Final thoughts from Cannes Lions

We have come to the end: this is my final report from the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

It’s been overwhelming and inspiring. The sheer volume of work on display was daunting and I won’t pretend that I was able to see more than a small portion. But what I did see renewed my faith in the ability of like-minded people to come together to find creative solutions to some of our biggest challenges.

Much has been written about how some Cannes entries seem designed to be, well, Cannes entries. There were lots of PSAs and one-off projects that told a great story, but some question if they were really in service of a brand and its business goals.

But that strikes me as a cynical view. I saw a lot of great work that strived to add value to consumers’ lives. Great brands understand that adding value is the best way to get consumers to reach for them on the shelves. I’m all for marketing that puts more value into the marketplace.  

As the festival winds down, the final batch of awards was handed out for film and film craft, for branded content, and the “granddaddy” category: integrated/titanium. 

By the final days of the festival, some campaigns are well known, having collected awards in earlier categories, and this final batch serves a victory lap where they add more to their haul.  Campaigns like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, House of Mamba and #LikeAGirl (highlighted in earlier posts) received more top honors at the final ceremony.

Some other standouts: 

Emoji Ordering – The Titanium Grand Prix went to Dominos for this simple but smart idea: let people order a pizza simply by tweeting the pizza emoji. And kudos to the jury for celebrating an idea that actually sells a product. (Ironically, this campaign didn’t even shortlist in the “Mobile” category, which just goes to show how subjective this whole award thing can be.)

Clever Buoy – Talk about “adding value” for your customers, how about saving them from a shark attack? This clever campaign took home a Titanium award as well.  

RE2PECT – Nike’s impressive campaign that tapped into social media to showcase the love that players, celebrities and fans had for Derek Jeter at the time of his retirement took home the Integrated Grand Prix.

Un-Skippable Ads – A why-didn’t-we-think-of-that idea from Geico built on the simple, but revolutionary question, “What if we made a pre-roll ad that people didn’t want to skip after 5 seconds?” (And I like that a great insight about online/mobile behavior was the genesis of the Film category’s big winner).

Monty the Penguin – This charming holiday spot from John Lewis won the Grand Prix in Film Craft. A reminder that great storytelling combined with craft can lead to something special. This was also one of the most shared pieces of content last year.

Whether branded content or film or integrated, the best-of-the-best had a clear point of view, told a compelling story, was emotionally engaging and (here it is again) provided value to those who interacted with the work. It’s a great reminder of what we should look for whenever we marketers green-light new work. 

Many post-mortems will be written about what this year’s festival means for the future of advertising. The rise of ad tech and gender equality in advertising were two big themes this festival. But the biggest theme, for me, was the transformative power of creativity: what it can do for people and, yes, what it can do for brands. 

I’m grateful to everybody who helped make possible my first trip to the Cannes festival, especially the Frito-Lay team back in Plano who kept things rolling while I was away. I’m coming back with lots of inspiration and a new appreciation for what’s possible in our work together.