By Alex Jenkins, Editorial Director at Contagious.
It feels like the last twelve months has seen the ad industry stuck in a creative recession. As someone who’s monitored the output of the global ad industry for over a decade, I can’t remember another year when the work was so lacklustre.
The recent D&AD awards tell the same story. Only two Black Pencils awarded; neither for advertising. And love or hate campaigns from recent years such as Moldy Whopper, Fearless Girl, Dream Crazy or Blood Normal, there’s few people in adland that couldn’t instantly recognise them. But iconic, culture-impacting work produced in the last year? It’s slim pickings.
If you’re about to sit on a jury at this year’s Cannes Lions festival, you have my sympathy. But sympathy isn’t much use when you’ve got to start handing out prizes, so here’s some tips for the campaigns that deserve a shot at winning some Grands Prix in the South of France this month.
Mammoth Meatball by Wunderman Thompson, Benelux
Think dinner time at Jurassic Park and you’ve got the PR-category friendly campaign that is Mammoth Meatball. Cultured meat startup Vow used woolly mammoth DNA to create a prehistoric meatball the size of a melon as a way to spark conversation about cultured meat.
It’s simple, memorable and remarkable – resulting in 13 billion media impressions and a +95% increase in willingness to try cultured meat. It’s also the brainchild of Wunderman Thompson’s Bas Korsten, one of the people behind the 2016 Grand Prix-winning Next Rembrandt campaign, so a man who knows a thing or two about selling an idea to a jury.
Corona Extra Lime by DraftLine Shanghai, and Crops of Hope by MullenLowe SSP3, Bogotá
Class this as a two-for-one deal under the umbrella of ‘farmvertising’.
In China, Corona beer is typically served with wedges of lime from Tahiti. But when the citrus supply chain was hit by Covid and limes were in short supply, Corona partnered with local government authorities to set up the Lime Rural Revitalization Project. The initiative identified low-income villages in areas suitable for growing lime crops then worked with farmers to improve their land, learn techniques to improve yields and grow limes.
The resulting fruit was bundled and sold with Corona beers in supermarkets nationwide, with profits made on lime sales donated back to the farmers. According to DraftLine, one million extra limes were harvested and supplied to Corona, boosting lime farmers’ per capita income by 21%.
Meanwhile in Colombia, another ABInBev brand – Bavaria – has also been helping out farmers struggling to make ends meet. The brewery’s Crops of Hope initiative saw it create Nativa, a beer made from local root vegetable cassava – hugely increasing demand and creating a reliable market for the crop. According to MullenLowe SSP3, Bogotá, the project not only resulted in an estimated 2,800 tons of cassava being sold in 2022, but the newly launched Nativa brew sold out and then became the second best seller in the region.
If you’re looking to bet on some Cannes winners then two purposeful campaigns from this year’s Creative Marketer of the Year are a pretty safe wager.
The Greatest by Apple
A seam of sameness. A ditch of dullness. A bandwagon of blandness. Whatever your preferred metaphor, commercial breaks on television haven’t been the place to find standout creativity recently. But The Greatest TV spot by Apple’s in-house team lives up to its name. The two-minute film showcases a host of iPhone accessibility features being used by people with disabilities to help them go about their daily lives, including driving cars, identifying clothes and taking selfies.
It’s a cracker of a product demo that also happens to be joyous, impactful and uplifting. But it’s the craft of the execution that elevates this ad. Last year at Cannes, I interviewed the president of the Craft jury, Nils Leonard of Uncommon Creative Studio, who said, ‘Craft has become a passenger in boring conversations that only creatives have, so clients don't give a fuck about it’. Apple clearly cares and the results speak for themselves.
Phone It In by Colenso BBDO, Auckland
Finally, a radio spot that’s really an outdoor campaign from New Zealand no-frills telco Skinny. The brand launched ads on billboards, coffee cups, street posters etc – each featuring a script for a radio ad and each unique to its location. E.g. an ad on a beer coaster read, ‘I’ve had a couple of beers, but do you know what’s really intoxicating? The beguiling allure of Skinny’s splendiferous mobile network’.
People were encouraged to call an 0800 number on the ad and read the script to an answering machine, with the audio then broadcast as a radio spot.
Recruiting the general public to be a voice of the brand rather than an expensive celeb is a great way to manifest the brand’s low-cost ethos; it’s got a lovely fun quality to it that should see it stand out among the swathes of purposeful work that wash up at Cannes each year and, best of all, it drove a 34% increase in network sign-ups.
So, a mix of farmers, apples and meatballs make up my picks for Cannes this year. But the fact we’re reaching back to the Pleistocene era for something memorable tells you all you need to know about the state of creativity in 2023.