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Cannes Lions 2016 - Creativity drives innovation

Marketing's emotional power

Elena Arau | 12th July 2016

Our experience at the Festival of Creativity, Cannes Lions

This was the first year that Conversis had a team at Cannes Lions and personally I think it is one of the most interesting events I have ever attended.

Billed as the Festival of Creativity, it had insightful sessions hosted by speakers thoughtfully selected to a very well-organised schedule. It’s a source of inspiration and we left far more creative than we arrived – the rosé also helped!

The event has become far more relevant to our business over the last few years since the introduction of Lions Health, which kicked off the week. A number of our Healthcare Advertising clients, such as Langland and Havas Life Medicom, have won awards over the last couple of years and so given the significant contribution to our business the work we do with agencies in this sector has, we felt it was time we found out what all the fuss was about! 

We spent some time with one of our clients, Zuleika Burnett of Havas Life Medicom who judged the Lions Health awards and you can read more about that on the post on PMLive plus listen to a podcast recorded with her and representatives from DDB Remedy London and Publicis Life Brands Resolute.

For me, one of the most anticipated sessions kicked off the entertainment section of the festival, featuring David Copperfield - no introduction needed - who emphasised on the importance of emotion in marketing. An idea, as innovative and as provocative as it might be, needs a story behind it, linked to an emotion that the public can relate to.

All of Copperfield’s magic tricks are very much rooted and in-sync with his emotions and experiences. Making the Statue of Liberty disappear had to be more than just a magic trick, it had to be in the right context to elevate the emotional impact of his audience. The music, the show, the storytelling, the lights would all have to be aligned with the iconic idea, so that it could really penetrate people’s consciousness. In his own words, the purpose behind was ‘it had to be done as a lesson in freedom. I want to show what the world would be like without liberty.’ 

Melinda May, Head of Marketing Strategy and Activation of the International Olympic Committee made some very interesting points during her session, also emphasising on the power of emotion. The Olympics marketing strategy has come a long way since its early days and is using creativity to connect future generations. The Olympics evolved to being a universal language full of positive values. Sport and Olympism may be regarded as “vehicles of hope”. Indeed, the Olympic values of “Striving for excellence”, “Demonstrating respect” and “Celebrating friendship” are aimed at encouraging people to get on better and thus promoting peace.

Given the global nature of the campaigns and the fact that video content is gaining more and more popularity in the media spectrum, it was further acknowledgement that the investments we are making in our Video Services in terms of video subtitling, voice over or audio dubbing, is justified. During the session on the Olympics, one of the highlights on their latest campaign was the thought and effort put into selecting the right voice talent for every language. The voiceover for the PSA, recorded in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese, features cultural icons including Uma Thurman, Juliette Binoche, Paz Vega and Tais Araujo. Each one of them brought a different emotion to the campaign.

Watch the French version of the clip featuring Juliette Binoche on Vimeo.

The key word in advertising is ‘authenticity’ and ‘brand responsibility’. As Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman rightly stated, ‘people trust and expect more from brands than governments nowadays’. We are moving towards a more engaging and more meaningful approach in marketing. It isn’t only about selling a product anymore, it is a lot about giving something back to the community, having a purpose and acting on it consistently. Brand reputation is being built on purpose and authenticity.

One of the most successful PR campaigns – and my personal favourite - from Edelman for REI, #optoutside prompted people to ditch the annual retail ritual of Black Friday and go explore outdoors. The REI store closed its doors on that day and inspired other to do the same. Social media impressions rose by 7,000% with 2.7 billion PR impressions in 24 hours. The PR stunt inspired 1.4 million people to spend their day outdoors. Even though the campaign took home 9 Lions including the Grand Prix in the Titanium category, members of the PR jury were discussing cultural nuances and that it was difficult for the non-American members of the jury to relate to the magnitude of the campaign, simply because Black Friday is deeply rooted in the American culture, but not so popular in others.


Of course the glamour and sumptuousness of the marketing activation campaigns can’t go without mention. The major giants of social media really stepped up their game, from the Youtube beach with live music, to the entertaining Facebook beach and the Snapchat logo taking over all the advertising space of the Palais des Festivals – not to mention all the parties featuring artists like Jess Glynne was a real display of ‘marketing meets creativity’.

Thank you Cannes! You were fabulous! See you again next year!