It was an earnest year for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity with talks and Lions awarded focusing on purpose, gender balance, accessibility and the pursuit of optimum balance between creativity and data. The rosé still flowed, but there was a heightened sense of seriousness with a head-spinning array of panel discussions on the beaches and in the hosted fringe events. There was even a running debate over the future of advertising.
For a quick sum-up, here’s a sampling of 15 quotes from marketing luminaries which represent the key thoughts and subjects that were discussed and debated through the week.
For starters, purpose was front and center.
“Purpose is one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve seen for this industry in my 35 years of marketing. Done properly, done responsibly, it will help us restore trust in our industry, unlock greater creativity in our work, and grow the brands we love.” – Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever.
Jope continued: “There are too many examples of brands undermining purposeful marketing by launching campaigns which aren’t backing up what their brand says with what their brand does. Purpose-led brand communications is not just a matter of ‘make them cry, make them buy.’ It’s about action in the world,” Jope added.
Marc Pritchard of P&G on Wake Up With The Economist CMO panel at Cannes on June 20 // MARYLEE SACHS
Building on the theme was Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of Procter & Gamble. “What I'm kind of surprised by is just people think purpose is new. It's like they discovered purpose this year…. I think part of the issue with purpose is that it is not precise enough, and that this big, wide ranging thing that if not done well can actually take you off track from a business standpoint.”
From left, Paul Miles of ASICS; Ann Lewnes of Adobe; and Pedro Earp, Chief Marketing & ZX Ventures Officer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, on Wake Up With The Economist CMO panel on June 19 // MARYLEE SACHS
“I think a lot of people are mistaking purpose for philanthropy. I think purpose is mission, it's why do you exist, what are your products intended to do, how are you a responsible company. That's all purpose.” – Ann Lewnes, EVP and CMO, Adobe.
“Purpose has to be a part of everything that you do; it's not just a marketing thing, it's not a sales thing, it's really everything from the production all the way to what you do with that product,” Paul Miles, Global Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, ASICS Corp.
From left: Kelly Campbell, CMO of Hulu; Frank Cooper III of BlackRock; Meredith Verdone, CMO of Bank of America, on CMO panel at The Female Quotient Lounge at Cannes on June 19 // MARYLEE SACHS
Frank Cooper III, CMO of BlackRock, referred to the infamous annual letter to CEOs from his CEO, Larry Fink: “In 2019, he [Fink] said profits and purpose are not at odds with each other. They're not antagonistic concepts. For me, that was a great moment ….it sparked a conversation about what we mean by purpose. Some people when they think purpose, they're locked into the mission statement and what you do. What you do is still important, but that's not the purpose. Some people talk about their values, how they do it. But, purpose is really the fundamental reason for being in society. Why do you exist? What value do you add? Are you serving some human need that is unmet today? That's a hard journey for many companies to make because they haven't dug deep into the founding.”
Alicia Tillman of SAP on Female Quotient panel on June 19 // MARYLEE SACHS
Alicia Tillman, CMO of SAP, called this the “napkin story.” “Every company started with a napkin of some sort. And by that what I need is when a founder of an organization or multiple founders, in our case we had five at SAP, everything starts with this vision and a napkin scribble of what could be. Whether it's changing something that already exists because you believe you can do it better or creating something that currently doesn't exist that's going to support a need to change something in the world.”
Diversity continued to reign important as well and was often tied to purpose.
From left, Syl Saller, CMO of Diageo; and Nina Bibby of O2 at The Economist Wake Up panel of CMOs on June 17 // MARYLEE SACHS
Coined by Nina Bibby, CMO of O2, from a Ted Talk: “'Diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusivity is being asked to dance.' For me that is so important, because diversity means we'll get the balance right, and that's important…. But then it's how do we ensure that women and BAME (a U.K. term used to refer to black, Asian and minority ethnic people) colleagues feel empowered to have equal say and feel confident, and I think that's the next step.”
Several CMOs called into question the future of advertising, or at least advertising as we know it. Marc Pritchard spoke of re-inventing advertising. Others heralded a C-to-B era where consumers are defining how companies and brands engage with them.
from left: Andrea Mallard, CMO of Pinterest; John Rudaizky of EY, at The Economist Wake Up CMO panel on June 18 // MARYLEE SACHS
“Even the most virally charged campaigns over the years, have been funded for the most part to push the story out. It's very few that are just naturally pushed out,” pointed out John Rudaizky, Global Brand and Marketing Leader, EY. “But there’s a radical shift in the way we engage with people. It is completely different from the past. It's not just about broadcast, it's about complete re-engineering of the business….smart experiences, because fundamentally every interaction is an opportunity to inspire through smart experiences where advertising is the fundamental platform.”
From left: Meghan Farren, CMO of KFC UK & Ireland; Aline Santos of Unilever; and Suzanne Kounkel, CMO of Deloitte US, at The Economist Wake Up CMO panel on June 21 // MARYLEE SACHS
And the debate raged on at achieving the optimum balance between data and creativity. Aline Santos, Executive Vice President, Global Marketing and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer for Unilever, said it well: “Data is black and white. Creativity is colorful. Data is more rational, creativity is more emotional. But you know what? They are not independent to each other. They can be together. And I think data is a tremendous source of insight for us today and data can be a powerhouse to make our creativity magnified, amplified and brought to consumers.”
We heard a few new terms too. Marc Pritchard coined a phrase – the “fixed and flow model.” “We've given the opportunity for our brands to flow agencies in and out. So we don't have a fixed partnership with those agencies. It enhances the creativity…It creates a broader ecosystem of creativity, all focused on creativity…It’s hard on everybody because it's all been disrupted. But what we're seeing is a much greater degree of agility, speed, reduction in cost, as well as higher creativity. And creativity is one of the most abundant sources of energy in the world, so what we need to think about is not a zero-sum gain, but an ecosystem that's going to be a big renaissance of creativity.”
Julia Goldin of LEGO on The Economist Wake Up CMO panel on June 20 // MARYLEE SACHS
Doubtlessly, everyone is looking for new ways to push their creative boundaries. “I think you have to be comfortable to being uncomfortable. Because if you don't take risks and try new things, you're never going to be able to evolve, and I also would say in my personal experience, the more you know, the more you don't know. And I think that recognizing that aspect is very important. So you’ve got to be also thirsty and hungry enough to learn, and unlearn, and relearn. And be very open, as much as possible, to diversity in wisdom. Because diversity in an organization brings in all of that new innovation, excitement, inspiration that we need.” – Julia Goldin, Global Chief Marketing Officer, LEGO Group.
Ivan Pollard of General Mills speaking at Brand Innovators Fireside Chat at Havas on June 20 // MARYLEE SACHS
It was encouraging for many to see new technologies delivering relevance and results rather than just dazzling us with possibilities. Ivan Pollard, CMO of General Mills, remarked “That old and new coming together is really good but the thing about it that has really elevated my spirit this year at Cannes is starting to see the green shoots of a return to creativity. Celebrating creativity in all of its aspects where that's what I would take out of this. The old and the new and then the idea that probably one of the biggest things that we can get a return on investment is a breakthrough idea.
Finally, back to purpose, Jope warned that “woke washing” — brands running purpose-driven campaigns, but failing to take real action — threatens to “infect” the advertising industry. “It threatens to further destroy trust in our industry, when it’s already in short supply,” he said. This was borne out by Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer Special Report, a global study released during the Festival. While 81% of consumers said they consider brand trust in their purchasing decisions, only 34% actually trust the brands they buy from. And 53% of consumers think brands "trustwash," or aren't as committed to society as they claim.”
Michelle Hutton, Managing Director of Global Client Strategy at Edelman was President of this year’s PR Jury at Cannes. She said, “We believe PR is in fact a craft. It's not a channel, and it's a craft that matches more to businesses, brands, and the society at large more than ever before. And as you can tell, the marketing world clearly knows about craft matches, and that's because early attention is now essential. In an always-on world, business today recognizes that in fact, brand and corporate reputation are intrinsically linked. And today promotion of brands is just as important as protecting the brand. Public relations and communications accomplishes both.”
Originally published on the Forbes website.