Cannes Lions Grand Prix 3

Question of the Week

How Important are Awards to Marketers' Measurements of Success?

Balancing global resonance and meaningful impact is crucial. Yet, prioritising accolades over genuine relationships risks diluting impactful work

By Dani Gibson

The Cannes Lion Festival will soon be here again, with marketers grasping at the edge of their seats, waiting to find out if their work really is the best of the best in adland.

If the number of industry awards being dished out seemingly all year around is anything to go by, they are coveted for a variety of reasons be it the celebration of effectiveness or simple vanity, but should marketers be setting KPIs based on winning awards? Are they all that important?

Earlier this year, Lions unveiled its first-ever Creative MBA (LIONS cMBA), which aims to equip creatives and marketers with the skills necessary to achieve a Lion-winning caliber of creative marketing that drives meaningful impact.

Whatever the reason may be, the cornerstone of the creative industry lies in creative effectiveness; it's all about demonstrating the enduring growth potential of innovative campaigns and brand establishment.

From keeping your priorities in delivering creatively effective work for clients to embracing discomfort, pursuing excellence and striving for surprising and different ideas we spoke with executives from Grey London, Trainline, Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi and TBWA share how they see awards growing in importance to campaign success metrics.

Jo McClintock, VP brand and marketing, Trainline

You can't win on an incredible idea alone, no matter how awe inspiring and exceptionally executed it's got to deliver the same awe in outcomes, fast (i.e. engagements, ROI, sales, awareness, media coverage).

Furthermore as a leading marketeer you owe it to the brilliance of the idea to deliver performance - in my experience Cannes will prioritise this in equal measure.

As a marketing leader, award wins are not prioritised as a KPI for the team, instead, it's our focus on delivering high quality, high-impact work that leads us to determine whether we're worthy of entering, awards, therefore, act as a bar raiser and stimulate a vision of brilliance for teams.

Larissa Vince, CEO, TBWA

A joint ambition to win awards is best when it’s a motivation for everyone involved, rather than a KPI. It’s an expression of a shared belief in the value of fame-driving creativity as the unfair advantage in communications. And yes, that’s very important for both clients and agencies.

But how to go about it? First, the award itself shouldn’t be the end goal. I would always question the “awards brief” as somehow separate from the day to day. In an ideal world (and I appreciate the world is far from that), we would always be making our best work for real clients, on real, business critical briefs.

If that’s the criteria though, then everyone does need to get comfortable with a certain level of discomfort. The most memorable and most successful creative work (and theoretically at least, by default the most award-winning) is surprising and different. Something that hasn’t been seen or done before. That’s a leap into the relative unknown, which can be a little scary, especially when big budgets and big business problems are at stake.

And the clients that tend to win awards (because let’s face it, pretty much all agencies win at least some) know that surprising and different is a good thing. It’s to be welcomed, embraced, actively searched for. It’s not the only indicator of awards success. But it’s a pretty good place to start.

Asad Shaykh, head of strategy, Grey

The real question for me is whether we’re chasing awards or excellence?

Personally, I see nothing wrong in chasing excellence. Also, excellence is at its best when tested against the best. If Cannes is that arena, then count us in.

However, Cannes is part of our creative journey, not our destination.

Being ‘Famously Effective’ is Grey’s ultimate KPI. For us, the formula is simple. The idea should be distinctive, not just different. It should drive conversation, not just chase fame. Most importantly, it should hold meaning. Not holier-than-thou meaning, but something that holds functional, emotional, or even recreational meaning for our audience. A Famously Effective idea balances all three, driving a commercial value as well as creative cut-through to ensure client growth.

Fortunately, these criteria also align well with Cannes and how our peers judge good work. However, our priority remains what we deliver for our clients in the most creatively effective way possible.

Ask yourself one question. Would Meryl Streep pick a role just to win an Oscar?

There’s my answer. Be more Meryl.

Benazir Barlet-Batada, former senior marketing director at Mondelez UK

Winning at Cannes is a really important factor for many marketers as winning awards is always very motivational and we also know that creativity drives better business results. So, yes, I'd say it is an important KPI but not the only KPI as it's dangerous to only have one KPI - but if you can hit the sweet spot of meeting all your KPIs - your business objectives and your marketing objectives - and you win at Cannes, then you will feel like you have hit the jackpot.

Franki Goodwin, Chief Creative Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi

Saying you want to ‘win awards’ is a bit like a teenager on the X Factor saying they just want to ’be famous’. The immediate question is, of course, “but what do you want to be famous for?”. Making them a KPI is great, but when it’s the only KPI it gets pretty shallow, pretty quick. Awards should be a by-product of forging great creative relationships, a shared ambition to make the most creative and most effective work of your careers and the acknowledgement that in that shared ambition, whether it's for change, or for profit or both, there will be a truckload of scary decisions to make. If an award is the sole end game and, for some reason in a windowless room, on a given day it doesn't make it out with one, you’ve lost. If you’ve made industry defining work, with extraordinary people, you've still got the work, the relationships, the experience and the impact to build on. I think the best places for clients to look for inspiration is in enduring, close collaborations; BA’s partnership with Uncommon, the inhouse powerhouses of Apple, Squarespace and Channel 4, and more recently the new EE work, (I can’t remember who did that, off the top of my head.) If the agency mantra is ‘do your best work for your biggest clients’, the client mantra should perhaps be ‘trust the best people with your biggest problems” and hopefully awards will follow.

Mark Elwood, Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett

I’m not sure any advertising awards (apart from effectiveness awards) are the best shared KPI between agency and client. My view is trying to win awards through a shared agenda can often skew the work for the worse. Our work at Leo Burnett generally aims to speak to everyone in the UK: Populist Creativity. We revel in the British culture, the shared jokes, and funny habits we recognise in our neighbours, and the history that is unique to the UK – that can make tabling ideas to a Cannes jury tricky. For example, take our recent ‘Keep up with the times’ campaign for McDonald’s featuring a Teletext-inspired ad. The rest of the world didn’t have the joys of Teletext – and we’re aware this may be where it falls down in Cannes, but it doesn’t take away from how incredibly well it went down in the UK. Whilst an agenda of creative bravery has always existed between McDonald’s and Leo Burnett, does that translate at Cannes? I hope so, but we’ll see. Making the best creative for clients should be every agency’s KPI, full stop. If awards follow, then that’s lovely, but we’ll never put them ahead of connecting with customers.


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