In yesterday's Warc session at the Palais des Festivals, part of the 2014 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, we learned from a panel of planners about the ever-strengthening link between creativity and effectiveness in the ad industry. Today, we applied this theory to some practical examples – by telling the story of four of the world's smartest campaigns.

Lee Maicon, vp for insights at digital agency 360i, was on hand to discuss 'Daily Twist', for the Mondelez-owned Oreo cookie snack brand, while Amal El Masri, CSO of JWT in the Middle East and Africa discussed 'Fakka' for telecoms firm Vodafone. Also presenting were BBDO Guerrero CEO Tony Harris, who talked about 'It's More Fun in the Philippines' for the Filipino tourism organisation, and Hristos Varouhas of Whybin/TBWA, the man behind 'Car Creation' for insurance brand NMRA. The thing that unites all four of these campaigns is strong strategy and great business results – proof for which is in the multiple international effectiveness and strategy awards each has won.

So what were the secrets behind these campaigns? Read on to find out.

Vodafone Fakka
Tapping into a trend towards agencies getting involved in product innovation is this campaign from Egypt for Vodafone, the mobile telecommunications company, to promote micro credit recharge cards in a way that built on local culture. El Masri pointed out that it was a cultural insight into the Egyptian people – their shared resourcefulness and make-do-and-mend attitude – that informed the campaign. Resourceful shopkeepers in Egypt often substitute small change for low-value items in their stores, so Vodafone stocked them with the recharge cards to hand out as change instead.

"This is all to do with a national trait," she added. "It's got to do with intelligence and problem solving. Inventiveness. An ability to outsmart circumstances." Campaign results were certainly impressive: average revenue per Vodafone user increased by 7% after Fakka was launched.

OREO Daily Twist

Click to view the campaign video

To celebrate the Oreo brand's 100th birthday, 360i helped develop 100 ads in 100 days, distributed via social media – and helping to invent the highly-popular, some would say too popular, phenomenon of "real time marketing". Post-campaign, Oreo also scored a social media success with its timely Blackout Tweet during an unexpected lighting malfunction at the 2013 Super Bowl.

Maicon suggested that the strategic work behind Daily Twist had resulted in the blackout tweet. "That opportunity to experiment and think in a different way of creating iterative content – it was like building muscle memory," he said. "If there's one lesson from this, it's that you have to build the muscle memory to create the luck. And that payoff happened for us in the Super Bowl, 18 months after the start of the campaign."

If that's an example on how agencies should handle their social media-driven campaigns, Maicon also had strong advice for what not to do. "There's a place for setting up a brand 'war room' for this kind of activity, but for me it's more about creating a general strategy for the brand – and creating this setup for success," he added.

Car Creation
A completely different insight-generating process, this time from Australia, came with this campaign for NRMA, an insurance company. Varouhas told the story of how the strategy from the campaign came from poring over an unpromising data source: rival insurers' terms and conditions documents.

"We dug the little facts out from these documents to work out on precisely which car parts they don't cover in their insurance policies," Varouhas said. "They were little nuggets of gold. NRMA just doesn't do that kind of bad behaviour – where an insurer refuses to pay out for certain little car parts. Then we thought, if we highlight these differences then we can get people interested."

An integrated campaign, incorporating everything from TV ads to billboard installations, was based around the image of all of those car parts that were not covered by the rivals. And, Varouhas added, the client "really took a risk" with going for this style of campaign – rather than the customary soft-focus, TV-driven attempts at emotional marketing beloved by other financial services brands. "We really didn't know if people would care enough to vote to build the car. It would have been incredibly embarrassing if it had failed," he said.

In the end, business results were outstanding, with NMRA's cost per enquiry dropping from over $30 to $4.74. "Plus it got people interested in a process people were not previously interested in. People were actively checking if they were covered," Varouhas added.

It's More Fun in the Philippines

Click to view the campaign video

Harris offered an example of a campaign that achieved a huge impact with zero media spend. The Philippines had a bad reputation abroad as a holiday destination, but its huge diaspora – 10m of the world's 100m Filipinos lives abroad – is well-liked due to their (general) good humour and optimism.

This led directly to a campaign highlighting the Philippines as "more fun" than its Asian rivals. Harris added that the Philippines is known as the "texting capital of the world" and, once the campaign was launched, the nation's avid social networkers spread the word. The diaspora did their bit too, and website visits hit 230,000 over the first weekend alone. Ultimately, tourism arrivals hit an all-time high of 4.3 million.

Fittingly, Harris added, it was the people who made the difference. From the president of the Philippines mentioning the tagline four times in a single speech down. "We talked to the tourists with the campaign, but also to Filipinos," Harris added. "They turned into our tourism sales-force, 94 million people strong."

Top tips

The four presenters also offered some practical advice to planners hoping to develop similarly successful strategies in future.

  • Maicon: "My background is an account planner in the creative agencies. We still have to be the voice of the consumer in the advertising process – but also to be ahead of culture and to help our clients do that as well."
  • El Masri: "Innovation is important. It's about providing a technology for a service that is relevant."
  • Varouhas: "interrogate the client's product until it confesses its strength."
  • Harris: "Always remember – the more creative your work is, the more effective it can potentially be."

We're now all set for tomorrow's final Warc session in Cannes – discussing the future of planning with a panel of luminaries including Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam's Martin Weigel. Look out for more updates – and, if you'd like to follow along on Twitter, our hashtag is #WarcInCannes.