Sean Healy

Global CSO, Carat

Last year was the first Cannes Festival that I had missed for many years. Aside from the cartoon-like characters and the excess (which are great) I have always found Cannes like attending university, difference being that you recognise that you should really be paying attention in every seminar. It is reassuringly inspiring every time.

Whilst Cannes is always thought provoking and surfaces new themes, twists and turns there are some old favourites that always appear. So, it was reassuring that even at ‘Virtual Cannes’, the first day would conclude with people bemoaning the state of creative effectiveness.

The last session of Monday featured the WARC team sharing the winners of the Creative Effectiveness Awards that they sponsor, but not before they shared their angst at the declining link between creatively awarded cases and business success. According to the mighty Peter Field the effectiveness ratio between awarded and non-awarded cases has declined from a ratio of 12:1 to 1:1 over the decade to 2019. We revisited this in a carbon copy of the discussion of June 2019. It continues to be strange that somehow the creative community blames this on short-termism on the part of clients and media agencies rather than looking at what actually wins creative awards.

On to the awards which were more of the moment than the existential angst that preceded them. The Customer Experience award was won by Tesco in Malaysia, which has successfully persuaded people to reuse their plastic shopping bags at scale. What is nice about this case is that it recognises that CX can be ‘plastic’ as well as digital, something that parts of our industry seems blind to. The clever thing Tesco did was to discount from the shopping bill for reuse (positive incentive) rather than find a form of punishment for not getting with the programme.

The second award that provoked interesting commentary was for Brand Purpose. This was described as a controversial area and even a ‘dirty word/s’ by the WARC team. It was won by Finish in the US that had persuaded millions of people not to waste water by pre-rinsing before using a dishwasher. It was acclaimed due to its direct connection to the product (dishwasher tablets) rather than some of the more conceptual connections between brand and cause that we see in this area. One of the things that struck me, not for the first time, is the confusion between cause related marketing and brand purpose, which are not the same thing. Even the brainboxes at WARC are confused! A big shout-out to Cadbury’s which won a Silver in this category for the ‘Donate Your Words’ campaign with Age UK (and a big shout-out to our UK team that worked on it).

The last award that really captured my imagination was the Grand Prix winner in Long Term activity which was won by Aldi. The discount supermarket’s UK story went back to 2010 and unfolded in a series of chapters which saw the German brand overcome perception issues one by one: product, price, provenance and then finally Christmas, the ultimate supermarket battleground. It is a great story of long-term strategic thinking as well as creative excellence.

I have picked these three as maybe they offer one of a few formulae for the industry to play with when trying to get great work out of the door.

Customer Experience + Brand Purpose + Long-term.