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The Advertising Association runs a number of events, from our annual agenda-setting LEAD conference to bespoke breakfast briefings. As of 2018 we are the official UK representative for the world’s biggest festival of creativity at the Cannes Lions.

Lessons from WARC’s Cannes Lions Creative Effectiveness Report

/ August 23rd 2018

Lessons from WARC’s Cannes Lions Creative Effectiveness Report

Cannes is the proving ground for advertisers and marketers looking to demonstrate their expertise in communicating on behalf of brands. That depends in no small measure upon the creativity which agencies and marketers bring to bear on individual campaigns, with ‘creativity’ increasingly being cited as the primary reason for successful ads.

UK agencies are especially well-known for their creative work, from inception to delivery: The UK took 110 Lions at Cannes this year, and was responsible for an outsized 7 percent of all winning campaigns by territory, according to WARC’s Creative Effectiveness insights report. Additionally, as set out in our Advertising Pays 4 report, “the UK’s reputation for quality in all forms of advertising service is valuable not only in hard cash, with exports valued at over £4.1 billion, but in terms of ‘soft power’, too”.

At a morning event in London last week, WARC members, researchers and neuroscience consultants discussed what lessons should be taken away from the Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions 2018 winners about success and creativity in the marketing world.

Creativity creates results

Ascential’s David Davies opened the morning with an evidence-based discussion highlighting the fact that while there are numerous factors that play into the success of a campaign, there is a demonstrable uptick in ROI per campaign when investment is channeled into creativity. He cited the well-known IPA/Gunn report from a few years ago in support of that statement, noting that the influence of that report led not only to a change in thinking at brands and agencies, but to Ascential conducting its own research into the subject.

That research demonstrated that the campaigns at Cannes that won for their creativity also saw a 51 percent increase in ROI. As later speakers noted, the more valuable campaigns were those which traded on audiences’ emotion and sense of shared purpose, and strong creative was among the best ways to activate those factors.

Four paths to a Lion

WARC’s Managing Editor for Case Studies Lucy Aitken built upon Davies’ introduction, elucidating on the four key themes of the report. She pointed out that WARC’s research found that:

  • Judges rewarded initiatives that solved specific problems
  • Emotion and humour were at the core of a number of the winning campaigns
  • Purely sentimental campaigns have taken a backseat to purpose-driven ideas
  • The rush into ecommerce has resulted in online conversion being seen as much more of a goal this year than ever before

She specifically cited the well-received ‘Child Replacement Programme’ campaign from Pedigree as an example of a brand hitting the first three of those points, and being rewarded both by audiences, consumers and award judges.

Purely as a result of that campaign, with its mix of purpose, humour and association with a cause, Pedigree saw a 10.8% sales increase despite not changing anything about the product itself.

Similarly, both Savlon’s ‘Healthy Hands’ campaign and Cheeto’s ‘Cheeto Museum’ endeavours were singled out as having hit those key themes, with Aitken pointing out that both have gone on to be long-running social phenomenon that have had a positive effect on both brands’ market share and public favourability.

Authenticity over all

Dr Cristina de Balanzo, founder of consumer neuroscience consultancy Walnut, started her morning session by reaffirming WARC’s finding that emotion and humour are paramount to engaging audiences:

“Emotion is important because it drives decision making. Storytelling is important [because] it triggers memory, it brings this connection. Stories have ensured our survival.”

She praised the New York Times’ Truth campaign for hitting a number of key beats for authenticity, from its timing amidst the noise from the Trump anti-press platform to the stark black and white imagery, as being especially effective at delivering a sense of authenticity. Furthermore, she noted that our brains are hardwired to detect when people are being unauthentic, and that when brands have an insincere message it puts consumers off and prevents identification with the product.

That was further elaborated on by Kantar Millward Brown’s Graham Page, who argued that effectiveness comes from creating that which matters to our audiences, not that which caters to the desires of the brands. Instead, he argues, great campaigns succeed because they tell a story about how the brand’s values are aligned in some way with those of their public.

Overall, then, while the trends surrounding best use of tech, targeting and intent might change, good creative looks to be at the heart of effective advertising for the foreseeable future.

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