C2 Communications

Creativity Top 5 Takeaways from The 2022 Cannes Lions Grand Prix Winners

Last year, long after the international festival of creativity concluded virtually and world-class work had been awarded covering 2 years, Cannes Lions CEO, Simon Cook, reflected on the creative themes in the work from 2020 and 2021 by stating that “more and more brands are engaging in purpose, and work focused on sustainability, diversity and inclusion”. We know that brands committed to purpose grow in value more than brands with little or no purpose and that social responsibility holds more weight on a company’s reputation today than it did a decade ago. We saw this trend continue this year in a major way, with many of the 27 Grand Prix winning works (32 awards in total) exhibiting purpose-led work through inclusivity and sustainability initiatives. There were also new themes that emerged with the addition of a new creative B2B category and  immersive technology applications. And alongside the new, creative strategies were deployed to take advantage of topicality, through emotion and humor-driven storytelling. After assessing all of the Grand Prix winning cases, here are five of the top takeaways that marketing teams can consider as part of their existing and future strategies.

1. Inclusivity leads the way

A winning case: 
25% of all Grand Prix wins1 were awarded to cases that had inclusivity at the heart of their creative work. That’s 8 wins from the 32 awarded in total. Excluding cases with multiple wins, they represent 6 out of 27 unique cases (22.22%). The inclusive work included a full-cover swimwear collection, reframing perceptions around paralympians, facilitating access to credit for low-income women, virtually connecting prisoners to the rest of society through e-cycling, the first-ever cycle syncing training collection, and improving camera and image tools to reflect the real tone for people of colour.

Relevance in context:
Search interest in inclusivity has been steadily rising worldwide over the last 5 years, and while marketers are  adjusting with inclusive advertising, the Grand Prix winning cases demonstrate that the greatest value creation with inclusivity transcends brand messaging. Or as Adidas would say, it goes beyond the surface. High-growth brands are 1.9X more likely to have DEI-related talent objectives than negative growth brands, pointing to the cultural importance and authenticity that differentiates organisations. 

Considerations to take forward:
The WFA released a charter for change at Cannes, which follows from their diversity & representation guide on potential areas for bias in the creative process released this year. In addition to Google’s All In Inclusive Marketing guide, these frameworks provide great practical strategic and creative direction to make marketing more accessible. From building diverse teams to incorporating inclusivity within brand strategy and measuring the creative choices we make along the way, inclusivity can have a wide-reaching impact.

2. Sustainability is transformative

A winning case: 
The amount of work with a sustainability focus taking home a Lion in 2021 almost doubled – from 7% in 2018 to 13% in 2021. In the 2022 Lions State of Creativity Survey (covering 3,300 leaders’ perspectives), 85% of respondents said that creativity centred around sustainability is either critical or very important to business today. And this year, 18.75% of all Grand Prix wins2 were awarded to cases that had sustainability at the core of their creative problem solving. That’s 6 wins from the 32 awarded in total. Excluding cases with multiple wins, they represent 5 out of 27 unique cases (18.52%). The work on sustainability included a hopeful reef restoration programme that’s visible on Google Maps, a mockumentary on food production, business transformation from pineapple leaves, a resilient home, and a contractual promise to change an entire ecosystem.

Relevance in context:
A 2022 IBM Institute for Business Value report that surveyed 16,000 global consumers found that more than half said environmental sustainability is more important to them today than it was 12 months ago, with almost the same percentage stating they would pay a premium to match this intent. Regionally, there has been a 20% YoY increase in search interest for “sustainability” in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, with video views around this topic also growing. 

Considerations to take forward:
The pandemic shifted consumer values and perspectives, creating a sense of aspiration for a different future and demanding more responsibility and purpose from brands to collectively work towards an outlook of positive change. An analysis of the Creative Effectiveness Lions shows that sustainability is now on a par with storytelling as the leading strategy for the most effective creative work. It’s critical to think about sustainability strategies rooted in authenticity (avoid greenwashing and ask how it aligns with your brand values), partnerships that enable opportunities at scale and a business case to win buy-in and future investments.  

3. Immersive Grand Prix – AR, VR & gaming

A winning case: 
Over one in every 5 Grand Prix winners went to work with an AR, VR or gaming component3. That’s 7 wins from the 32 awarded in total. Excluding cases with multiple wins, they represent 4 out of 27 unique cases (14.81%). The work was led by AR-filtered and audio-powered The Unfiltered History Tour from Vice, receiving the most Grand Prix awards (3 total) amongst all cases. Another case that garnered multiple Grand Prix awards was from Decathlon (2 total), which brought together the first e-cycling team of prisoners through a virtual reality platform. Rounding out the cases was a Titanium Grand Prix winner using deepfake technology, and a multi-platform nutrition literacy campaign.

Relevance in context:
The number of gamers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt reached 65 million in 2021 and that number is expected to grow to nearly 86 million by 2025. VR/AR spending is projected to grow nearly 6X by 2025, while KSA and UAE rank as two of the top markets globally in terms of future optimism of AR importance. By 2025, almost all of the Gen Z and Millennial population in KSA and 65% of the same demographic in the UAE will be frequent AR users. 

Considerations to take forward:
Gaming, AR and VR are all platform formats that will continue to grow in prominence as advances continue towards the metaverse, with the importance of building communities at the forefront. However, these platforms are also playing a critical role today in branded experiences and the social commerce space. Brands should be activating immersive solutions, learning through platform experimentation and creating new partnership opportunities to unlock value in the now and next.

4. Topicality & the power of being socially, politically, economically & culturally relevant

A winning case: 
18.52% of unique Grand Prix cases4 were awarded to those that leveraged the immediacy of current events to entertain, support and inspire their audiences. That’s 5 wins out of 27 unique cases, which included an entertaining and product-driven take on The Great Resignation, brand reinvention during a supply chain crisis, deployment of resources towards a greater cause, wishing to regain what was lost during lockdown, and preserving culture during a tragic time of war.

Relevance in context:
58% of people buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values, according to those surveyed in the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer report, an online survey covering 28 countries (incl. UAE), 36,000+ respondents and 1,150+ respondents per country. These beliefs and values can cut across social, political, economical and cultural spheres, but they all impact perceived authenticity and trust. Perhaps even more critical is to be able to move at real-time speed. This is evident in all of the winning cases, especially with regards to the work from Lebanon and Ukraine, both of which needed to mobilise and deploy resources immediately to rally their communities for the greater good of their societies. 

Considerations to take forward:
Closing the authenticity gap requires consistency in expressing shared values that resonate with audiences. Brands who do this well are perceived to reflect a truly relevant understanding of what matters to the communities they serve.  Subsequently, they are more likely to experience an incremental lift in trust when benchmarked against just functional brands. Brands also need to be able to move at the speed of culture to maximise on immediacy that creatively delivers powerful impact.

5. Creative effectiveness

A winning case: 
Entries into the Creative Effectiveness Lions, which celebrate the measurable impact of creative work, increased by 80% year-over-year. Even with the high number of entries, one case stood head and shoulders above the rest. According to Jury President Raja Rajamannar, the “Contract for Change” from Michelob Ultra did this by not just meeting business goals, but also by doing something positive for society, the community and the planet.

Relevance in context:
According to the 2022 Lions State of Creativity Study, convincing stakeholders to invest in creativity is the biggest challenge both brands (41%) and creative partners (56%) face. And only 10% of brands are extremely confident in applying commercially successful creativity today. Yet, the study also reported a “strong creative comeback across the whole industry fuelled by innovation, purpose and creative resilience”. The Michelob Ultra Contract for Change case speaks to both of these observations. The original brief delivered to the creative team was for the creation of a Superbowl ad to launch the product and raise awareness of the organic beer to the market. Who knows what the result  would have been for a Superbowl spot, but the eventual transformation programme produced 18% growth for the business and also led to converting 4% of the United States’ barley farmland to organic.

Considerations to take forward:

The Creative Effectiveness Code white paper developed between Cannes Lions and WARC outlines a shared industry language for creative effectiveness measurement. Short-term and longer-term goals need to be balanced and prioritised to help meet immediate objectives. But more importantly, to  allow the brand to step back and transform the creative scope of work and develop the type of effectiveness that creatively awarded work delivers over non-creatively awarded work. According to the Creative Effectiveness Code, that difference in effectiveness is 176%. 


Sources

1C2 internal analysis of Cannes Lions Grand Prix Winners Lists. 

2C2 internal analysis of Cannes Lions Grand Prix Winners Lists. 

3C2 internal analysis of Cannes Lions Grand Prix Winners Lists. 

4C2 internal analysis of Cannes Lions Grand Prix Winners Lists. 

ABOUT AUTHOR
Robert Habib

Having gained over 7 years of experience with C2 Communications, Robert currently heads C2 Native, the data-driven communication lab that’s tasked with transforming business through innovative solutions.