A ticking time-bomb?

Creativity is in a state of crisis. The so-called creative best practices of major tech platforms tend to reduce every idea down to the lowest — and safest — common denominator. Resist the urge to simply acquiesce to their business model. Otherwise everything will become a 6-second pre-roll clip.

Andréa Mallard

Chief Marketing Officer, Pinterest

What’s interesting to us is just how quickly this sentiment has grown in the last 12 months.

It did not emerge as a Festival theme in 2019 (though it was touched upon many times), but for 2020 it is top of mind for nearly every marketer and creative we’ve spoken to. Our sister company, marketing effectiveness experts WARC, also found this to be a growing concern for marketers.

70% of the marketers they spoke to for the Marketer’s Toolkit 2020 agreed that they had over-invested in performance at the expense of brand, and 'short-termism' was identified as their number one concern. As one global agency CEO we spoke to summarised it: “Brand leaders have essentially forgotten how to build brands”.

The worry around short-termism has been bubbling away for many years. In 2015, Peter Field and Les Binet published their seminal paper for the IPA, 'Selling Creativity Short', which found that the impact of short-termism in marketing and a lower investment in creativity had halved the success of creativity over a period of four years.

This painted a very different picture of the landscape to Field and Binet’s finding in 2013 for 'The Long and the Short of It': that creativity-awarded work was 11 times more efficient at driving market share.

At Cannes Lions 2019, this theme was addressed by Peter Field himself, in a session on ‘The Crisis in Creative Effectiveness’. In his fiery speech, he pleaded with marketers to rebalance the scales, and argued for a 60% focus on long-term brand-building. The key time period here is six+ months, versus the current pre-occupation with short-term activation.

To state the obvious, brand-building is not a flash-in-the-pan endeavour.

To reap the wide-ranging benefits of concerted brand-building efforts – from forging emotional attachments to driving long-term brand equity and sales influences – we need to create enduring communications in combination with the right cultural conditions within the companies we work for.

Consistency here is key – and we should also remember that long and short-term activities are not mutually exclusive.

A marathon, not a sprint

Snickers has won many Lions for its You’re Not You When You’re Hungry work, including a Gold Creative Effectiveness Lion. The enduring campaign has been revived year after year (six years and counting) with a fresh take each time.

For an 80+ year-old brand in a competitive category to grow 15.9% in one year is pretty impressive. Bruce McColl, Chief Marketing Officer at Mars from 2006 - 2016 went as far as to credit a re-think of long-term creative brand strategy with Mars’ success. He stated that it boosted the organisation’s revenue by more than $50 million.

We need to remember, however, that the consumer relationship with brands is becoming ever more complex.

Talks at Cannes Lions have regularly addressed the void left by institutions like government and religion that is now being filled by brands. That shift means that people expect more, demand more and forgive less of brands.

So, how do we build a brand in these fast-changing times?

Award-winning work at Cannes Lions in 2019 saw brands taking risks, embracing activism, encouraging participation and adding real value to consumers’ lives.

Here’s what some of our community and jury members said about work from brands represented at the Festival.

We’re seeing a lot of actions and effective solutions. If your brand is not connected with purpose or is not doing anything to help the world today, it won’t exist in the next five to 10 years.

Monique Lopes Lima

Director of Special Projects at Africa, Brazil
Print & Publishing Lions 2019 Jury Member

Breaking the rules and going around the system is clearly something that is happening. I believe that is why we should be so grateful for creativity – whenever there is oppression in the world, creativity finds a way round it.

Pelle Sjoenell

Chief Creative Officer at Activision Blizzard
Titanium Lions 2019 Jury Membe

We know how busy everyone is. The more we can facilitate people’s lives and make sure they can get whatever they want as fast as they want, the better.

Gabriel Schmitt

Executive Creative Director at FCB New York