The campaign for creativity

Philip Thomas, chairman of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, explains why creativity is still so essential for marketing and advertising to make a meaningful impact on the world

Most business leaders I meet agree on at least one thing: in this rapidly changing world, creativity is imperative. Innovative solutions, brave creative thinking and world-class communications are needed to drive business growth, and to help us face, and begin to solve, the biggest global challenges.

At the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, we bring the global industry together annually from across the marketing and advertising creative worlds to discuss the future of branded communications. In the last decade, the industry landscape has changed beyond recognition, so our global community has evolved alongside it. Creative agencies have been joined by new players from a broad range of disciplines – media, entertainment and technology powerhouses, data experts, consultancies and global brands – and are all essential to the industry’s new-world order.

But, however the industry may evolve, our ethos remains the same: Cannes Lions campaigns for creativity because we believe creativity is essential for business growth, industry and societal change and as a driving force for good.

Creativity boosting the bottom line

We know that creativity works through the ever-increasing body of research that directly links creative excellence with a bottom-line increase. Take Forrester’s 2019 research, The Cost of Losing Creativity, which suggests that investing in creativity will help companies achieve significantly higher returns over a six-year period. Or McKinsey’s Award Creativity Score, which measures the number of Cannes Lions awards won. It found 67 per cent of companies that score in the top quartile have above-average organic revenue growth.

The businesses we work with tell us that embedding creativity requires the right conditions and culture to drive long-term, sustainable growth and impactful brand building. WARC’s Marketer’s Toolkit survey states that 2020 will be a year when marketers re-invest in their brands: 70 per cent of respondents agreed that brands have over-invested in performance marketing, and 40 per cent predict increased brand investments this year.

As a case study to examine the ‘right’ conditions and culture in action, we can look to a business like Microsoft. Microsoft was once associated with uninspiring advertising, but has transformed to become a purposeful and people-focused brand that has seen consecutive growth in recent years. And Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft, has said clearly that “marketing is one of the top drivers of our success”.

There are, undoubtedly, myriad factors to Microsoft’s recent successes but we know the brand’s transformation is due, in part, to creative collaborations and partnerships and trust in the creative process. Microsoft sits alongside a constellation of global brands that are defining new cultures and models to move the needle on creative marketing and, as a result, drive growth.

We believe creativity is essential for business growth, industry and societal change and as a driving force for good

Success means reinvention and a global outlook

For brands and businesses to remain relevant and future-fit, they must continually reinvent. We know this, because within the Cannes Lions community, an increasingly diverse set of companies are now using different creative tools to tell stories, solve business challenges and connect with customers.

Cannes Lions celebrates excellence in global creativity through the Lions awards. And if you look at the work that has won in recent years, the definitions of creativity have certainly evolved. It’s no longer just about a brilliant campaign, or the craft that brings the campaign to life, digital innovation, new platforms, products and IP. It’s about end-to-end experience, innovative use of data, and branded entertainment that reaches audiences at scale.

The best work is also more global. In 2019 we saw first-time entries from Myanmar and first shortlist places for Bolivia and Nicaragua.

A new award, the Creative Business Transformation Lion, was launched this year to celebrate creative thinking that changes how businesses organise themselves and how customers engage with them. Brands are asking more of their creative partners to help them respond to ongoing digital disruption. They’re investing in new ways of working in order to future-proof their businesses.

Using creativity to make the world better

At Cannes Lions, everyone from Ban-ki-Moon to Bill Clinton to Bob Geldof has attended the Festival and invited our creative audience to use their skills to help make the world a better place.

And the creative community – as well as the world’s biggest brands – have taken up the challenge, building incredible campaigns that have changed the narrative around issues from gender equality to climate change to animal welfare. Brands and creatives can elevate best practice, adopt sustainable solutions and inspire others to follow suit, as well as help charities and other organisations tell their stories better.

That’s why we, and our industry, so strongly support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Designed to protect the future of humanity across the economy, society and the environment, the 17 Goals are an affirmative plan of action, to be achieved by 2030.

Cannes Lions launched the Sustainable Development Goals Lions at the 2018 Festival. The award recognises creative solutions and initiatives that seek to positively impact the world, while supporting the Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Agenda to impact actionable change.

In recent years, we’ve seen an emerging trend in creative work driven by purpose. And on the Festival stages we have seen brand activism, social justice and diversity lead the discourse. There’s been a recognised shift in the move from purpose and activism to accountability, and of course action. With the combination of global reach and power of brands, as well as the expertise of organisations like the UN, and the unbounded creativity of the advertising and marketing community, change for good is truly possible.

To find out more about how you can experience the future of creative marketing from June 22-26 at Cannes Lions 2020, go to canneslions.com