Data analysis exposes the folly of Cannes Lions winners

vive la vulva2Those who dismiss Cannes Lions winners as creative puffery which is irrelevant to most consumers, now have evidence to back up their claims following an analysis which shows that three-quarters of ads which picked up gongs this year failed to deliver any return on investment.
Kantar analysed a total of 25 Cannes Lions 2019 winners across five markets using Link Now, its creative pre-testing solution, which measures TV, digital, outdoor and print ads’ ability to deliver against short and long-term brand goals.
Results were then benchmarked against Kantar’s database of almost 200,000 ads, including previous Cannes winners. The research found that this year’s winners were only 50% as effective at long-term brand building compared to those who won five years ago.
The study follows a recent report by marketing consultant and former strategic ad planner Peter Field, which claimed that the ad industry has reached a “crisis in creative effectiveness”.
Field, who specialises in data analysis and the link between creativity and effectiveness, studied the IPA databank and founded that creatively-awarded campaigns are no more effective than non-awarded ones.
Kantar’s analysis claims to lift the lid on where brands are missing the mark, revealing that although the winning ads are highly distinctive, the excellence often stops there.
Poor branding was identified as the key issue. Just one quarter of the 2019 Cannes Lions winners were easily linked to the brand, and in certain cases, consumers were unable to even remember what category the ad was for.
For content to be remembered in association with the brand, ads need to ensure that branding is integral to the creative, Kantar claims, and cites the Lions bronze-winning “What beer is it?” campaign for Busch Beer, as showing how this can be done. By putting the brand at the centre of the storyline, this ad scores exceptionally well for branding, ranking in the top 10% of all ads in Kantar’s database.
The content also struggled to make the brand meaningful to consumers. Just one in six ads among the Lions winners had strong potential to drive brand affinity, and less than half trigger a strong positive emotional response. The report claims that this is in part due to an over-reliance on “shock” factor to build emotional engagement. It even cites the multi-award winning Bodyform “Viva la Vulva” campaign by AMV BBDO London (pictured), which also picked up a Gold Lion, and the New York Times’ Grand Prix-winning “The Truth Is Worth It” from Droga5.
While both ads drive high levels of engagement, enjoyment levels are very low – falling into the bottom 20% – suggesting that the ads do not trigger the right emotion.
Kantar’s global head of creative Daren Poole insists that one of the key reasons is that too many creative award entries are developed purely with the aim of winning awards rather than delivering results.
“The decline in effectiveness over time is staggering. Creative content should not just be recognised for its artistry, or for tackling a serious issue, it needs to work as an investment for the brand, driving both short and long-term impact. Ads without strong branding are entertainment at best – but even then, we have seen enjoyment levels falling over time, due to the rise in ‘sadvertising’ and a decline in the number of ads using humour.
“What concerns me most is that much of the award-winning creative that we analysed is unlikely to have a strong brand effect in the short term, let alone the long term. As we see in the analysis, there’s no reason why advertisers shouldn’t aspire to winning a Cannes Lions for creativity, while also delivering brand impact. It does mean that ads need to be made for the brand and the consumer, rather than exclusively for the creative community.”
Chaindrite’s Bronze award-winning Termite-ator is the Cannes winner that stood out in Kantar’s study, overcoming the tension between the need to eradicate termites, and the ethical dilemma of doing so. Distinctive, well branded and delivering a meaningful proposition in an entertaining way, the ad proves that creative winners can also be effective, the study insists.

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