Cannes Lions Festival: Creative Communications Working for Good

Katie Dunlap September 27, 2018 CSR Trends

Thousands of creatives, ranging in career titles from Musicians and Actors to Vice President of Marketing Communications and CEO’s, gather at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity every year to lead and learn in interactive sessions, hands-on workshops, and speeches. As they discuss creative communications trends and insights, the advertising and public relations industry uses this global platform as an annual showcase to sell brands. But what was even more prevalent than trying to sell a product during 2018’s Festival? Using creativity to promote brand image and how the actions and values of a brand ultimately determine that image.


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Festival attendees were provided the flexibility of nine curated event ‘tracks’, all of which highlighted different niches of creative communications, emphasizing important lessons to their audiences along the way. The week of inspiring conversation rounded off with an awards show that celebrated the best of the year’s creative works. While over 1000 presenters and submissions shared at the festival on a broad range of topics and mediums, one overarching theme stood unanimous – brands will do well by choosing to do good.


New Additions to Cannes Lions

While you may not get a watch party together for the Cannes Lions as you do for the Oscars, it may be time for you to consider a new summer tradition. The first awards ceremony of its kind, Cannes Lion introduced a new category in 2018, the Sustainable Development Goals Lion, which recognizes a creative communications project that furthers education and improvement of one or more of the United Nations 17 SDGs. Additionally, all proceeds from the submissions made for this category are donated towards sustainable development causes.


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This year’s winner, ‘Palau Pledge’, was designed to build awareness of the environmental impact mass tourism had on the island of Palau, creating a pledge that visitors needed to sign within their passports that acts as an agreement to protect the environment upon entering the country.


Values-Driven Creativity

The intentional changes made by Cannes Lions are our first sight that the communications industry has moved from simply entertaining the thought of corporate social responsibility and have taken the next steps to deploy meaningful and valuable content. However, it was the creative freedoms taken at Cannes Lions that expressed where the future of the industry was headed and how brand’s values have surpassed the products they produce.


The Value in Storytelling

Regardless of the Festival track or medium, great storytelling was celebrated at Cannes Lions. Numerous creatives drew on diversity and gender inequality issues, turning their brands into solutions and forces for good in the world. By aligning company actions with consumer values and passions, consumers will trust, love and support brands that share their values. Without directly selling a brand, corporations have the power to influence mainstream culture and society in a positive way, leading to a long-lasting impact for brands and relationships with consumers.


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P&G’s winning submission in Film, “The Talk”, addresses racial biases and the struggles that African Americans have faced over the past 50 years fighting for equality. Through storytelling, the audience is impacted and P&G challenges cultural issues to create an image of intolerance for racism.


The Payoff from Unexpected Activism

Brands are struggling to find ways to secure consumers’ attention spans during a time when instant gratification is expected. For brands that want to build an image and make an impact, they must ensure they penetrate the rest of the creative communication clutter, while also making their main points. It can be done with humor, outspoken creativity, and even championing political or social activism.


Taking a stance can pose the risk of alienating some consumers, however, if done right, can also provide your brand purpose and the positive image potential you have been looking for. Creating a purpose for a brand is becoming more popular, with more companies revealing their values on social and political issues. Because of this, brands must be innovative in how they lead purposeful discussions and join social good campaigns.


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‘Trash Isles’ won Design at Cannes Lions, with the name was garnered from a mass of trash the size of France floating in the North Pacific Ocean. Created as a conversation starter by Plastic Oceans Foundation and LADbible, the submission includes a national flag, currency, a passport, and stamps. Using this design piece, LADbible has created outspoken cultural impact and has educated over half a billion people about environmental issues.


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Advertising, Public Relations, and Marketing teams can no longer create communications on their own. The expectations of the consumer have changed, the purpose of communications have changed, and the needs of brands have changed. Because of this, creative teams will lean more heavily on Corporate Social Responsibility as consumers begin to expect transparency from brands instead of another sales pitch. Don’t wait to approach other departments in your company about expanding brand image through doing good. Collaborate with your co-workers and start making an image for your company through CSR and creative communications!