A judge of the 2021 Creative Effectiveness Lions, Alma’s Isaac Mizrahi writes about how creative ideas carried through unconventional touchpoints helped this year’s winners cut through.

As the excitement of another edition of the prestigious Cannes International Festival of Creativity winds down, I imagine that advertising executives everywhere are dreaming of demonstrating their own creative power to the world and being recognised with a Lion of their own.

Chances are that these dreamers may also be raising objections as to why they’ll never get their shot. They may be thinking: “I never receive a brief with big budgets,” “I don’t work with famous brands,” or even “I don't get a chance to work on impactful 60-second film ideas.”

Who among us hasn’t had these doubts?

If I had the opportunity to chat with anyone dreaming of winning at Cannes, I'd tell them not to worry. That the main learnings I got from my experience serving as a juror in the Creative Effectiveness category are that creativity can manifest in different ways and that the very limitations they bring up are what can propel their ideas to a high level.

While we all celebrated ideas like Nike’s Dream Crazy and Burger King’s Whopper Detour, there were ideas awarded that brought a refreshing perspective and they all had one thing in common: they all employed non-traditional channels.

Provoking into action

In Ireland, charity O.N.E. created sleeping bags using the country's national flag to bring attention to the issue of homeless veterans with the goal of reversing declining donations. In most countries, it is common to treat the national flag with respect, and it is typically not acceptable to let the flag touch the ground. The creators of this idea used this implicit understanding to provocatively transform a symbol of pride into a symbol of veteran homelessness.

This simple yet powerful idea stirred debate but also raised awareness and funds for the cause. The campaign helped increase the number of donations by 4,560%, resulting in an 18% revenue increase that funded a brand-new hostel to house 1,825 homeless veterans.

Embedding shareability

The winning paper from KMSZ, a bone marrow donation centre in Germany, also relied on a simple idea. The challenge was that the best donors are ideally under 30 years old, but that is precisely the age group with the most significant gap between the number of individuals considering becoming a donor versus the ones acting on it.

The creative solution was a heart-shaped lollipop with a swab instead of a stick, so once you finished the lollipop, you could place the swab in the same bag it came in and submit it for analysis. The process was quick and, within a few days, you'd know if you are a potential life-saving donor.

The idea became a viral sensation using influencers and social media. It achieved significant results, including bringing down the average age of donors from 37 to 26 years old and driving a 680% increase in registered donors.

Courting controversy

Middle Eastern children’s retailer Babyshop’s creative idea was perhaps even more unconventional: the primary touchpoint here was a word.

The challenge was that in the Arabic language, the word to define ‘parenthood’ means ‘fatherhood’, thus implicitly excluding mothers. Babyshop saw this as an opportunity to enhance its ‘celebrating parenthood’ positioning by creating a whole new word that combined both the father and the mother elements and launching it during Mother's Day.

Given the traditional society the brand operates in, it was not a surprise that the idea received almost 50% negative comments on social media when it launched. Still, despite the criticism, Babsyhop decided to continue with the campaign and ultimately fuelled a positive reaction in the region.

The idea was enhanced by clever social media and activation plans that not only helped the brand to achieve significant business results but also helped to make the new word officially accepted by local authorities after a popular petition was created.

Simple, emotional, far-reaching

What do these winners have in common? They all start from a clear and in-depth understanding of the marketplace and of their target consumers. Then, they evolve towards formulating a simple idea, articulated via deep emotional storytelling, which allows amplifying the message through viral support and earned media coverage, which overcomes limited media budgets.

So, to my friends dreaming of a Lion glory, keep dreaming! Smile at adversity and keep thinking of ideas that overcome any perceived barriers of budgets or brands. I hope to see your ideas shining soon.