Cannes Communiqué: And the Winner Is . . .

Turnabout is fair play, they say, and I have to admit it was more than a little satisfying to be on the other side of client presentations for a change.

As written earlier, Ketchum served as global sponsor for the Cannes Lions Young Marketers Competition, which saw two-person teams from client organizations from 17 countries competing to produce the perfect brief. Each team qualified by winning its national competitions, making Cannes something like the Olympics of marketing communications.

The assignment was no walk on the beach. Each team was given two days to develop a concept for a new product or service its company could launch locally or internationally, with the profits to go to a fitting charitable cause. Then they had to write a two-page brief for a marketing communications agency, supplemented by a presentation not to exceed eight slides.

I sat through, along with Rachel Hatton, U.K. planning director for Ogilvy and Mather, and Eric Einhorn, global strategy director for McCann Worldwide, 17 presentations from 17 countries, and, believe it or not, the time flew by. The product ideas: brilliant. And the briefs, for the most part, were clear, directive and inspirational.

The whole idea was to teach up-and-coming marketing rock stars how to get the best out of their agencies, and I think we (a) got more than our money’s worth with the sponsorship, (b) would be thrilled to work with just about any of them as their agency, and (c) should be gratified to see how many of them saw earned media as essential in their briefs (13 of 17, to be exact).

Note: The campaigns described below are conceptual only and are not real campaigns that are being implemented.

The bronze winners were Team Brazil, from the country’s dominant processed food company, Sadia. The new product: a line of healthy, nutritious soups called Warm Hug, with profits going to benefit Brazil’s leading homeless assistance NGO, Plate of Soup.

The silver went to one I personally thought was inspired. Team Belarus, from beer and soft drinks maker Heineken, developed a Goodberry and cranberry drink made from cranberries from the countries eroding and endangered wetlands area, with proceeds going to Wetlands International.

And the winner, which was recognized Saturday night on the main stage at the festival’s grand finale: Team Phillippines from Del Monte, the food and beverage manufacturer. Their product concept: a new juice cocktail made from mangos, papayas and pineapples, all harvested from the Mindanao region, long tormented by internecine war among Catholics, Muslims and indigenous tribes. The profits go to the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, dedicated to establishing peace in the area. Three juices, one drink, for peace among the three peoples.

You’ll soon be able to see the full briefs on the Cannes Lions site, and I think much of what is shown or celebrated at the festival soon becomes best practice in the wider world. Here’s a preview:

  1. Integration. PR is now part of the mix. We’ll need to (a) fight to retain it, as lots of others will be offering it, and (b) learn how to make it work seamlessly with other channels.

  2. Purpose. The competitors were instructed to produce briefs with a charitable cause for a reason: purpose-driven marketing (and sustainable capitalism) is on everyone’s agenda. I’m not saying every program we develop needs to tie back to a charity, but every program should be developed with society’s wider interests in mind.

  3. Creativity everywhere. The top three finishers were from emerging markets and their innovation and inspiration were world-class, not just “good for a poor country.” Watch out, world. 

On a smaller note: all 17 of them were able to describe a brand-new product AND an integrated communications brief in eight slides or fewer. Surely we can start answering with a similar number?