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Print plays the long game
03 . 07 . 19

The Lion Kings (and Queens)

Words by: Ulbe Jelluma, Managing Director, Print Power
Which were the campaigns supercharging the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity 2019? After an inspiring week on the French Riviera, here’s my view on the brands that Cannes at the communication industry’s biggest brainstorming session…

Image: Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

Which print entries packed a punch in the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity 2019? How are brands cashing in on your cultural conscience? Why does courage in creativity always separate the wheat from the ad-world chaff? And why does the long-game always trump flash-in-the-pan campaigns in the print effectiveness stakes? For me, some brands raised the bar this year…

Diversity in advertising: style over substance?

There was a burning issue that stood out for me at Cannes. I was struck by the number of presentations on the subject of diversity, with titles like Future is Female, Inclusion, Creative Women Change the World and Unstereotyping Content. It’s a hot topic in some of print media’s most successful advertising campaigns, and it’s one that we should be debating.

But are brands walking the talk? Are they seriously engrained with the concept of diversity? Or are they guilty of ‘diversity-washing’? Hijacking good causes solely for advertising purposes?

Lack of diversity is a problem that needs fixing. But it needs more than just a high-publicity quick fix. Some would argue that if a campaign brings the problem to the public’s attention, then surely motive doesn’t matter.

But it does. If a campaign is for profit alone, and not because a company really believes in it, then there’s a danger of the discerning consumer seeing it as being inauthentic and forced.

Then it’s farewell to trust and loyalty, and bye-bye to consumers.

How many companies really do take equality into consideration in a world where most things are designed with men in mind anyway? I came across an excellent book on this subject from writer and activist Caroline Criado Perez called Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men. It’s about the hidden places where inequality resides. It’s everywhere. And probably right in front of your nose right now if you’re a woman reading this on a smart phone. Did you know that the average smartphone is 5.5 inches long – too big for most women’s hands? If you’re a woman who’s feeling a bit chilly in her office, that’s because the formula for working out the ideal temperature was reached using the metabolic resting rate of a 40-year-old, 70kg man. Wearing a suit. A woman’s metabolism is slower, so you’ll more than likely be shivering in your summer gear right now.

In a world where we haven’t even ‘unstereotyped’ our products and environment, you start to realise it’ll take more than a ‘woke’ marketing campaign to drive fundamental change.

Unilever CEO Alan Jope warned at this year’s Cannes conference that ‘woke-washing’ is destroying trust in the industry. ‘It’s putting in peril the very thing which offers us the opportunity to help tackle many of the world’s issues,’ he said.‘Purpose-led brand communications is not just a matter of ‘make them cry, make them buy. It’s about action in the world.’


Valerie Hernando Presse, CMO, Danone 

Wellness is winning

Talking of consumers being more discerning, it was interesting to see that the Health category has evolved from being Pharma-led into a much broader, life-affirming force for wellness (Weight Watchers have already recognised the value of the W word with their WW rebranding). And that’s in response to growing consumers’ demand for authentic stories and experiences that positively impact society, humanity, the planet and themselves.

Danone presented their company vision of how a food company should encourage people to think about food choices and take more responsibility for healthy living and wellness, and that means creating conversations and stories around nutrition.  In her session One Planet, One Health: Danone’s Journey into Activism, Danone Chief Marketing Officer Valerie Hernando Presse said it’s the end of the hard sell. ‘In this people-powered world, the way we’ve done marketing – selling more stuff to more people – is over. We want all our brands to put Purpose at the centre and commit to this food revolution. Some brands are moving from storytelling to story showing.’

The perfect example of this ‘story showing’ (and perfectly illustrating my point about brands walking the talk when it comes to diversity) is Danone’s Bonafort - a Mexican water brand that fights for women’s empowerment in a country that’s rife with gender inequality. 100% of the earnings from their HeForShe special edition bottles are donated to UN Women to promote special programmes for women.

They’ve been supporting the cause for 20 years – no quick-fix ‘woke-washing’ there then.

It’s this H2H (Human to human) approach that chimes with P&G Health too. They’ve been busy figuring out how they can nurture more health and happiness with their products.  At their Cannes Lions panel discussion, Arianna Huffington appeared via video link to talk about the collaboration between her behavioural change firm Thrive Global and P&G Health. The partnership promotes P&G’s products as ‘wellness boosters’, while Thrive content gives users mindful reminders to use ‘gratitude practice’ to build everyday feel-good healthy habits. So, for instance, when you’re using your Oral-B – you could spend the time it takes to brush your teeth to think of three things you’re grateful for.

Granted, it might be a bit touchy-feely for some, but it’s a holistic approach that resonates with the experience-chasing Millennial audience.

The long and the short of it

Creativity and commercial success go hand in hand. Or rather, they have done for years.

Research rides this out: traditionally, the more creative campaign, the more awards it has won. And awards translated directly to more value for companies. To greater effectiveness.

We saw this direct correlation demonstrated in the Cannes Lions presentation Creativity Matters. Proctor & Gamble, Heineken, McDonald’s and The Coca-Cola Company are all brands who have won the Cannes Lions Creative Marketer of the Year. And as the presentation shows, all saw ROI and share price value soar during the period leading up to their claiming of the award.

But effectiveness takes time to quantify. And in this ‘we want it now’, data-driven culture, brands are now focusing on short-term results at the expense of long-term brand building. And with it, we’re seeing a sad slump in effectiveness.

The Crisis in Creative Effectiveness report, launched at Cannes Lions by consultant Peter Field and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) is a warning-shot to the industry.

In it, Field claims creatively awarded campaigns are now no more effective than non-awarded campaigns. And he points the finger directly at this obsession with short-term sales activations and metrics.

The report shows that in a 12-year period until 2008, creatively awarded campaigns were around 12 times as efficient as non-awarded campaigns. But that’s now dropped to four.

‘We have arrived in an era where award-winning creativity typically brings little or no effectiveness advantage,’ mourns Field. And IPA data shows that under-allocating budget to brand building is to blame.

‘Those who cherish creativity should stop encouraging the development of disposable creative ideas’ he advises. ‘Creative award shows should have separate classes of awards for short- and long-term creativity.’

Fields analysis supports our view that print media should be part of the mix as a unique brand building channel. It can carry creative campaigns in an effective way. Short-termism gets quick results and cold data, but can metrics tell when people are talking about a campaign down the pub? Whether it’s taken them by surprise, and changed their perceptions? No. That kind of measurement takes its own sweet time.

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Grand Prix winner: Impact DDBO Dubai, An-Nahar - The Blank Edition

Power and profundity in print media

I was naturally excited to see the work in this year’s Print & Publishing category. And the print advertising examples didn’t disappoint.

Entries needed to ‘leap off the page’ and demonstrate ‘ingenuity and outstanding craftsmanship in published media’ …criteria which made the winner of the Grand Prix all the more surprising.

Created by Impact BBDO, The Blank Edition for Lebanese daily newspaper An-Nahar is just that – blank. There was nothing there to ‘leap off the page’, and that’s exactly the point.

Editor-in-Chief Nayla Tueni said the newspaper was tired of the empty promises of Lebanon’s politicians. And the plain white special edition featuring a mast head and nothing else, was published as a form of protest at their failure to form a government.

It’s a powerful piece of work that’s eloquent in its simplicity. And a brave model for newspapers and magazines to aspire to.

Continuing the theme of addressing society’s wrongs, FCB Chicago’s The Gun Violence History Bookon behalf of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence proved a worthy winner in the print effectiveness stakes.

Designed as a learning tool, the book demonstrates what history has been unable to do – stop a bullet. It’s filled with news reports of gun deaths spanning 228 years of violence. And its pages have been brutally punctured clean through by a bullet. The bullet has come to a stop at the last page, with the message: ‘This bullet stopped, but history continues to be written. Stop history from repeating itself.’

Sombre, thought-provoking and profound.

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Gold Lion: Adam & Eve/DDB UK, Unilever – Don't Spread The Hate

Brands also came up trumps with a beautiful series of winning print advertising. Love it or hate it, Adam & Eve/DDB UK’s Lovers, don’t spread the hate campaign for Unilever’s Marmite took a Gold with their divisive series of ads showing honey, butter and marmalade thoughtlessly contaminated by a double-dipping, Marmite-covered knife.

And TBWA/Paris’ McDonald’s Home Delivery poster campaign taps into that need to hibernate when the weather outside is bad. And when only a home delivery will do. A series of stunning images by photographer Roberto Badin captures the world from the inside looking out through an apartment window to stormy city streets. The rain-streaked glass gives each shot the look of impressionistic brush strokes. And only one word features on each – McDelivery. Making the point beautifully, without the need for words.

Minimalistic and exquisite – like works of art.

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Bronze Lion: TBWA\Paris France, McDonald's France – McDelivery

What did surprise me when looking at the PR category, was that online results only are used to measure effectiveness. What happened to awareness, recognition, understanding or other traditional metrics to prove the effectiveness of a case study? The industry strongly values social media metrics such as impressions and likes. They might be easily available, and useful to a degree. But they can’t decipher how a print ad might have pulled on the heart strings, pricked a conscience or brightened someone’s day.

Boardroom blinkers

It was an eye-opener to hear what qualifies a small group (17%) of the most valuable global CMOs to be labelled ‘Pioneering CMOs’ in a recent Accenture report. What qualifications do you need to be in the gang?

Well, according to report Way Beyond Marketing: the rise of the hyper-relevant CMO, they create more value to shareholders than any other group of CMOs. And they’re transforming their organisations by ‘reinventing for the now and the new’, ‘rejecting a broken marketing culture’, ‘rewiring operating models for growth’ and ‘keeping pace with changing customer expectations’.

Translation: this super group is spending more on digital advertising, digital e-commerce, new partnerships and data monetization. The report paints a profile of the CMO who doesn’t have print media spend as a priority.

This tallies with a fascinating survey launched at Cannes by the Financial Times and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) called The Board-Brand Rift. It reveals that over half of business leaders (including 30% of senior marketers) rate their knowledge of brand building as average to very poor. Explaining the trend towards more emphasis on short-term strategy vs long-term brand building.

It also found that less than a third of companies use brand health metrics that measure salience, distinctiveness and favourability. And over half of business leaders ranked social media top for brand-building, while evidence places this firmly at the bottom of the list of media for effectiveness. What’s the real value of 100,000 views if all that means is the consumer got to see a banner ad for a subliminal second?

So, the skill of brand building is in decline as there’s a chasm between what is perceived to be effective and what is really effective in the marketing mix. The ‘Pioneer CMOs’ and their obsession with digitisation and data are driving this. And all at a time when there’s a deep mistrust of online channels. And a drive towards digital detoxing.

The IPA and their experts point clearly at a major concern for improvement of advertising and print media effectiveness.

For the future survival of print media, it’s essential we open up conversations with the Pioneering few. And strike a balance between short-term thinking and long-term brand building.