By Charlotte Williams

VP Content,

Cannes Lions

The Eternal Appeal Of Storytelling

It will probably come as no surprise to you that storytelling has been selected as a 2020 Cannes Lions content theme. It has always been the bedrock of our industry (and, indeed, the Festival) and will continue to be so for as long as the world spins.

There is evidence to suggest that storytelling is currently having a creative renaissance. Is it time, perhaps, to declare that annoying and interruptive ads have had their day – and remind the world that the best work we see at Cannes Lions is always emotive, persuasive and memorable?

The platforms and channels may be ever-evolving, but the creative magic behind great storytelling will never change. You only have to look at the Warc Creative 100 rankings to see just how effective a creative storytelling strategy can be.

In a time where the smartphone reigns and attention spans have decreased to a mere 8.25 seconds, brands must be particularly creative to engage and entertain people when often the natural inclination is to look away.

Nike partnered with Brazilian street-art collective InstaGraffiti to place shoes on the feet of São Paulo’s graffiti characters. ANZ Bank created 3D sculptural road-signs to weave together a powerful narrative around LGBTQI+ regional isolation and Stabilo International GmbH literally highlighted the achievements of previously overlooked, but remarkable women in a stunningly simple poster campaign.

It’s true that stories sometimes require a lengthier telling. Since the introduction of the Entertainment Lion in 2016, longer-form content has often taken home the Grands Prix. From Virtual Reality experience The Displaced for The New York Times in 2016, to this year’s story of the compassion and courage of nurses for Johnson & Johnson, documentaries are behind some of the most memorable storytelling work we’ve seen.

So, whilst we often lament the deafening “noise” of advertising, we should also take a moment to recognise that storytelling, when done well, can lift our industry to new heights. It is the very essence of creativity, inspiration and imagination. At Cannes Lions 2020, we’ll delve into the detail of how to align production, content and businesses around storytelling. We'll look at how storytelling must adapt for new platforms and what data-driven stories look like. We'll understand more about how brands can authentically integrate themselves and how a combination of storytelling and tech can drive rich consumer experiences. In this report, we’ll keep it simple. Our goal here is to share with you the wisdom of some of the world’s best brand storytellers: a collective of people who've won well over 100 Lions between them. We asked them, “What makes a good story and why?”. The responses are universally applicable and completely timeless. You’ll also hear from Chipotle – the world’s most successful brand on TikTok – about how the brand has embraced modern storytelling. Plus, we have some tips from expert global storytellers and a recap of the best narrative work from Cannes Lions 2019.