Solving real-life problems with creativity

“Solve something real. We didn’t make up a problem. We solved a real problem in the world.”
Amit Mashiah, CEO, McCann Group Israel describing work on "ThisAbles"

With the business value of high-quality creativity firmly in our minds, what did LIONS Live uncover about how the best work unlocks the power of creativity? Here, we explore how generating ideas that solve a problem (as opposed to simply selling a product or service) is the best approach. Over the course of five days, LIONS Live demonstrated that the creative excellence common to our Grand Prix winners is so impactful because it prioritises solving real-world, human problems. The creativity behind the work helps find solutions to issues by offering a new, original direction for a brand, but crucially, one that connects to the problems individuals and communities face on a human level. True creative success is derived from a powerful combination of original thinking and a human-centred approach.

In the LIONS Live ‘Behind the Scenes’ film of McCann Tel Aviv’s "Thisables" work for IKEA, we heard how Copywriter Eldar Yusupov conceived the idea as a solution to a personal problem, which involved his challenges using IKEA products due to his cerebral palsy.

We also heard how the starting priority for RBK and Doconomy with "Do Black - The Carbon Limit Credit Card" was to help consumers limit their carbon footprints through a focus on reducing their consumption.

Similarly, AMV BBDO and Essity realised that, in order to engage consumers with Libresse’s brand and products, they first had to tackle the wider societal problem of stigma around periods.

And as a final example, the New York Times worked out that to engage subscribers, they needed to focus on the wider problem of fake news – demonstrating that rigorous journalism which seeks out the truth is worth paying for.

In each of these cases – and many others seen in the work of Grand Prix winners – the creative solution only started to present itself as the problem became clear.

This move to solve real-world problems was a core trend in the work that was entered into the debut Creative Strategy Lions at Cannes Lions 2019. 54% of work submitted into this Lion sought to solve a real-world problem and, in half of these cases, the solutions involved a new product.

While the importance of driving business growth will never diminish, LIONS Live clearly showed that any creative idea intended to drive true business value should start by solving a real human problem.


Approach the brief as a human problem that needs a new solution, rather than an ad that needs creating.

And a final tip from Alicia Tillman, CMO, SAP: "Radical innovation doesn’t always have to come from a 'big idea'. It’s often the small things that can make the biggest of difference...They are overlooked and undervalued.”

But how do you come up with powerful ideas? The answer, as we'll see from our LIONS Live experts, is to come at the issue from multiple angles…