By Charlotte Williams

VP Content,

Cannes Lions

The Eternal Appeal Of Storytelling

It will probably come as no surprise to you that storytelling at scale has been identified as a priority amongst the creative community. Even in our current humanitarian crisis, we have seen how ingenius and affirmative stories can make a huge difference to people’s lives. The age-old craft of storytelling 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 even evidence to suggest that it is having a creative renaissance. Is it now the time to declare again that annoying and interruptive ads have had their day – and remind ourselves that the best work we see at Cannes Lions is always emotive, persuasive and memorable?

The platforms and channels may be ever-expanding 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 strategy storytelling is.

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. Our goal in this report is to share with you the wisdom of some of the world’s best brand storytellers: they’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 (and a brand currently engaging its audience through a period social isolation on virtual hangouts) – about how they have embraced modern storytelling. Plus, we have some tips from expert global storytellers and a recap of the best narrative work from Cannes 2019.

If you'd like to learn more about great stories and develop the practical skills to become a world-class brand storyteller after you finish the report, you can take a short online learning course from Cannes Lions.