Creativity in B2B marketing is spotlighted with new Lions award

Creativity has increased in importance for B2B marketers in recent years, so it’s timely that the Creative B2B Lions award launches at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this year.


B2B has been overshadowed by consumer marketing for decades; but that is about to change. A new Lion award celebrates game-changing creative work in the B2B space that displays both creativity and effectiveness in advertising products and services purchased by professionals on behalf of businesses. It will provide the definitive benchmark for creativity that drives progress in B2B marketing globally and spotlight creative excellence from the B2B marketing community.

A notable increase in B2B creative Lion-winning work 

The launch of the Creative B2B Lions was first discussed in 2013, with the award finally developed with input and research from industry experts, and supported by the B2B Institute, a LinkedIn thinktank and strategic thought partner. 

“Many in the industry believe that a specialist Lion in this area will raise the creative bar and elevate the discipline,” says Philip Thomas, chairman of Cannes Lions.

Over the years, a rise in B2B-focused work has won Lions awards across a range of creative disciplines, highlighting the need to spotlight creative B2B marketing on the global creative stage. Take 2017’s defining Lion-winner, State Street Global Advisor’s ‘Fearless Girl’ statue as an example of excellence in the space; it won 18 Lions and four Grands Prix.

Creative effectiveness in B2B 

Alongside the new Lion, the B2B Creative Effectiveness Code was developed in partnership with the World Advertising Research Center (WARC) and the B2B Institute. The code, which evaluates 10 years’ worth of B2B effectiveness case studies, found that long-term campaigns, broad targeting and emotional creative work was largely absent from B2B marketing. More often than not, marketing activities were concentrated on sales activation and short-term sales-funnel optimisation, with three-quarters (76%) of campaigns fulfilling these goals.

Just 5% of the 435 case studies evaluated by the code’s research partner James Hurman incorporated activities that focused on building the kind of long-term strategic effects capable of driving a business forward into the future. That means the vast majority of campaigns evaluated did not include long-term strategic asset building as a goal. This research identifies a gap between current B2B marketing approaches and optimal effectiveness.

There is a significant competitive advantage for B2B brands that invest in creative effectiveness and produce B2B work that connects with customers, improves brand health and ultimately drives long-term growth

Alongside the code, the B2B Creative Effectiveness Ladder was developed to present a hierarchy - from least to most commercially impactful - of the six main effects that B2B marketing produces, reflecting the objectives and results that are more important to B2B. Designed to be used as a continuous improvement tool, it enables the B2B marketing and advertising community to identify and learn from effectiveness best practice, and to consistently produce highly-effective creative campaigns and initiatives.

By measuring case studies against the ladder, it shows that B2B creative remains dominated by marketing at the least effective end of the spectrum and is still struggling to deliver long-term commercial value. Here lies a huge opportunity: creative effectiveness is an under-leveraged B2B growth driver. And there is a significant competitive advantage for B2B brands that invest in creative effectiveness and produce B2B work that connects with customers, improves brand health and ultimately drives long-term growth.

What does a winning Creative B2B Lions entry need to succeed?

Entries that demonstrate a blend of short-term tactics and long-term brand-building strategies that connect with customers, improve brand health and ultimately drive growth are what will win. The Creative B2B Lions jury will be led by jury president Paul Hirsch, president and chief creative officer at Doremus. Hirsch is a creative leader focused on designing and shaping the next generation of brands. He spent his formative years at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Leo Burnett and Division of Labor, an agency he co-founded. He also co-authored the Amazon-charting book Stop Tweeting Boring Sh*t.

More than 400 global experts will judge this year’s Lions. The jurors complete initial judging remotely before coming together in Cannes to award and present the Lions, including the new Creative B2B Lion. This is a pivotal moment for the B2B community to come together and celebrate boundary-breaking work and set the creative benchmark.

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity takes place from 20-24 June, in Cannes, France. The Lions will be judged, announced and honoured throughout the week. Further information on the awards and Lions can be found at canneslions.com