The message and the medium

Why advertisers must heed lessons in how to connect

In August we attended WARC’s ‘Lessons from Cannes 2017’ event, which identified the trends emerging from this year’s Creative Effectiveness Lions Awards. John Lewis’ Man On the Moon, Ariel’s Dads #ShareTheLoad and Sport England’s This Girl Can were all well-known names on the list of winners. However, the Grand Prix winner was a campaign on a much smaller scale; a low-budget, localised one representative of an ongoing shift in creative strategy. Jose Papa (MD, Cannes Lions) perfectly summarised this change as he opened the conference, advising that ‘it’s never been so crucial to understand why creativity drives impact’.

Video outdoing the social media star

The event started by taking a look at the media mix employed by the 2017 shortlist. Interestingly, this revealed that, for the first time, online video featured as a campaign channel as frequently as social media. This movement has seen social’s role evolve – serving more as a means of amplifying video content and increasing campaign reach, rather than as a lead channel in its own right. Van Gogh’s Bedroom typifies this approach.

Emotions remaining at the heart of effective campaigns

Reflecting much of ABA’s recent, innovative work on emotion’s capacity to shape consumer behaviour, this was identified as an integral part of 71% of the shortlisted entries. Heather Andrew (CEO - Neuro-Insight) demonstrated the powerful effect of emotional resonance in building and colouring memory, with personally relevant campaigns much more likely to be recalled long-term.

Ian Forrester (Global SVP - Unruly) explored how the cultural background of the observer can influence the emotional effect of an advert. As an example he used the striking Libresse No Blood Should Stop Us campaign, which elicits feelings as disparate as pride and disgust. Differing attitudes to adverts about feminine-hygiene products result in different patterns of response; the crucial part being that the strength of that response means it is likely to achieve a higher level of mental availability, increasing its chances of springing to mind at point of purchase.

Purpose-led advertising proving a challenge to perfect

The session ended with an analysis of the rise of purpose-led advertising. This development is a natural consequence of the way some companies have redefined themselves by reflecting on the fundamental question ‘what is our brand for?’ Airbnb went from just being about cheap holiday accommodation to a tagline that boiled down its whole proposition to ‘Belong Anywhere.’ The process has often produced idealistic statements rather than more hard-nosed commercial ambitions, and this saw 51% of the shortlisted entries feature CSR strategies prominently. Whilst these attempts to have a positive societal effect may be laudable they can carry risks for a brand. Pepsi’s Live for Now advert, featuring Kendall Jenner, provoked ‘purpose backlash’ and was taken off air after being criticised for trivialising social issues.

Jane Bloomfield (Head of Sales & Marketing, Kantar Millward Brown) provided 3 key rules for purpose-led campaign success: ensure the cause has a strong fit with the brand image, relates to the traditional task of the brand, and addresses a cultural need.

‘Lessons from Cannes’ highlighted how fast the advertising landscape is changing, how brands must be very fleet of foot to adapt, and how vital it is to evoke the right emotion on a relevant subject via the most effective choice of media – video’s power to convey emotion making it still more important.



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