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Creative Effectiveness: Judging the ‘Most Important’ Category at Cannes


BBDO, MullenLowe, Droga5, Grey and BETC on picking through trivial social media stats for genuine business-changing work

Creative Effectiveness: Judging the ‘Most Important’ Category at Cannes

The ultimate aim of any advertising is to generate sales for a client - and it’s for that reason that many of the Creative Effectiveness jury members we caught up with believe that the category is the most important at the Cannes Lions. Each piece of work in the Creative Effectiveness category has already been awarded and recognised for outstanding creativity, and are now taking the ultimate test; what did they actually achieve for the clients? In an age obsessed with likes, shares and followers, genuine effectiveness can be tricky to decipher from more inflated claims. LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with various jurors to find out their methods for discovering genuine gems.

Andrew Robertson, President & CEO, BBDO Worldwide & Jury President, Creative Effectiveness Lions

I believe that the Creative Effectiveness Lions are the Festival’s most important.


Creativity is the means, efficacy is the end. That’s why my fellow jurors and I have put so much work into judging them. By the time we meet in Cannes, we will each have read more than a hundred papers. I have asked them all to focus on impact, on outcomes, the bigger the better.

“Lighting up social media” and “generating coverage on news channels” are interesting intermediate indicators but, as my creative partner David Lubars would say, “They don’t butter the biscuit.”

What we are looking for is solid evidence of real behaviour change. And if we don’t see it, we won’t be giving out Lions.

Bertille Toledano, President BETC Paris, Creative Effectiveness

The first impression is crazy when you look at the case studies in the Creative Effectiveness category. All the cases have already been judged in creativity so globally the level of the creations is very high and the results are a reflection of this level: impressive.

So all these impressive results – are they inflated or is creativity actually a good investment? 

The good news is that when you look at the 109 cases you realise that indeed, creativity is a very good deal for brands.

However, it’s necessary to put things in perspective, as we discover at least four different types of results. You have the successful communications campaigns, that got lots of likes, followers and views, but didn’t necessarily have an important impact on the brand, in terms of marketing (penetration or volume), and without real business results. 

On the other hand, we have the campaigns that on top of being a PR success, managed to solve a marketing problem for the client: the conquest of a new target or a new market segment for example. And then, even better, the campaigns that on top of the above also managed to have a measurable impact on sales and a powerful return on investment.

Then, finally we have the stars… Those are the campaigns that on top of having had an impact on the brand image, market shares and sales, also have scale. Either because they had international success, or they changed a behaviour. 

Colleen Leddy, Head of Communications Strategy, Droga5

Engagement is not a marketing objective. It’s a strategy.

In the early days of social media, when fan engagement could get you to the holy grail of marketing – free reach – we marketers started to get confused about the difference between marketing objectives and marketing strategies. Because fan or follower engagement drove organic reach, we all started to become obsessed with ideas that created those engagements. It became a goal to drive engagement. But social platforms grew up, started to monetise and no longer significantly reward engagement with reach.

But we still pursue engagement as an end goal, celebrating likes and shares and declaring success. It seems we've lost sight of the forest for the trees a bit. The reality is that engagement is a strategy – and very often an effective one – that can drive brand­health metrics like recall, understanding and favourability. And these brand-health metrics are known to drive velocity of trial, increase average revenue per user (ARPU) and increase customer lifetime value – all things that contribute to increases in the business. But let's be clear that just because we’ve driven engagement does not mean we’ve automatically been effective. Some of the best creative work entries touted high engagement rates, but failed to make the connection to how those drove the business.

The magic of results.

The Creative Effectiveness category is, in my opinion, the best category at Cannes. All of the work entered has already been recognised as being best­in­class, creatively. And some of it stops there – some the best, most awarded creative work has surprisingly superficial results. But others had such solid results, which genuinely had an impact on the business. This category truly recognises the magic of great advertising – where creativity can be a powerful force to drive meaningful business results.

Naomi Troni, Global Chief Growth Officer, MullenLowe Group

I’m thrilled to be on this year’s Cannes Creative Effectiveness Jury. Philip Thomas, the Cannes Lions CEO, recently visited the MullenLowe Group office in the UK and explained to our teams how the Creative Effectiveness Award is amongst the most critical at the Festival. It represents the search for our industry’s essential truth – how creativity and marketing can genuinely change behaviour and outcomes.

The quest for this truth isn’t without potential pitfalls given the vast spread of entries across markets, categories and channels with an ensuing wide range of ‘proofs’ of success offered. Fortunately all entries are audited by PwC to ensure that claims are accurate and reflect the source data. The diversity of the judging panel ensures that we are able to bring industry perspectives to help gauge levels of performance. Broadening the scope of entries to a three year period (previously eligibility was limited to a year) also enables entrants to demonstrate the longer term – and perhaps less spurious – effects of creative work. And finally, there are signs that as an industry we are maturing beyond relying purely on exorbitant figures for ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ to demonstrate the impact of social, for example by citing benchmarks or brand impacts.

Matthew Gladstone, Planning Partner, Grey London

Show the jury your money. It’s not something you’ll hear in awards (at least I hope you won’t). But for effectiveness, you have to change your mindset. It doesn’t matter if you like the work. Imagine you’re a shareholder of the company who spent the budget. That’s your pension they’ve invested on creative and media. They could have kept it in the bank and earned interest. They could have spent it on R&D, or a new, more efficient production facility. They didn’t. They spent it on communications; that intangible conjuring trick that uses creativity to grow business. 

Are you better off or worse off as a result? Are you going to spend your ‘70s living on beans because someone wasted your savings on work that did nothing, or are you jetting off for the sun because the work made a difference, made a profit and turned every £1 of your savings into £10? Are you going to toast those creatives in champagne or in tears? It’s a simple test. But one that so few awards entries fail to even address properly. Will 1bn views on YouTube send me to the sunshine in January? Nope. Will great tracking help pay for my grandchildren’s weddings? Nope.  Will beating the clients’ previous norms pay for a better nursing home? Nope. Show me the money. Because the brutal truth is, we spend someone else’s savings for a living, and the real magic of creativity isn’t winning applause and awards, it’s taking their £1 and sending it back to them as £1-something. 

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LBB Editorial, Fri, 17 Jun 2016 14:09:44 GMT