After last year’s Cannes Lions, I opined that there was not enough talk about what we were there to celebrate: great creativity. I’m pleased to report that this year there was much more talk of how to create winning content. But I was shocked – and maybe I shouldn’t have been – to learn that creative award-winning ads have never been less effective.
Nick Law of Publicis kicked off the week by arguing that the industry has lost its mojo. He decried the sins of separation of media from creative, the multiplication of media and platforms, yet hanging onto “ruinous” TV-centric big ideas. He argues that creatives should take control back of agencies, so we get real work and not loss-leading stunts.
A survey from the Financial Times suggests that the root cause of declining effectiveness comes from the client boardroom. It finds that only 20% of non-marketers feel brand strength is ‘very important’ in driving ‘increased profitability’. And over half of business leaders rate their knowledge of brand-building as average to very poor. This, combined with a significant shortening of marketing reporting cycles has led to a focus on short-term returns, even though they know that a balanced approach will deliver better commercial outcomes.
Peter Field also says that client short-termism is driving the decline in effectiveness. His analysis for the IPA shows that years ago, creatively awarded content delivered an average of ten times the results of unawarded work. Today it’s just four times.
I do agree that short-termism is in part to blame for the creative output that we’re seeing. There’s a perception that drive sales in the short term, you need to persuade. And to persuade, you need explicit and rational messaging. But Kantar has shown time and time again that it’s engagement at the service of the brand that will deliver for it in both the short and long terms.
However, I also believe that the problem of short-termism is exacerbated because a lot of Cannes Creative Lion winners do not highlight the brand. They are, of course, distinctive: that’s what gets them noticed and shortlisted by the jury that sits in a dark room for 66 hours, looking at over 3000 entries. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being distinctive. However, if that distinctiveness is not linked to the brand, you have nothing more than an engaging film.
I loved watching content at Cannes that drove distinctiveness by being bold and taking risks: look at some of the work from brands such as Gillette, Libresse, Wendy’s and Burger King, to name a few. I would encourage you to watch them as well. As you do so, ask yourself two questions. First, would you have dared to take such a risk? Second, is it creatively effective, by working for the brand, or rather just creative? And would your answer be the same if it was your own money?
What do you think? What is driving the decline in creative effectiveness?