Matt Pye: lessons for brands from big Cannes winners

This year was the 61st Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (as you may have noticed). Where once it was the annual retreat for advertising agencies and their clients, these days it really is more representative of creativity in the round. That means a greater focus on all of the techniques, technologies and disciplines that brands have at their disposal to convey a message. If we’re to communicate effectively with today’s agile consumers, brands have to mix it up a little, and sometimes go beyond the 30-second ad format.

Luckily for brands and their agencies, there was plenty of food for thought at this year’s Lions. With an all-time high of 37,427 entries across 17 awards categories, there was inspiration aplenty. So what did brands learn?

What’s the story?

Storytelling has increased its grip as a dominant communication method with more and more brands realising that they need to find big ideas that can click with consumers wherever they come across them. Consumers will stick with a story engagingly told and relevant to their lives. Chipotle’s ‘The Scarecrow’ viral movie had production values worthy of Pixar and drew in viewers with a beautifully told tale that underlined the restaurant’s fresh food credentials.

It’s great when you integrate

Really effective campaigns contain a message that can work in any channel. Media fragmentation and the agile consumer’s leaning towards peer influence means campaigns must be flexible enough to find homes on multiple platforms without losing the essence of the message. McCann Melbourne’s ‘Guilt Trips’ campaign for train company V/Line showed how with a mix of paid media, social, and print could combine to great effect – in this case, a 12 per cent increase in ticket sales.

Don’t say it, show it

Consumers are a sceptical bunch and no longer simply take your word for things. Demonstrating a brand’s strengths is a more powerful and memorable way to create cut through. Volvo’s live tests where the truck company created a series of genuinely jaw dropping indicators of what the vehicles could do became a social phenomenon garnering $170 million in media value in the process.

Be useful

To really be part of people’s lives, brands must indicate the value they provide. Empowered and connected as consumers now are, they will switch in an instant if this is not obvious. Samsung used mobile phone processing power in downtime to help Vienna University search for a cancer cure demonstrating the handset’s capability as well as letting users feel like they were doing something hugely worthwhile.


With the news that mobile ad spend is due to overtake that of print, it’s amazing that 43 per cent of marketers still don’t have mobile in their marketing plans. And mobile isn’t just about ads, it is part of our everyday kit providing the ability to to engage directly with consumers and be genuinely useful. Nivea’s Sun Kids Protection magazine ad had a wristband that could be attached to your child on the beach and alerted your mobile when they wandered off. It provided peace of mind for parents and reinforced the Nivea protects message.

Technology + creativity

There were some stunning examples of how technology applied creatively can provide cut through. BA’s ‘Magic of Flying’ took live flight data to create a billboard where a pointing child identified passing BA flights. Meanwhile Honda recreated Ayrton Senna’s fastest F1 lap using data from the 1989 drive, producing an event at the Suzuka Circuit where sound and lights gave the impression of the drive. Brands are starting to realise the potential of teaming up technology with creative thinking.

Humour still has its place

It may seem that every gag ever has been used in advertising, but one of the year’s big winners, Harvey Nichols’ ‘I Spent it on Myself’ still managed to raise a smile. Its counterintuitive appeal to our baser instincts during the festive period made a refreshing change from the usual Christmas schmaltz, and was cheeky enough to get away with it.

UnknownMatt Pye is COO of Cheil UK

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