The south of France is most commonly associated with rosé, classic cars, and the Cannes Film Festival. But a month after the movie stars depart, over 10,000 advertisers descend on Cannes’ Palais des festivals for Cannes Lions: proclaimed the ‘International Festival of Creativity’ it’s a celebration of creative excellence, defining and scaling benchmarks for creative work to move people, businesses and society forward.
This year the focus on creativity specifically connects the creative to effectiveness. The launch of the Creative Impact stream reflects the ongoing pressure on marketing budgets, and the need to prove the role that creativity can play in elevating and sustaining commercial growth.
The 2022 LIONS State of Creativity found that just 12% of marketers felt confident convincing their CFO to invest in creativity. This is despite mounting evidence pointing to the connection between higher creative quality and more effective campaigns. Kantar and WARC determined that the most creative and effective ads generate greater than 4X profitability. CreativeX research demonstrated that a higher Creative Quality Score translated to improved media efficiencies.
The Creative Impact Stream has been billed as an opportunity for advertisers to learn from brands that have built businesses on the back of creativity, and companies that are elevating creative opportunities through technology.
The overarching message is clear: creativity is an asset when marketing budgets are under pressure, and needs to be viewed as such by brands.
Cannes Lions was founded in 1954 by SAWA, the Screen Advertising World Association, inspired by the film festival which had been held in Cannes since the late 1940s. The initiative was intended to promote advertising in cinemas, and recognise the impact of commercials on the big screen.
The first festival was held in Venice, attracting just 187 entries, with an Italian commercial for Chlorodont toothpaste emerging as the eventual winner. The festival was to move between Venice and Cannes for the next 30 years, before settling permanently in the French city in 1984.
The decision was not taken lightly by Italian officials, who subsequently banned the festival from using replicas of the Lion of Piazza San Marcos for the winners' trophies. In the redesign the Lions lost their wings, assuming the form they take today.
The festival itself has had to adjust to changes to the advertising landscape over the past seven decades. In 1998, Cyber Lions were added to the awards, reflecting the increasing shift to digital advertising. In 2011, the tagline was changed to the ‘International Festival of Creativity’, a reflection of the event’s transformation to celebrate creative excellence across all forms of communication.
Despite the focus on the creative at Cannes, in 2019, a ‘crisis in creativity’ was declared: Peter Field’s investigation into the IPA’s database of effectiveness awards determined that award winning work (used as a proxy for creativity) no longer provided a market share growth multiple compared to non-awarded work.
Historically, creative advertising was more efficient than media spend alone. Driving up to eleven times more market share growth for the same budget than work that didn’t win awards.
If award winning work was no longer providing a market share growth multiple, was the work simply less ‘good’?
Orlando Wood (Lemon and Look Out) attributed the ‘crisis in creativity’ to an increase in left-brain orientation in culture, which was reflected in advertising. In Wood’s diagnosis, ‘right-brain’ features (favoring human interactions, stories with characters, humor, metaphor) have been replaced with ‘left-brain’ tropes (abstracted body features, words on screen, monologues).
This left-brain shift directly contradicts the features of effective creative as identified by WARC: “Creativity is most effective when it is distinctive, emotional, novel, well-branded, and has some longevity.” The last 20 years have seen a steady decline in the use of humor in advertising, despite research demonstrating the centrality of emotion for advertising success.
The shift towards left-brain features in campaigns is symptomatic of a rise in short-termism. Among the campaigns analyzed by Field, the proportion that were ‘short term’ (evaluated over periods of 6 months or less) rose from 10% in 2002 to 25% in 2018.
This shift in success metrics means advertisers are focused on campaigns that prompt short term consumer action as opposed to emotional story-telling. This has an especially outsized impact on creatively awarded campaigns.
“This over-focus on the short-term would damage the long-term effectiveness of any campaign but it especially erodes the effectiveness of creatively awarded campaigns because creativity is first and foremost a brand building tool whose impact on business success takes place over the long term.”
Despite the ‘crisis’, the importance of creative, and the potential impact of effective creative, should not be underestimated. Research from Meta, Analytics Partners and The Lab found that on average 70% of the potential ROI for video advertising comes from the creative itself.
But as creative spend rises faster than media spend, brands must ensure that their campaigns are set up for success. Only 60% of advertisers measure creative effectiveness, and most only look at feedback collected after a campaign - making the insights inactionable.
CreativeX has helped over half the world’s largest advertisers improve their creative quality, and quantifiably connect the creative back to business impact. Our latest research, presented exclusively at Cannes, connects creative quality to statistically positive effects brand uplift – going deeper into the creative-first principles that make up the CQS. Anastasia Leng will reveal the creative best practices that are not being adopted at scale, as well as the associated media wastage.
Interested to learn more but won’t be at Cannes? Get in touch!