Why Creative Effectiveness is the Cannes Lion you really want to win

Phil Johnston 2With controversy over the criteria of entry for some Cannes Lions categories Phil Johnston argues the Creative Effectiveness category is the most rigorous ‘effie’ in the world.

Don’t worry. I’m not entering the debate on whether some Lion winners are scam. There are enough voices on that.

And my starting point isn’t even creativity. Because let’s not forget that creativity is just a means to an end. What is that end? Meeting our clients’ objectives, whatever they may be. That’s what I’m here to do.

If you work in an agency that’s what you should be doing as well. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong game.

You should want to be winning Effectiveness Awards. It’s proof that you’re doing the job your clients need you to be doing. And when it comes to winning effectiveness awards, the Cannes Creative Effectiveness category sets the benchmark.

Here’s why:

1. Credibility.

Doug Pitt

Doug Pitt

Cannes Lions employ Price Waterhouse Coopers to audit every Effectiveness entry they receive. And boy are they relentless. After we’d entered they came back to us on three separate occasions, each time asking for verification of data and claims that we made in our case study (Virgin Mobile: Fair Go Bro featuring Doug Pitt). And giving them the source of the data wasn’t enough, they needed to see the original reports/documents from which the data came.

That thoroughness and scrutiny means that you know a Cannes Effectiveness winner is credible.

2. You’re battling the best.

Only work that either won a Lion or was shortlisted the year previously is eligible for entry. So you know your case study is going up against some of the best creative work in the world.

We all know creativity and effectiveness go hand in hand. Various extensive research studies have proven it, most notably the Gunn Report and the IPA/Gunn Study. Creativity sells. No argument on that.

Because you’re up against some of the most creative work you’re up against some of the most effective work too.

3. It’s Global

You’re fighting in a much bigger pond. The world. It doesn’t get any bigger. Enough said.

The reasons above are why you should want to win a Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lion. But looked at very simply it’s about this: It’s indisputable proof that your agency (and you) are doing a damn fine job by your clients.

So that’s the ‘why’, what about the ‘how’?

Having written a case study this year I have a few observations on what might help you win. I’m not arrogant enough to think I know all the answers but my experience might just help you get over the line next year.

Realism: Take a look at previous winners (and Effie winners too). Ask yourself if you’ve got the data you need to meet the level of proof you can see in these winning cases. Be harsh on what you’ve got. If you don’t have the proof you need, save yourself the time and effort. Because, believe me, winning will take a lot of both.

Focus: Work out what your storyline is, make it as singular as possible and bloody well stick to it. Think of the amount of cases the judges have to read. The tighter your story the more likely they are to stick with it. No detours, no cul-de-sacs, every word and piece of data supporting the focused story you are weaving.

Perseverance: Each time a Price Waterhouse Coopers request came through for more proof of data I was so close to giving it all away. It was only a streak of stubbornness I didn’t realise I had that kept me going. That and the help, patience and lots of data from the great people at Virgin Mobile, One Green Bean and Starcom, our partner agencies on Virgin Mobile. Stick with it, you just never know.

So, no debate about Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions. They are a demanding and credible celebration of effectiveness. And that’s why you should really want to win one. Because they prove what we all instinctively know.

Great work, works.

Phil Johnston, Havas Worldwide head of strategy, wrote the Virgin Mobile Doug Pitt case study which won one of six Creative Effectiveness Gold Lions at Cannes this year. This year McCann Melbourne won the Grand Prix while DDB Sydney also won in the category.


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