Our jury was a diverse group of seasoned marketing professionals from around the world. We were looking for insight-driven, fresh strategic approaches that unlocked results-driving creative.
Here are some observations.
1. Purpose is the new black. Seventy-five percent of our award winners were cause-related. COVID-19 accelerates trends. The troubles of 2020 seemed to make brands aware of shared challenges beyond market share.
2. It was hard to be insightful about the COVID-19 pandemic. Saying “we're with you” was not considered award-worthy. None of our award winners spoke directly to the pandemic.
3. Brands don't get credit for simply doing the right thing. Brands must put something at risk to be considered brave.
- Dove's "Stop the Beauty Test" took on Indian arranged marriages.
- Canon's "Truthmark" developed a tool to combat disinformation.
- Lego's "Green Instructions" encourages customers to reuse existing product rather than buy additional kits.
- Vice's "8 bit Journo" risked a government Internet blockade (as in this case, where it was using media to circumvent a repressive authoritarian news blackout -- see below).
7. Diversity matters in marketing. If the representation is not in the room, things are missed and mistakes are made.
8. B2B Marketing can be more than client testimonials and lead generation.
9. To win, brands need to show meaningful impact within the footprint of the work. Massive numbers for narrowly deployed activity were not required as long as the results are meaningful in depth and as a percentage of population. It's hard to win based only on evidence of social pass-along and press pick-up.
10. Sometimes it's OK to just be funny. Our Grand Prix winner had nothing to do with purpose. It was a master class on finding an insight that unlocked breakthrough creativity.
Judging Cannes 2021 reminded me of the value of getting out of the day-to-day bunker and spending time with world-class work. Picasso allegedly said: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”
As brands compete for traction in culture, there is much we can learn from other great work. Getting recognized at Cannes is truly a gauntlet.
Congratulations to all the 2020/21 winners!