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Paul Hirsch on the Brand New Creative B2B Lion

London, UK
With the first winners in the new Creative B2B category soon to be announced at Cannes Lions 2022, we catch up with its inaugural jury president, the chief creative officer and president of Doremus

We’ve been talking about B2B marketing a lot at LBB recently and we’re definitely not alone in that. The whole creative industry seems to be abuzz with discussion around how creativity targeted at business can actually be exciting, emotional and groundbreaking. But as jury president for Cannes Lions’ new Creative B2B category Paul Hirsch points out, some of the greatest work to win on the Croisette in previous years was in fact B2B. The immortal ‘Epic Split’ was, after all, for Volvo’s commercial trucks division. We caught up with Paul, who’s also the chief creative officer and president of Doremus, to hear his thoughts on this moment for B2B.

LBB> How are you preparing for the jury room this year?

Paul> With a great deal of excitement and a bit of relief. This being the inaugural B2B session I was really unsure of what would be entered. And as a jury, I wondered if we were pioneers or guinea pigs. But from what I’ve seen (which is only half the entries at the point of doing this interview), I’m enthusiastic. There is quite a bit of creative that I wished I had done and I’m really curious what other members of the jury have seen and liked. We have an eclectic group so I’m sure we’ll have some lively conversations about the nature of B2B work and whether what we’re judging lives up to the high bar that has been set at Cannes.

LBB> Creative B2B is a new category. We’ve seen more creative B2B marketing so what do you think is driving that transformation in B2B advertising?

Paul> My hope is that B2B marketers have finally realized what their B2C counterparts understand: Creativity is an economic multiplier. It doesn’t matter whether it’s at the brand  or the demand-gen level. It’s simply better for business to stand out than blend in. That dynamic changes everything, from whether you show up on Interbrand’s Best Global Brands to what your CFO wants to charge. It’s just math.

LBB> With B2B advertising hitting the Super Bowl, are we seeing a blurring of the lines between B2B and consumer-facing marketing (thinking about the lifestyle vibes of the likes of Mailchimp)?

Paul> With smart marketers the lines have always been blurred. IBM has been doing great work for decades and they’re not exactly targeting consumers. And if you go back even further, one of the most famous commercials of all time, ‘Brother Dominic’ for Xerox, (the 9200 duplicating system!) was hardly aimed at consumers. People get hung up on the B2B and B2C divisions all the time, but it’s self imposed. Ideas are ideas. Sure, the targets change and budgets vary, but it’s all about ideas. The best marketers know that incremental change only gets you so far. To succeed you need to take bigger swings and make a creative commitment. Mailchimp, like IBM, Xerox and countless other marketers, realize that and back it up with big bets that pay off.

LBB> As the first Creative B2B jury president, you get to really set the tone for the category so what are you hoping to see and award? 

Paul> I just want to think “Sh*t, that was great.” or “I can’t believe they have a client who approved that; I wish they worked with us.” My former partner Josh Denberg always joked that I got most excited about doing work that was either illegal or impossible to pull off. And I think the latter holds true here. We’re not looking for something that is simply creative. An “ad” won’t cut it. Those days are long gone. We’re really looking for bold ideas that can make a difference out in the world. That’s the bar at Cannes and what I’m sure we’ll award.

LBB> And what are the current big debates within Creative B2B – or more generally across the industry – that you expect to see coming through in the judging?

Paul> As a first-year category I think we’ll be debating what makes a B2B piece truly great and worthy of being on the shortlist or winning a Lion. I can’t think of any other show (aside from something specifically B2B) that has such space dedicated to B2B. It’s exciting but a little daunting: We’re not only setting the bar but hopefully inspiring marketers and creatives for years to come. 

LBB> It’s the first in-person Cannes since the start of the pandemic, like a pivotal moment for an industry that’s been massively disrupted. How do you think that’s going to shape your thinking in judging?

Paul> I don’t think it will change my judging much, but given that a large part of our industry is still operating remotely, it’s going to be really odd seeing so many ad people in one place. People may think it’s business as usual, but it’s not. Like AirBnb and others have announced, we’re going to need to find new ways of working and gathering. Getting together as a group is just going to be one way. And, for at least one week, armed with masks and sanitizer, I’m going to try and enjoy it.

LBB> What’s the most immortal bit of B2B marketing you’ve ever encountered? 

Paul> That’s easy. ‘Epic Split’ for Volvo Trucks. If you haven’t seen it, please Google it. To demonstrate Volvo’s steering system, Jean-Claude Van Damme performed a full split between two moving Volvo trucks. Oh, and they used Enya’s ‘Only Time’ as the music. Sure, it cost more than most B2B companies spend in a year, but aside from generating over $170 million in revenue (according to the internet) it had Van Damme in it. Can’t put a price tag on him!

LBB> Outside of the jury room, where are you most looking forward to spending time while you’re in Cannes?

Paul> Since we’ve all been shut-ins for so long, it will be nice just being outside with people I haven’t seen in forever, talking shop and boring them with photos of kids and dogs. Nothing better than that. Except parasailing off the coast with Ryan Reynolds. That’d be cool too. If anyone can make that happen please DM me.

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