The Physics Of Creativity: How The Creative Effectiveness Lions Will Be Judged In 2020/21

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Sam Peña-Taylor, WARC

The Creative Effectiveness Lion is one of the most prestigious awards to win at Cannes – here, the 2021 jury president explains what she will be looking for. 

Winning a Creative Effectiveness Lion is hard. Really hard. It’s partly because the creativity element is just the first hoop you have to jump through to even qualify: the campaign must already have been awarded for its creative.

Then you reach the boss level: over a week in June a jury of senior marketers (usually former senior strategists at agencies now running brand strategies for themselves) and senior strategists tug at the seams of a case study: its story, its context, the strategist’s understanding and articulation of the problem, their frank telling of what actually led to the business effects.

Only established in 2011, its relative youth has meant that as a category it is ever developing. However, it’s not an accident that the work judged strongest at Cannes’ Creative Effectiveness Lions tends to win elsewhere.

Each year, WARC produces an analysis into the strategic and creative lessons that the results give us. What we are never privy to, however, is the basis on which the entries are actually judged.

When judges arrive in Cannes for their week-long immersion in the work, the president of the jury delivers an address to jurors that will set the agenda.

This year’s president is Ann Mukherjee, Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard, the drinks company, in North America. In the strange circumstances of June 2020, during Lions Live, Mukherjee explained what she would be asking her jury to consider.

Results

A client-side marketer through and through, Mukherjee – whose career prior to Pernod Ricard has spanned FMCG giants such as Kraft Heinz, PepsiCo and SC Johnson – is looking for results, namely return on investment.

“If you can’t deliver against an ROI for the brand, the work shouldn’t even be considered,” she explained, noting the assertion of the 2015 jury president, then of Coca-Cola and now CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network, that you can’t have creativity without effectiveness, and vice versa.

Then the burden of proof must shift to causality, she continues. “You need to make that linkage to say it was the creative that really drove that ROI.”

It is crucial, however, that both case study and judge are “very clear about what

[the]

problem to solve is for the brand, and then associating the right kind of effectiveness measurement to that.”

Though she concedes that every business is different, and that using the same metrics to understand responses to different problems is “like world peace, it’s hard to solve”, she welcomes the introduction of a “common language when it comes to describing effectiveness”.

WARC and Cannes Lions’ recent collaboration on the Effectiveness Code might offer some clues on how to do that. A study of both the Creative Effectiveness Lions database, as well as WARC’s database, it posits a new metric of “Creative Commitment”. 

This is described as a “composite measure of the media budget, duration and number of channels applied to a creative campaign or initiative”. Basically, it correlates very tightly with effectiveness. Also, it establishes a hierarchy of the six main types of effects that creative marketing produces in order of commercial impact.

Context matters: the physics of creativity

Unlike previous years, Mukherjee’s jury will be judging both the 2020 and 2021 entries. One cohort will, of course, be pre-pandemic, while the other will take place in a completely different world.

In response, she is asking her jury to remain alive to the particular context established in the case study and adapt to what she calls the “physics of creativity”.

“Great work should mimic the time and the culture and the society that it was created under,” she explains. “As a jury, we’re going to have to be very thoughtful about putting ourselves in that right frame of mind and working through the context in which that work was created and hold ourselves accountable.”

Long-term stories

“Every brand should have a why of the brand,” Mukherjee notes, the fundamentals of a brand built up over time. A marketer abandons it at their peril.

“Walking away from the tenets of how the brand was built, and how it is established in the subconsciousness of a consumer … I think is dangerous.”

Equality

More than ever, work that has a point of view on the topic of equality, now in the mainstream spotlight following the Black Lives Matter movement gaining traction around the globe, will be noted in the judging process, she says.

“The status quo is just not good enough – I’m hoping we award work that sets the tone on what it means to challenge norms … to see that what we do in our craft could actually change the world.”

Though judges should also be mindful of true representation: “it needs to mirror society.

“We’ve got to award work that reflects what society is grappling with. I hope that’s the standard by which we award our work next year.”

Credit: WARC

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