How should agencies balance the need to showcase a great creative idea with the need to prove great strategy and business results? A pertinent question for planners, as well as for us at Warc – as publisher of the Creative Effectiveness Lions, Cannes' awards for those campaigns that demonstrate strong effectiveness for clients over time. In an attempt to answer this question, we convened four top planners – CSOs Justin Graham (M&C Saatchi) and Lucy Jameson (Grey), along with CumminsRoss' Adam Ferrier and James Hurman of Previously Unavailable – at a packed panel session in the Palais this morning.
The four years of Creative Effectiveness Lions showcase two distinct types of Grand Prix winners: Heineken (2013) and Axe (2012) were both massive campaigns from big brands showing massive scale, while Walkers (2011) and V/Line's 'Guilt Trips', a campaign for Melbourne's train operator that took the top prize this year, both offered "new types of creativity" for smaller-scale, single-market work. "The campaign illustrates a universal human truth – and people are drawn to these truths," Hurman said.
But the panel also went deeper into the broader significance of effectiveness and strategy awards, of which these Lions are one of the highest-profile examples. That such awards are important isn't in doubt, Hurman added, given the increased pressure from results-focused clients and the greater measurability offered by the recent proliferation of media channels. "To do something that is amazingly creative and amazingly effective is what we all should be aspiring to."
Jameson agreed, and went further. "It's one of the few awards you can win here that cannot be scam work. You can say, 'come on clients, look at the results'," she said. "The awards should be announced at the end of the week. It still feels kind of niche. But it should be one of the most famous of the awards."
That said, the industry has a way to go before the awards date for these particular Lions gets shifted. And Ferrier raised one of the industry's most oft-cited concerns. "It's hard to balance creativity with that kind of plunky stuff," he said. "At the moment, there's two things – it's really creative, or it's sciency. These two things aren't meeting at the moment. And if there were more robust scientific frameworks [for the cases] then that would help."
"We're sitting in a messy middle," Graham, who was on the jury this year, added. "As you can see from this year's winners, what's working is getting creative thinkers to look through the lens of a business challenge. Not just focusing on the creative idea."
The importance of squaring these two aspects of advertising – creative ideas and business results – was underlined by Hurman. A quick presentation detailing the Case for Creativity, his research project which involved bringing together 15 previous studies on the topic, synthesising them and conducting an analysis of the results, shows that the link between creativity and effectiveness remains strong.
Two data points in particular stood out. Firstly, the 2000-09 stock price growth for each winner of the Cannes Advertiser of the Year hit 41% over the 10-year period, compared to less than 1% growth for the S&P 500. Second, Peter Field's powerful finding that creatively-awarded campaigns were 12x more effective than the average campaign over the 2003-10 period. The previous decade, this boost was only fourfold.
In other words, the need to link creativity to effectiveness is real, it's important and it's not going away. And we're here to help. Beyond this session, look out for much more about the Creative Effectiveness Lions on Warc over the months to come. And, until then, why not browse this year's entries and winners?
More from me tomorrow when we'll be discussing the second Warc Palais session of the week – deep dives into some of the last year's most effective campaigns. And please do follow along on Twitter: the hashtag's #warcincannes.