Good news from Cannes.
I know, it was a while ago.
I've been busy, it takes me a while to get around to reviewing everything that's happened at the awards. Plus I'm always of two minds about these things. On the one hand, I don't know why anyone really cares what jazzes up a bunch of advertising execs and creatives and £billionaire brands. On the other hand, a good tranche of the world's communicators, from junior creatives to the most senior Chief Marketing Officers, really do aspire to win one of these gongs. Therefore, what gets rewarded there has the power to set the tone for the kind of creative work we make.
Which brings me to that good news I promised you.
Cannes has grown a conscience. It could be the jury this year, it could be the global cultural moment we're in, it could be all the research that tells us that the next generations coming up are sick of the gluttony of mass consumption, and they see through corporations and glossy brands. Or maybe it's a combination of things.
Whatever the reason, check out these Grand Prix winners that will give you hope for the future of brand communications:
- Fashion brand Carlings and their digital wardrobe crafting that encourages people to reconsider mass consumption of fast fashion
- Nike's 'Dream Crazy' advert that invites refugees to be sports stars, and sports stars to use their influence for social good (and made me cry at my desk)
- Google Lab's 'Creatability' work that shows how making creative technology accessible to people with disabilities is unlocking talent
- Volvo's decision to make public their data around how to protect the female body in the event of a crash - since male crash dummies are standard
- Carrefour's 'Black Supermarket' that challenges the ownership of seeds and therefore supermarket produce, by first-world entities
- Black and Abroad's 'Go Back to Africa' that reframes a racist statement as an invitation to experience the continent's natural beauty
From making creativity more accessible, to believing refugees can become sports stars, to turning the tables on racism, to calling out safety discrimination against women, all of these campaigns – and many more of this year's Grand Prix winners – have something in common. They've all decided to build their external image around doing the right thing.
There are cynical comments out there, including claims that Volvo is using their safety message for brand gain. And it's true: their brand does stand to build loyalty from carrying out research into the safety of female passengers. But they could just carry on making adverts that show their cars gleaming in the sun as they wind around the Amalfi Coast, and not bother taking social action. Wouldn't we rather support the brands who make the effort?
Employers can take notice of this direction of travel, as even awards which have been famously indulgent over the years, turn to appreciating more thoughtful work.
Reputation is increasingly important in the relationship between brands and consumers, and that's no different for employers. If anything, it's even more important for an employment 'consumer' who is considering making your brand such a big part of their life.
As a copywriter, I can always write you a nice line. But the real way to create engagement is to actually BE a great employer. As a truly great employer, you might still need an agency's support to be front of mind (let me know!), but you can be confident your reputation will look after itself.
Luckily for most of us, the things our elders teach us are the same things that will help us be great employers and great advertisers:
Be honest. Treat people well. Do the right thing, even when it costs you.