This year's Creative Effectiveness Lions impressed WARC's Lucy Aitken with their commitment to causes beyond commercial objectives

My name is Lucy and I have been an advocate of brand purpose for the last seven years.

I have endured countless Mark Ritson columns dismissing purpose as hypocritical corporate twaddle. While everyone was laughing it up at the 2018 Oasis ad that spoofed purposeful marketing efforts and which, in my opinion, was completely baffling to anyone who didn’t work in advertising, I had to hold my nerve. Let’s not even mention the Pepsi débâcle.

So it was heartening to see the winners of this year’s Creative Effectiveness Lions at Cannes. The Grand Prix, Carrefour’s Black Supermarket, showed exactly how far purpose has come. This was visionary, clear-sighted strategic thinking, providing an inspirational example of how to espouse a particular cause and drive footfall and sales in the process.

Breaking the law to change the law

It doesn’t get more effective than bringing about legislative change and Carrefour’s Black Supermarket achieved just that, enabling farmers to grow organic produce from seeds that had formerly been classified as illegal. 

Installations within branches of Carrefour made this contraband produce available to customers in a bid to raise awareness about the issue. French farmers had been trying in vain to get that law overturned for 40 years. It took Carrefour, through Marcel Worldwide in Paris, eight months. This was clearly good news for farmers – Carrefour’s long-term suppliers – and also beneficial for consumers as it provides them with more choice. And it was highly effective for Carrefour, enabling it to keep hold of the kind of customers that could easily defect to independent food retailers where organic produce is more readily available.

Given that 50% of the points for the Creative Effectiveness Lions are devoted to the results, this section of the Carrefour paper is impressive and claims a 15% spike in footfall. It gave Carrefour a strong competitive advantage too: for the first time since 2010, it surpassed Leclerc and became the preferred retailer of the French. No wonder the jury was impressed. In our interviews with all the Creative Effectiveness jurors in Cannes, the praise for this paper – which was the clear front-runner - flowed more readily than a lunchtime rosé.

One judge, Michael Chadwick, Chief Strategy Officer APAC at Dentsu told us: “There’s so much debate around brand purpose and whether or not it works for brands. This is a case where the brand has stood for something and it is undeniably impacting the business.”

The power of a purposeful partnership

Carrefour wasn’t the only one effecting governmental reform. Project 84, for UK charity CALM, aimed to raise awareness around male suicide and how it could be prevented. Shockingly, 84 men commit suicide in the UK every week. 

Working in partnership with daytime TV programme This Morning, CALM created a striking installation where it placed 84 male statues on top of the ITV tower – where This Morning is filmed. This led to the appointment of a new government minister for the prevention of suicide, with calls to CALM increasing by 41%. Through adam&eveDDB London, this is a fantastic legacy for the brand. As the case study points out in a thorough results section: “In human terms, Project 84 contributed to at least 239 men alive today, who wouldn't have been otherwise.”

Elsewhere among the winners, Hair Talk for Unilever-owned haircare brand Sunsilk, focused on a millennial Thai transgender girl, Rock Kwanlada, from the point of view of  her hair. This coming-of-age story sparked a national conversation about stereotypes and acceptance. Market share during the campaign period grew by 25% relative to the prior month and penetration rose by 11.9%. Again, these are stellar results in a sector where differentiation is so challenging.

On the shortlist were AMV BBDO’s Libresse/Bodyform’s category-changing #bloodnormal campaign and DAVID’s This Coke Is A Fanta, a packaging innovation to challenge homophobia in Brazil. Both these efforts made clear, bold statements that continue to contribute to their long-term brand health.

Bring on the naysayers

Of course, this kind of work will always attract naysayers. Let’s welcome them. They add to the debate and ensure that the work itself is more rigorous and effective and not just lazy marketing fluff.

Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions

WARC’s analysis of the Creative Effectiveness winners will be published on 31 July 2019.

Thinking beyond the brand and the sector and embracing the issues that are important to people is clearly a sound strategy that, when executed authentically, delivers effectiveness. This year’s Creative Effectiveness winners can testify to that, ensuring that clients will be keen to keep purpose on the business agenda.

Elsewhere at Cannes, other evidence was starting to emerge to prove the case for purpose. Unilever, for instance, revealed that its ‘sustainable living’ brands are driving 75% of its growth.

So if you’re a cynic, immerse yourself in this year’s Creative Effectiveness Lions papers to see if you remain unconvinced. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.