The Renewed Value of Creativity

Creativity is evolving in response to a challenging time for the entire world, and the emphasis is now squarely on problem-solving. This year’s Lion-winners show how brands can use creativity to provide lasting solutions, as well as driving audience connection and business growth.

During the pandemic, creativity helped bolster communities, champion heroes, support mental health and keep audiences connected. But it was definitely not business as usual. Two big winners this year included Dove's ‘Courage Is Beautiful,’ through Ogilvy London, and Nike's ‘You Can't Stop Us’, through Wieden+Kennedy Portland. Both resonated at a time of immense difficulty. One made us pause to celebrate the heroes helping to pull us through the crisis; the other dreamed of a better, more united world. At Cannes Lions Live, many people behind this year's most highly-awarded campaigns showed the world the true value of creativity.

Creativity: the problem solver

“COVID-19 accelerated our mindset towards something that we always knew: brands need to be useful, and they have to solve problems. We created a rallying cry last year about how our brands need to solve problems and deliver joy.”

Brad Hiranaga Chief Brand Officer General Mills | North America

No Need to Fly | German Rail

Ogilvy Germany

Winner of 5 Lions including a Silver in Creative Effectiveness

This year's Lion-winners were bursting with creative ideas that set out to problem-solve. Pharma Grand Prix winner ‘Sick Beats’ for Woojer, by Area23, an FCB Health Network agency, helped turn a daily cystic fibrosis routine endured by kids with the disease into an exhilarating 'soundwave therapy' experience. From reducing traffic congestion in Mumbai (‘Punishing Signal’ for Mumbai Police by FCB) to designing deodorant for people with visual and upper extremity impairment (‘Degree Inclusive’ by Wunderman Thompson, Buenos Aires for Unilever); some of the best work sought to solve gnarly, everyday problems. Solving problems, whilst altruistic, also leads to commercial success. Many Creative Effectiveness Lions jurors noted that work that solved problems also led to better ROI. Similarly, the adage of creativity flourishing under constraint rang true.

“There is a stereotype around the kind of brief that will bring out creativity and therefore effectiveness, but if you look at some of the winning cases, they actually had a very tough brief. For example, there are briefs that involve no innovation, no promotion, or somebody else is selling at a lower price. And you realise that many of those who rise up to the top in the rankings have got these kinds of odds against them. It fosters creativity because you have nothing else to fall back on.”

CHRISTINE NG CEO | BBH China and Publicis Worldwide Shanghai Creative Effectiveness Lions Jury Member

Shutter Ads | Heineken

Publicis Italy

Winner of 3 Lions including the Grand Prix in Outdoor

That Whole WFH Thing

As well as seeing the value of creativity shine through in the work itself, we saw creative solutions in how work was delivered behind the scenes. Despite remote working, creative teams the world over showed they could adapt and still produce head-turning work that spoke to the wider mood. A sure-sign of creativity’s value when a crisis prevails. Double Grand Prix winner ‘Courage Is Beautiful’ for Dove was brought to life in a matter of days. In the Print & Publishing Lions Debrief, Ogilvy UK global creative director Daniel Fisher revealed he steered the project from his kids' playroom. Heineken’s Outdoor Grand Prix-winning ‘Shutter Ads’, by Publicis Italy, diverted ad spend to temporarily-closed bars to help them through the crisis. Apple caught the mindset of teams all over the globe with its funny and frenetic ‘That Whole Working From Home Thing’, produced by Smuggler Los Angeles, which took a Gold Lion in Film Craft, and tacitly integrated their suite of tech products into the narrative.

A North Star for truth

Truth has been high on the creative community’s agenda, and is more prized than ever as a source for creative ideas. Creativity’s value stands out here as its focus on humanising ideas and messages helps unmask the truth for all to understand. In Brazil, the country’s Folha de S. Paulo newspaper worked with a former banknote designer to create ‘The Most Valuable News’. The Print & Publishing Gold Lion winner by Africa DBB Sao Paulo highlighted the authenticity of the 100-year-old newspaper’s editorial by launching a version of the newspaper that applied tools used in the making of banknotes, such as serial numbers, UV inks and holographic seals. This showed its readers how seriously it takes the truth. And Canon's ‘Truthmark’, a Creative Strategy Bronze Lion winner for Uncle Grey, Copenhagen, digitally imprints the truth – as recounted by the photographer who took the image – through the photo’s lifetime. The tool aims to help stop fake news and image misrepresentation.

The Most Valuable News | Folha de S. Paulo

Africa DDB Sao Paulo

Winner of 4 Lions including a Gold Lion in Industry Craft and Print & Publishing

See all the 2020/21 winners on The Work

The World’s Greatest Intelligence Platform for Creative Excellence

The pandemic threw everything out of whack, but all the constraints led to more creative thinking. That boost to innovation was evident in the submissions to this year’s Titanium Lions, which increased by a staggering 13.5%.

In the Creative Strategy Lions, there was a brand-new category, Market Disruption which took 5% of all entries, reflecting a key theme this year. It celebrates work that creatively embraced an “adapt and adopt” approach in response to local, regional and global issues. That’s clearly relevant to last year’s events but is also a call for more brands to use creativity as a problem-solving tool. Give good creative more credit, it really works. Problem-solving design also made up 42% of the winning work in the Design Lions, taking home 19 awards including the Grand Prix. A new section within the Creative Effectiveness Lions focused on common challenges brands face further backed this up. Brand Challenges & Opportunities had 45 submissions this year and three Lion wins, including the Grand Prix winner, Crazy Dreams, from Nike and Wieden+Kennedy, and a Gold for Burger King’s 'Whopper Detour' by FCB New York.

To discover more insights and content on this theme, watch this selection of films On Demand on Cannes Lions Live.