Measuring the impact of creativity

“The evidence that we’ve seen on Snickers and on many other campaigns… is that when you stick with a great idea and commit to it, invest in it and invest in it over time – I think that’s key – on a regular, repeatable basis, your odds of success are increased exponentially and the chances of long-term impact and growth are multiplied.”
Rankin Carroll, Chief Content Officer, Mars Wrigley

When it comes to the commercial creativity that LIONS champions, few would disagree that economic impact is probably the most important metric. But as Marc Pritchard, CMO of Procter & Gamble regularly asserts, driving business results and doing good are not mutually exclusive. At LIONS Live we saw irrefutable evidence of both. We saw how a supermarket broke an absurd law only to change it (and increased instore traffic by 15%). We heard how a campaign featuring singing vulvas defied category norms and grew market share in the Nordics from 0% to 33% in under two months. So what’s the secret? Here are some top tips we took away.

1. Get dumped, then commit

As referenced previously, Snickers’ “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” platform, created by BBDO Worldwide, is a campaign that we’ve identified as an “Enduring Icon” in the Creative Effectiveness Code. It has been called the “best global campaign in history” and with good reason: it helped Snickers regain a market share equivalent to USD 376.3 million. But, it didn’t start off well. Mars Incorporated fired David Lubars and the BBDO team – but the agency begged forgiveness and were given one last chance. This (47!) Lion-winning partnership was founded on the universally-resounding truth of its eponymous tagline which has been translated the world over. It has enviable longevity and can be adapted to any market.

“I saw the line before I saw any work and the line alone... it communicated the insight in such a human, great way and I thought, ‘This isn’t just a campaign line, this is a platform that’s going to lead us into the future’... the hairs on my neck went up.” David Lubars, Chief Creative Officer, BBDO Worldwide

2. Find a simple truth and trust your gut

“With all of these things it’s a feeling. You’ve got to feel it and in this case we felt it early on – and it proved to be the right feeling.” Toby Treyer-Evans, Group Creative Director, Droga5 The New York Times and Droga5’s “The Truth Is Worth It” is the first campaign in Cannes Lions’ history to take home both the Film and Film Craft Grands Prix. Its objective was clear: to increase the number of paid subscribers by convincing them that quality journalism is worth the money. And the campaign device was simple: the truth is worth paying for.

But at the time of launch, the odds were stacked against them. There were 180 million digital newsreaders in the USA but only 14 million were paying for it. For The New York Times, creativity was a survival mechanism.

So what was the creative solution? With Droga5, they crafted a series of videos (collated from footage from journalists’ phone conversations, photos and text messages), which illustrated the rigorous lengths that journalists will go to to seek out the truth on incendiary news topics like parent and child separation and Isis defectors. The results are both beautifully simple and viscerally chilling. It’s work that hits you right in the gut.

At LIONS Live, Amy Weisenbach, the SVP Marketing at The New York Times, shared the incredible results of this campaign:

  • 2019 was a record year for digital growth at The New York Times Company.
  • There was a 12.4% increase in number of people who felt The New York Times was worth paying for.
  • It was the first news organisation to achieve over 3 million subscribers.
  • They added as many new subscribers since the launch of “The Truth Is Worth It” campaign as they had in total when they launched.

3. Be bold and fearless

“Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. You have to be willing to take risks.” Martina Poulopati, Global Brand Communication Director, Essity One of the bravest, category-defying campaigns we saw at LIONS Live was “Viva La Vulva” – but as the team behind the work so candidly showed us, its success didn’t come easy. Arrows came from all corners of the business, the media and the public – but Libresse and AMV BBDO were undeterred. They had a few doubts along the way, but fundamentally they KNEW what they were doing was right.

One way to dial down the fear? Collaboration and trust. The tenacious team talked of building trust gradually; you don’t need everyone to buy into the idea straight away. “Viva La Vulva” had only the support of two colleagues at first and now has 400 brand cheerleaders. It’s a virtuous circle. As you take risks, you slowly build trust – and so it continues.

A bold leap of faith paid off. With £0 media support, the brand video garnered over 5 million organic views in under two weeks. It smashed all benchmarks in brand engagement and interest, with over half of women reporting that the video sets the brand apart in the intimate care category – over double the norm (Ipsos Dec. 2018). Sales reflect the impact: from 0% to 33% market share in the Nordics in under two months.

4. Win hearts and minds to change brand perception (and the law)

“Take on a fight bigger than yourself and not just for your own good and your own revenue.” Sarah Lemarie, Senior Strategist, Marcel Paris “The Black Supermarket” took home the coveted Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix in 2019. To change the absurd (but little-known) law that meant only hybrid, pesticide-resistant seeds – patented by the lucrative agro-chemical industry – are authorised for sale, Carrefour defied the law and launched The Black Supermarket.

But what looks like a pure purpose-driven campaign actually had a very different objective: to operate a shift in brand perception. Carrefour had been a supermarket that consumers had fallen out of love with: price wars, competition, standardisation and a “big bad wolf” reputation had begun to erode its brand equity. In a strategic stroke of genius, Carrefour with Marcel, spun its power to support the little guys – the farmers – by taking on bigger issues than themselves, namely, unsustainable mass consumption and food quality, both of which French consumers care passionately about. Illegal black supermarkets were created in Carrefour’s stores all over France to sell a unique range of “illegal” varieties of cereals, vegetables and fruits. Consumers participated by buying up the illegal range (it regularly sold out) and signed a petition on to revoke the law that threatened biodiversity. Ilegal producers were even held up as national heroes. So two years on, what's the best thing that this campaign has achieved for Carrefour? According to the team, it’s the long-term brand benefits.

“The biggest, striking impact… is the corporate impact in the long-term because it has implications for five, ten years to come” Sarah Lemarie, Senior Strategist, Marcel Paris Carrefour is still enjoying strong growth across Europe.


Creativity is the biggest driver of non-incremental growth because, when done well, its impact on a business is felt in a number of different ways; it supports sales spikes; it can change consumer behaviour or brand perception; it can even endorse pricing power and elasticity over the long term. The key is commitment, for any measurable impact you MUST leave the work in-market long enough for it to have an effect.

Carter Murray, Chief Executive Officer for FCB sums it up nicely: “If you don’t believe that creativity is an economic multiplier then you shouldn’t be doing advertising.”

See more stories of brand growth here – and read on to discover just what it feels like when your work actually wins a Lion...