It's been a couple of weeks since returning from the Cannes Lions and already it is taking on that surreal feeling, not too dissimilar to organising and taking part in any big event. It's only when some time has passed that one really gets perspective on what the week held for us. We hosted over 100 people at several events. We had a global crew from our creatives, planners, producers and researchers. We launched our EARNED BRAND study. We produced content on-the-ground. We met with a ton of clients. We went through a gamut of emotions as we won, didn't win and then won again at the award ceremonies. We learned and laughed with Sir Ken Robinson at our Earned Brand panel and subsequent dinner. Oh... and did I mention interviewing Will Smith on the main stage, as well as hearing him inspire guests as we partnered with him and his Just Water team at breakfast?
It was quite a week.
The default thought would be that the highlight would be Will. And certainly, it was totally brilliant being there with him. His professionalism, his heartfelt interest in ensuring he showed up brilliantly and appropriately - together with his concern to ensure he was on point - for the audience was great to see. He was, unsurprisingly, a total delight both on and off the stage and I can't thank him and his team enough for partnering with us.
The main feeling, however, that I am left with is the potential of the possible. Our world is confusing, competitive and noisy. And in the week that the referendum result shockingly reverberated through Cannes, worryingly surprising at times. Steve Schmidt regaled us with insight on the U.S. election scenario and if you wrote this into a series of The West Wing, we would have all said it would be a step too far. Civic society is challenged and we struggle to find balance to the calls upon our time and priorities.
However there are companies, agencies and people who are trying to make a difference. So much of the work at Cannes highlighted issues about societal campaigns and while that is worthwhile and admirable, cause fatigue was setting in. The key to elevating above that fatigue is action. When brands and cause properly marry in the pursuit of impact, we can make changes to the world.
Will Smith has convened and supported groups of people in several companies that are pushing sustainable goods (JUST) funding climate change initiatives (Prime) and delivering food stamps online to the impoverished (Thrive). Sir Ken Robinson is overseeing a campaign in a historic partnership with OMO who have recently launched the Dirt is Good initiative. The goal? To help preserve childhood by making play a priority. These projects will impact the world in the pursuit of good. This is action not just cause.
And what is at the heart of this work? The chance to use creative energy and connections to make a difference. The chance to take magnetic thinking and match it with resource and outreach to share stories that are socially designed and earned centric at their core. The chance to not only harness culture but actually to impact it. As Sir Ken Robinson says, “Many companies have said for a very long time that they need to be clear on what their purposes are and to express them and to make them a central part of their messaging. But there is a difference between declaring it and doing something about it.”
Our own Earned Brand study across 13,000 consumers in 13 countries found that 62 percent will not buy a brand if it fails to meet its obligations to consumers, the community and society at large. The study showed that to strengthen the relationship with consumers the brand must be interesting, be reliable, be authentic and be aspirational. The power of marketing and the potential of the possible with purpose, passion and creativity is a magnetic combination. This was embodied by Will and the stories he shared on the stage in Cannes. As he pointed out, “I now start with people and what they need, not the product.” Starting with people and believing in the potential of the possible is a very inspirational place to start.
Jackie Cooper is global chair, creative strategy.