one of the most awarded campaigns in history.

I like to think of Cannes Lions as our industry’s UEFA Champions League. It’s where the best of the best come together from across the world and compete, but moreso it is a true celebration of our industry. It pushes the advertising industry forward, just as the Champions League does with soccer.

This is an invitation—not only to agencies but to all our clients—to continue fighting to win awards with ideas that shape culture and change the world.

Because like in soccer, nothing is gained alone.

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