We were celebrating our Admap Prize winners in Cannes yesterday with a party, hosted by Warc and Kantar and held at Ogilvy's penthouse on the Croisette. The essay prize's topic – Can brands maximise profits and be a force for social good? – is very on trend, with Cannes festival seminars I've attended, from companies ranging from Coca-Cola to BBDO, advocating cause-related marketing as a must-have for today's brands.
In attendance at the party were our Gold, Silver and Bronze prize winners. Gold went to Mike Follett, an erstwhile agency planner and MBA candidate at London's Imperial College, whose winning paper, Thinking in three dimensions (free link), argues that companies should not be solely profit-driven. Instead, they require social as well as financial aims if they are to find true business success.
This means that, to Follett, the very concept of "cause-related marketing" is problematic – because it doesn't go far enough. As he told me when I interviewed him ahead of the festival, "we in the marketing world seem to get worked up about authenticity as if it's an act. That's worrying – because it suggests the truth is just another message to be conveyed."
Admap Prize party, Cannes
Brands doing well by doing good is a concept that predates the focus on profit, which, driven by star names like Milton Friedman, only really went mainstream in the business world in the 1970s. Decades before, Follett pointed out, companies from Ford in the US and Lever Brothers in the UK put social good, whether by doing right by its workers or by trying to benefit the wider world, at the heart of their business plans. And now, it seems, the pendulum is swinging back towards this old way of doing things.
"You should be ethical because it's the right thing to do – not as a marketing tool or as a way of making more money," Follett said. You might think that this would be a controversial view among Cannes delegates. But the actual content of the presentations being given and the work being shown at the festival this year suggests that Follett's way of thinking will resonate with many in the ad world.