John Seifert, Chief Executive, Worldwide, Ogilvy, chaired the jury for this year’s Creative Effectiveness category. Here, he reflects on why Carrefour took the Grand Prix and the themes that emerged in the judging room.

There’s a strong belief in our community that businesses are going to have to take a more active role in shaping things that are in their customers’ interests. Some companies used to shy away from taking a stand. Of course, sometimes brands would get it wrong and it wouldn’t be authentic to what they believed in. But in the case of the 2019 Grand Prix winner, Carrefour Black Supermarket, it was completely authentic and it shows what’s possible when you can make that association powerful and true.

Carrefour developed a big brave idea that took on an issue that was relevant to its stakeholders, farmers. It was something that it felt compelled to activate as an earned, social and influencer idea, and Carrefour was prepared to see it all the way through to fruition towards driving real change.

It was brave, authentic, executed elegantly and the results were undeniable. There was almost no debate: it was so well built as a story that all of us on the jury were really moved by it.

Joining the dots

We spent a lot of time going through the cases understanding how the dots were connected and how the stories were built. Some did that better than others. There were three fundamental themes:

  1. Brands recognise that breaking through is more important than ever. We live in an era of great fragmentation, so you need big organising ideas that can really engage the relevant audiences.
  2. It’s about doing. It’s not just about a magnificent piece of creativity that everyone admires emotionally. It’s about brands doing something that’s activated through the creative product and represented by it. That feels to us to be more and more essential. As powerful as stories can be, stories alone are insufficient. You now have to see the actions and experiences that brands create to generate these outcomes.
  3. A sense of bravery is required to stand out in today’s world. You can’t just be passive. You have to take an important stand on something and be willing to back it, even in the face of criticism. Almost everything today is criticised instantly, so there’s a sense of confidence and breaking conventions. We are in an age of continuous innovation, so brands need to challenge themselves and raise the bar. We will see more brands confronting the pain points that consumers have with them and turning them on their head so that they then become something you admire them for tackling. For instance, Xbox generated frustration among its loyal audience with some of its pricing around the product. It confronted that head on and created a new business model to address it. We’ll see more of that ingenuity.

Big bets versus small budgets

At one end of the spectrum in the Creative Effectiveness category, there are big bets on powerful ideas that are executed visibly, for instance in events such as the Super Bowl. But there were also campaigns that didn’t have big budgets and which took on a life of their own. This is where we saw brands turning to audiences to help amplify the idea through engagement, commentary and being part of the experience. That’s where the media can play a huge role because it’s searching out content they want to amplify.

Impact beyond the medium term

Our clients are now asking us about how to piece things together in a way that not only creates impact in the medium term but has the ability to influence the whole mix. We saw a number of cases this year that would argue that a particular programme or idea was strong in itself but also had a knock-on effect to other things in their plans that improved the results of their overall efforts. This is now the expectation of marketers: they don’t just want to throw things out there in the hope that something sticks. Marketers want a sense that they’ve created a relationship with the audiences they’re trying to appeal to that keeps them engaged in the activity. They want to find something true that can be executed in multiple different ways that make a statement about who they are and what they believe in. Increasingly, that’s going to be the test of everything we do.

And finally … a plea

The more client involvement we can get in shaping and crafting these case studies, the better. We sense some reluctance that clients fear they’re giving away proprietary best practices and information. Yet there’s so much change in marketing communications we should all be participating in. We will get more value back by being more deeply involved. That’s my hope for the future of the Creative Effectiveness category.

Cannes Lions 2019: Insights from the Creative Effectiveness winners

This article appeared originally in WARC's analysis of the Creative Effectiveness Lions.