The most coveted statuettes in the world of advertising have been handed out. Cannes Lions 2020/ 2021 was marked by value marketing. It’s hard to find work that doesn’t somehow reference the Sustainable Development Goals and simply celebrates creativity by telling a brand’s story without trying to engage it in changing the world. From technology to design, business transformation to the entertainment category, campaigns that advocate values and speak out for a cause reign supreme. This is definitely the most visible trend or rather the “new normal” of festival standards – black lives matter, LGBT, ecology, redressing social inequalities, diversity, women. These are the most talked about topics. This trend has been going on for a few years now and has almost completely supplanted campaigns that are simply funny, cheeky, brilliantly idiotic, and based on insight taken from life, not from banners.
The industry has found its new ‘raison d’etre’, is it a bad thing that life-changing solutions are being created and we are becoming more sensitive to problems we haven’t noticed before?
My subjective list of the 10 best campaigns of this year’s festival opens with works based on new technologies. The first, “Sick Beats” by Woojer, combines music and technology to turn the tedious and arduous therapy of cystic fibrosis patients into a fascinating experience, full of fun and favorite songs. The special haptic vest, which literally makes the wearer’s heart beat faster and thus stimulates the lungs more effectively than previously used methods, uses a carefully selected playlist on Spotify. Using analytical tools, the creators scoured a multi-million song database to select songs with the right 40Hz frequency and gave sick kids the opportunity to do what their peers around the world do – breathe music. Fully deserved Grand Prix in Pharma, in Audio and several other awards.
Another campaign that harnesses technology for a good cause is the work “Still Speaking Up. Deep truth” for Propuesta Civica created by the combined creative powers of Mexican and Latvian Publicis. The creators used deep fake technology to revive murdered drug cartel journalist Javier Valdez and make him a hero in the fight for truth. Using existing video footage, they recreated the publicist’s persona and voice to allow him to speak out, level accusations against the cartels, government policies and demand justice for the more than one hundred journalists murdered in Mexico for trying to expose corrupt practices. A Machiavellian and very moving idea – after all, you can’t put to death someone who is already dead. This is one of those campaigns that make you shiver and change the rules of the game. The campaign was recognized with the Grand Prix by the jury of Cannes Lions for Good and gold in the Social and Influencer category. CLICK
A completely different tone is offered to the audience by “Village Electrique Renault”. It is an idea that captivates with its freshness and lightness. How to overcome the biggest barrier to buying electric cars – the fear of their range? It is enough to make all the inhabitants of a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, tens or even hundreds of kilometers away from a school, a cinema, a doctor, start driving electric Zoe using the non-coincidental name Appy. A funny, well executed, smart way to convince skeptics and warm up the image of the electric car. This story deserved an “Appy ending” and a rain of statuettes including a Grand Prix.
The hallmark of this year’s Cannes Lions, as well as the previous editions, is the extraordinary care that the awards go to exceptional works, not only in terms of insight and ideas, but also in terms of execution. Some say that the pandemic and the time given to artists to work out their concepts in detail have raised the bar even higher. A work that delights with its artistic execution and at the same time moves, touching the most feminine secrets and taboos is the Libress campaign – #Wombstories. Craft of the highest order – a beautiful, bold and very real communication platform, delighting equally in all touchpoints. A combination of beautiful photos, illustrations and animations created by different artists inspired by the whole range of emotions, feelings and physical experience of the female body. Beautiful, bold and so close to the consumer that it’s hard to imagine a brand could have shown more empathy and understanding. Suffice it to say that the campaign was awarded in multiple categories and won the Titanium Grand Prix.
Perfect execution next to the ingenious simplicity of the idea itself and perfectly planned and executed PR are also the source of the Moldy Whooper campaign’s success for Burger King – but so much has been written about it that its status as a festival sure thing was assured long before the jury deliberated and one could only bet on how many statuettes would eventually go to the authors. CLICK
On the “must see” list of this year’s festival you cannot miss the rebellious Diesel, which as usual goes against the current and breaks the schemes. While the whole world wonders how to limit the environmental damage caused by the clothing industry and harnesses technology to track down consumers who habitually return worn clothes to the stores, Diesel, with its usual graceful arrogance, encourages them to show off their unclaimed tags before returning them to the store. The campaign was launched during fashion week and immediately won the hearts of consumers not only with its perversity but also with its modern and beautiful execution. No one can do it like Publicis Italy. “Enjoy before returning” – this is simply a must see.
Like Diesel’s “Francesca,” the best-made film about the challenges of transgender people that cuts away from the pain-filled and suffering LGBT narrative and tells a story about the liberating power of making dreams come true.
The LGBT theme resonated strongly with the jury, with Gold Lion-winning works including: Feed Parade and Starbucks’ “I am”.
Today it is impossible to talk about communication without mentioning gaming. There are more and more gaming cases every year and their authors have to show more and more creativity in order to surprise the audience and convince the jury at Cannes. Interestingly, games have become a very popular media touchpoint, but there are not so many campaigns that can use it in an original way and surprise with a brilliant idea and execution.
This year’s Digital Craft Grand Prix went to Epic Games for “Astronomical,” Travis Scott’s musical launch in the virtual world of Fortnite, which attracted an audience of more than 28 million in-game and was viewed 158 million times on You Tube. The unique brand experience, excitement and stunning visuals won out. CLICK
The gaming world can be hacked in different ways, proof? – Burger King and its #Stevenage Challange campaign. Stevenage is a fourth division football team sponsored by Burger King and as such, its logo appears on their jerseys. Burger King challenged FIFY20 players to deliver a year’s supply of free burgers in exchange for completing specific tasks. In order to do this, players had to nominate the world’s best footballers for Stevenage. And so the biggest names in the football pantheon played with Burger King’s logo, without taking any remuneration for this. The result – record-breaking coverage and several awards at Cannes, including the Grand Prix in the Direct Lions category.
It’s also worth mentioning a gaming campaign that stole the hearts of users and won well-deserved awards, interestingly recruiting to the gaming world a completely new target group – travel fans. I’m talking about Xbox campaign “The Birth of gaming Turism”, which was created in cooperation with a publishing house specializing in guidebooks and the best photographers. It turned out that instead of a game you can successfully sell a destination and a tourist service.
Another noteworthy trend is the creation of environmentally and user-friendly packaging. The jury in Cannes appreciated Notpel’s innovative, completely biodegradable and edible sachets (CLICK), while the best innovation of 2021 was the new Rexona deodorant bottle “Degree inclusive” – inclusive, convenient and universal in use for people with various disabilities, adapted to be refilled.
This year, the Creative Business transformation category of the awards was given out for the first time. The Grand Prix-winning “Act for food” transformation includes comprehensive efforts to improve the quality of food delivered and sold to consumers at Carrefour. The Golden Lion in this and several other categories went to “Contract for change”, a campaign encouraging farmers to switch to organic farming.
This is a difficult category because it is very complex, but we can certainly expect interesting case studies and strong competition in the coming years. CLICK
Among the interesting proposals prepared by the organisers of Cannes Lions, the possibility to watch the campaigns through the eyes of the jury deserves to be appreciated, as do the interviews, in which you can listen to the criteria they use to select the best of the best, which provokes the most heated discussions and makes the heart beat faster. On the downside – there is no possibility to watch the awarded case studies for free, the inquisitive must take out a credit card or be patient and look for the winning campaigns in other ways.
To sum up, the big winner of this year’s Cannes Lions is value-based communication, will this trend continue next year and will marketers manage to talk about the challenges of the modern world in a new and profitable way? While some experts are enthusiastic about the role of communication in shaping culture and attitudes, some jurors are beginning to talk openly about overkill and wonder aloud if real business goals can be achieved in the long run in this way. Bruno Bertelli, CCO of Publicis Groupe, expects that now is the time for brands to focus all their efforts on making life easier for their consumers.
What can they do to be recognized in next year’s race for the lion statuettes?
That’s the question marketers and creatives around the world have been asking themselves since Friday night. Certainly new technology, innovation and communication powered by big data are in the price tag. And while there is no single answer, closer to the coveted fame and recognition are those who break the mold, think “out of the box,” look for new ways to dialogue with audiences and try to respond to their true needs, stay true to their brand DNA, are able to join forces in the name of an idea, and don’t allow themselves to compromise when it comes to execution. You simply have to be the best – that’s one thing that doesn’t change, and it’s all the more satisfying when you hold the lion in your embrace, which is what I wish for you and myself.