We're very pleased to have published over 100 entries in the Creative Effectiveness category at the Cannes Lions this year – including the Grand Prix, which went to Heineken and W+K Amsterdam for its global 'Legendary Journey' campaign. An impressive result for the Dutch duo, since the number of entries for the category, which is open only to those Lions winners from the previous year that are able to prove the continuing business results of their campaign, had risen 30% from 2012.
As Shelley Lazarus, head of the jury and chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, told reporters in Cannes: "The campaign was consistent in all the markets - and that was pretty hard to do." And the jury members who I caught up with after the awards announcement – Bridget Angear, head of planning at AMV BBDO, DDB Sydney planning partner Russ Mitchinson, Millward Brown CEO and incoming IMAX Corporation CMO Eileen Campbell, and Orlando Hooper-Greenhill, JWT's head of global planning – echoed this sentiment. It was, they suggested, the impressive execution from market to market and the global scale of the idea that ultimately swung it for Heineken.
While the winning campaign was decisively global, there was a definite trend towards the Anglo-Saxon in the full list of seven Creative Effectiveness Lions awarded for 2013, of which two were from the UK, one from the US, two from Australia and one from New Zealand. Explaining the impressive performance from his home country, Mitchinson suggested that Australia's relatively small size, and strong economy, led to "an environment of more flexibility and risk-taking" in its ad market.
There was strong agreement among the jury members I spoke to over the particular excellence of three other campaigns: 'From Crying to Buying' (adam&eveDDB for John Lewis), 'Small Business Gets an Official Day' (CP+B/Digitas for American Express Open) and 'Share a Coke' (O&M Sydney for Coca-Cola) – all of which won Lions. Less positively, they also agreed on what characteristics quickly knocked a paper out from the running: sketchy results, failure to match objectives to outcomes and, above all, an over-reliance on social media metrics.
"I would encourage people to make stronger validation stories," Campbell advised. "Tie the research data more to the ultimate goal – so that market research is a means to understand how your marketing activities are working. Not an end."
But what of the future for the category? The bumper crop of entries to a category that hinges on business results certainly suggests that agencies are taking effectiveness more seriously. And the global nature of the prize indicates that this trend is being felt all around the world.
"One of the reasons why there's a lot of Anglo-Saxon winners this year is because those nations have had a lot of practice in writing those kinds of papers," Hooper-Greenhill observed. "I think what's happening now is that the rest of the world is learning from these awards in how to write these papers."
All this suggests that the 2014 Creative Effectiveness Lions will see a further increase in entries, maybe even approaching this year's rise. And, if it can prove its continuing contribution to the client's bottom line, maybe this year's Cannes star, five-time Grand Prix Winner 'Dumb Ways to Die', a McCann campaign for Metro Trains Melbourne, can add to its Lions haul.
But, needless to say, whoever wins next year will be a very happy planner. Just ask Angear, who took the Grand Prix in 2011 for 'Sandwich', a campaign for UK snack brand Walkers. "I have to say personally that it was the best professional night of my life to win that – it will never get any better than winning a Grand Prix at Cannes," she said.
"We carried the Lion around all night, it ended up in the Gutter Bar at 5.30 in the morning and I left the creative team on deck chairs on the beach, with the Lion between them, saying 'this Lion has to see the dawn!'