4 Top Lessons Learned from Cannes Lions 2017

Recovering from jetlag post-Cannes Lions festival is a lot easier when you have a few awards to show for it. This year, Havas took 41 Lions and countless insights home from the seven-day festival. In the weeks since I returned to the states, there are four takeaways in particular that keep coming back to inspire me.

Stop liking. Start doing.

The week was kicked off by Pinterest President Tim Kendall with an inspirational keynote called “Stop liking. Start doing.” His message was clear: More time spent on your phone doesn’t make you happier, and focusing on a screen takes away from the experiences happening right in front of us. It takes less than a second to “like” a photo of someone else’s activity, but what joy does that really bring us? He followed his exploration of widespread smartphone addiction with a call to action: “If we are building technology that we know is making people’s life worse because they are spending so much of it on a screen, don’t we have an obligation to do something different? We have an opportunity to be thoughtful about the content we create and products we build so that they make people’s life better, off their devices.”

Be fearless about gender equality.

With a record number of female jurors, Cannes made a strong push toward gender equality. Among the main-stage sessions, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, and Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, focused heavily on the topic. The Glass Lion awards, which celebrate gender equality and recognize work that challenges stereotypes, dedicated its Grand Prix award to one of the more notable campaigns at the festival—State Street Global Advisors’ “Fearless Girl.” For this campaign, the asset management firm created and installed a bronze sculpture of a defiant little girl directly across from the menacing Wall Street bull. The firm also sent letters to 3,500 companies, imploring them to improve their gender diversity.

Being right is more important than being first.

We’ve all heard it, seen it and probably even reposted it. The hottest topic in communications today—fake news—made itself well known at Cannes Lion, too. Numerous panels took place on the subject, including one at the Havas Café with influential leaders from the BBC, Financial Times and The Sunday Times. “I tell my kids to assume every day is April the first,” said BBC CEO Jim Egan. “You have to check and verify everything.” These media powerhouses agreed that being accurate is better than being first to break the news. In our hurried-yet-high-stakes industry, this was a simple but important reminder.

Creativity in healthcare is changing.

Healthcare communications today is all about creating new experiences and ways of engaging with people. In a Lions Health session, Zuleika Burnett, executive director of creative and innovation at Havas Life Medicom, said that uncovering deep insights is what’s most important when it comes to creating great health campaigns. In other words, data rules—both in medicine and in marketing around medicine.

The Best Places for You and Your Brand to Be Seen

Crossroads Foundation Photos

Originally posted on Forbes.com.

For all the massive growth in the power of digital and virtual, face time still matters. As hard as anyone works to rack up thousands of followers on Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat, it’s all still no substitute for making sure you are physically in the right places to ensure a relevant personal brand.

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Health and Wellness Branding Digest, July 9, 2015


Could Marketing in Schools Help Save America’s Health?
(Medical Marketing & Media, 22.06.15)

With an eye on the bottom line, hospitals and health systems and their marketing firms traditionally haven’t spent much time on school campuses. After all, children are not making healthcare purchasing decisions.


Did Health Lions Inspire Better Healthcare Marketing?
(Ad Age, 21.06.15)

At last year’s first Health Lions awards, there was no Grand Prix for the pharma category, and U.S. agencies trailed their international counterparts in wins. FCB Health CCO Rich Levy blamed it on the regulatory hurdles faced by health advertising.


Humana Prescribes Its Customers Healthy Email Content
(Direct Marketing News, 09.06.15)

For decades the debate around health insurance has been a hot one. But marketers for health insurance giant Humana say their aim isn’t a political battle—but a fight for consumers’ health and a push for fitness education. One of the ways Humana is doing that? Email marketing.


Online Hospital Promos a Marketing Catch-22
(Health Leaders Media, 08.04.15)

Accurately representing medical procedures online is a conundrum for hospital marketers, who risk scaring off potential patients by posting facts that would be better explained face-to-face by a physician. But there are ways to tackle this challenge.


“Change is inevitable, and when it happens, the wisest response is not to wail or whine but to suck it up and deal with it.” —Daniel Pink


SXSW x Brazil

We just returned from taking teams from more than a dozen Brazilian creative agencies on a road show to introduce them to top American ad agencies and corporations in New York, Chicago and Austin. (Cannes Lions is the final stop, in June.) Hired to support four clients—ABEDESIGN, FilmBrazil, Instituto Alana and Softex—we not only set up meet-and-greets, but we also created four standing-room-only events at SXSW that focused on Brazil’s world-class creativity in advertising, design, film and television production, including “Films as a Strong Tool to Inspire and Provoke Social Change” and “The Borderless Digital World: Where Will Brazil Be?” (In fact, people are still trying to RSVP to one of them, a week later.) There were lots of cheek kisses exchanged after panels packed with our clients’ top choices attended, from Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter to Leo Burnett, Ogilvy and many in between. It all came out of our huge success with FilmBrazil and Brasil Design’s VIP luncheon at Cannes last year, which got lots of people buzzing about Brazil. Goaaaal!

Why Are There So Many Women in PR?

Sam Howzit

[Originally posted on PRSAY, the PRSA blog.]

That’s a question a lot of media watchers have been asking lately. Now that the rules of communications and interaction are being rewritten by a generation of digital natives who live their lives online 24/7, it’s time to reevaluate what this job—which I have loved ever since I made the shift from advertising to PR about six years ago—really means.

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Brazil’s Winning Opportunity

And we’re not talking soccer. Havas PR recently joined forces with FilmBrazil and Brasil Design to showcase the country as a production hub for design and advertising projects. We developed targeted materials, then our team worked across the globe to reach out to journalists and invite them to a huge event at Pierre Cardin’s Palais Bulles (Bubble House) during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. We arranged for key journalists to interview leaders of FilmBrazil and Brasil Design on the days before, of and after the party—and invited them to the bash, which featured traditional Brazilian food and drink, plus live performances by Viva la Fête and DJ João Brazil. Our efforts resulted in 350 people from 13 countries attending (also including creative directors, marketing directors, executive producers, heads of production, CEOs and CMOs) and will lead to stories about Brazil’s creative industry reaching mass audiences worldwide.

Inside the Cannes PR Lions Jury

[Originally posted on the Holmes Report.]

I have now seen Cannes from the inside, as a judge in the PR categories, and I will soon be going home with a head full of ideas for how we can reinvent our business—plus a suitcase full of dirty clothes, a permanent rosé hangover, information overload and some minor disgust about the naked man who crept into a La Redoute shoot and stole our sanity.

The planet is imploding, but a naked man sneaking onto a catalog shoot kept bubbling up onto everyone’s list (seriously, either the agency wasn’t competent enough to Photoshop him out, or he was actually a random “plant” to create an award-winning crisis with a bit of a giggle and a smirk). Among my jury peers was a self-identified feminist, brilliant and sassy, who couldn’t stop arguing against the naked man campaign or a boy-focused campaign that plays off all the meanings of the word “nuts.” The peak moment of comedic relief (for me; keep in mind our long, cooped-up days) had to be when she mumbled that she wouldn’t mind a naked man, but not as an award winner. Unbelievably, though, Naked Man reached the short list, then second, then medal winner, and finally he took away a Gold for crisis.

Then there was Snoop Dog with a newsmaker role in multiple campaigns—for rolling paper, a conference call for creativity, and maybe even one more, but he irked me less than the aforementioned naked man. A detergent that went to Japan to wash clothes after the earthquake actually merited serious contemplation, too (I am the Queen of Cause, a believer that every good work should be awarded, but it smelled like corporate hijacking of the crisis to me, sitting in the south of France). What is the world coming to? Could the nearly two dozen professionals at the top of their game really be reviewing work that was meant to be game-changing but actually ended up sparking debates over appropriateness, sexuality and the like?

We had a big cultural discussion over a Japanese submission for a kids candy that took a great bow for media placement, including the cover of Playboy for the composite icon (aka teenage girl) it created as a spokesmodel. At that very moment, it was clear to me: We ain’t one world on gender or moral sensibilities or the appropriateness of the corporate hijacking of natural disasters. Even I, with real experience with Japanese marketers, was left wondering, Is Playboy different in Japan, or has this client and brand just managed to offend 20 jurors from around the globe as our one Japanese representative smiled and nodded? (He was actively supporting this campaign, which we Westerners felt was kiddie porn to sell fruit ices. Major ethical clash.)

National stereotypes, regional clusters (Latin, British and Northern European) and thinking styles all bubbled up over several days of intensely ironic judging despite having a truly excellent president of the jury in Gail Heimann, vice chair of Weber Shandwick. Most of the best entries (in my opinion) seemed to be client-free—scratch that, budget-free—so that the winning agencies could work without the normal guidelines; it does appear that corporate clients negatively affected good work, because fear is the enemy of great. The limited great work mostly came in cause and in the nonprofit categories, perhaps because the greatest risks get taken when the client (and the agency) have nothing to lose.

Several diseases and disasters and disabilities came to the fore among the shortlist (memo to self: Don’t spend time on autism, Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome or tsunamis if the goal is collecting medals, because truly great agencies in markets from Italy to Romania have already cracked those areas), and a few countries showed the best overall creativity, at least on my scorecard, such as these hands-down winners: Australia, Sweden, The Netherlands and Romania. And the Grand Prix winner came from Puerto Rico, America’s 51st state. JWT and Banco Popular took Puerto Rico’s No. 1 band, its equivalent of the Rolling Stones, and turned the lyrics of a song about laziness into an anthem for getting jobs and for changing public opinion of the country (and yes, the bank). Somehow it worked; all of us on the jury agreed on something.

I also loved two other campaigns: “Steal Banksy,” a Melbourne promotion that urged hotel guests to steal precious art, and a HEMA campaign from The Netherlands that put men in new pushup bras, proving that the company could create gorgeous cleavage out of nothing at all.

So what did I really get (besides a Cannes T-shirt) from six days in lengthy discussions?

  • Lots of respect for all my fellow jurors and an understanding that Gail could be the Henry Kissinger of the PR world
  • An awareness that cause carries the day and that there is no business like the do-good business
  • A newfound belief that we must develop insights tools to ensure that our ideas go beyond the tactic to be the big, bold ideas that change the landscape and move the needle
  • A respect for the Israeli agency Baumann Ber Rivnay Saatchi & Saatchi (admittedly an ad agency) that developed a serious winner by proving that blood is blood whether its donor is Jewish or Palestinian
  • A big question about whether the future of PR isn’t just the future of the trialogue
  • A realization that whichever agency cracks real-time conversations that extend big ideas and that has really Big Ideas will be hauling home next year’s Lions

P.S. On Monday afternoon a blogger asked me what I really took away. The answer is humility. The U.S. work couldn’t hold a candle to all those creative countries, further proving my latest trend: Small is stealth, and stealth is savvy.

[photo: Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity]

Ad Men

June has been a great month for men.

We’ve seen some amazing baseball (even if credit wasn’t given where it was due, namely to Armando Galarraga), the Stanley Cup was won in game seven and the World Cup is back.

Men have also been enjoying the spotlight in the ad space. At this year’s Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival (which, yes, opened on Father’s Day), ads featuring men have been creating quite the buzz. Although I would love for Euro RSCG to get all the credit for this, including their work“The Most Interesting Man in the World” and “The Man Who Walked Around the World,” other stellar campaigns with men at the forefront were produced by competing agencies.

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