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What Cannes Lions 2022 tells us about the future of creative effectiveness | #FutureMonth

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It’s been almost two months since the first ‘proper’ Cannes Lions in over two years and the dust has only just now begun to settle. The general consensus is that it wasn’t exactly a festival for the ages but it was at least a million miles away from the bloated mess it had become, pre-COVID.

Yes, the champagne flowed and there was a brace of obnoxious celebrity guff to navigate (Paris Hilton doing a talk on NFTs must have been the low point there) but the work being rewarded was front and centre, as it should be.

Speaking of the winning work, I recently spoke to global marketing effectiveness authority WARC, which recently released a report based around the Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions. This is an award celebrating the measurable impact of creativity and the report identified the trends and themes that revealed themselves.

These included everything from greater levels of consumer participation to a sea-change in brand purpose and a heavier focus on tech partnerships and new media habits. But enough of my blather, let's hear what the experts had to say.

Rewarding creative effectiveness


On the importance of rewarding creative effectiveness, this year’s jury president Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Mastercard, commented: “Marketing as a discipline is living an existential crisis: it’s losing its credibility, its gravitas, its stature. CEOs and CFOs are perceiving marketing to be fluffy; they have very little confidence in their marketing teams being able to drive business growth.

“With some companies even disposing of CMO roles, the marketing function is getting fragmented. This is why it’s important to focus on creative effectiveness: proving marketing’s impact and ROI for businesses will bring it back to the C-suite table and give it the gravitas and stature that it deserves.”

Commenting on the report, Chiara Manco, Commissioning Editor, Case Studies, WARC, added: “Findings in this study are critical to understanding how marketers are driving business performance. We’ve analysed data from all the entries, interviewed jurors and spoken to winners to unearth insights into how the creative has led to demonstrable results.

“Our observations, together with the award-winning case studies included in this report, will help advertisers, agencies and media owners use the power of creativity to increase marketing effectiveness.” 

The four key themes highlighted in “Insights from the 2022 Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions winners” were:

1. Tapping into fans supercharges creative ideas


Fan-first approaches can drive engagement with specific fandoms while being the starting point of mass-reach campaigns. Cheetos, Michelob and McDonald’s explored the potential of engaging fans, which is reflected in an increase in ‘participation’ as a creative strategy this year.

Jury member Jennifer ‘JJ’ Healan, VP, US Marketing, Brand, Content and Engagement, McDonald’s, said: “Fan truths’ were key to unlocking our brand voice. They help us show McDonald’s through the eyes of a fan and are now at the heart of all our creative strategies.”

2. Ecosystems for change are brands’ new growth engine


As the discourse around purpose evolves, there is a new focus on long-term platforms able to deliver business growth while tackling systemic issues. Renault and Three created ecosystems to show their products in action, and Michelob transformed its supply chain to help farmers transition to organic.

Jury member Patricia McDonald, Global Chief Strategy Officer, Dentsu Creative, commented: “We’ve seen a clear shift from effective campaigns to platforms and ecosystems for growth. Brands are not just raising awareness of an issue, but really making a difference and accelerating business growth through good.”

3. TV returns to fuel visually arresting creative


With lockdowns leading to shifts in media consumption, TV became a trusted companion for at-home audiences. Data shows TV was the lead media for 47% of the shortlist, and winners used it for powerful visual executions.

Michelle Morgan, Strategy Director and Dan Eckrote, Strategy Managing Director at Mindshare New York, the media agency behind Dove’s Gold winning campaign Courage is Beautiful said: “We strategically amplified our message via COVID-related TV programming. Additionally, we leveraged placement within news programming, which aligned with consumers’ increased viewership of networks such as CNN and MSNBC… With this work we showed how you can creatively tap into mass-reaching channels for a laser-focused strategy.”

4. Brands explore AI-driven creativity 


Be it to repair fractions in society or for entertainment reasons, winners experimented with creative AI applications. For Michelob and the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, partnering with a tech giant was key to the success of the initiative. Reflecting this trend, partnerships rose in popularity this year: 40% of shortlisted campaigns used partnerships, up from just 1% last year.

Jury member Rosie Collins, Head of Strategy, BBH London, said: “In their applications of AI, brands were trying to stretch beyond driving their own business impact: they were actually investing in new approaches that other brands could also replicate. There was a real generosity emerging in the work.”

Summing up, WARC’s Chiara Manco added: “Uniting all of this year’s winners is ‘evolution’. A forward-facing attitude and willingness to embrace change and transformation. From shifts within the media landscape to technology applications and approaches to purpose, winners adapted and evolved to take new challenges head-on.”

The whole story

A sample of the full report can be downloaded here and the full report is available to WARC Creative and WARC Strategy subscribers. Also, tune in for a WARC Cannes Creative Effectiveness podcast, to be released at the end of August, featuring wise words from the strategists behind two of the winning entries.


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