The Cannes Lions 2017 Debate: Creativity Versus Efficiency

While some guests left the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the advertising world's annual celebration of groundbreaking campaigns, feeling inspired, others left wondering if they will be returning next year. It's now more important than ever before for marketers to prove the business value of their efforts and spending. Gaudy productions with no direct ties to business gains are on the way out, while digital campaigns are on their way in. Read on to find out how social media is changing the advertising world.

The Cannes Lions 2017 Debate: Creativity Versus Efficiency

It’s no secret that many advertising agencies begin their creative endeavours with the vision of a Cannes Lion award in hand. It’s often the light at the end of the tunnel, with late nights, an overdose of caffeinated beverages, and episodes of writer’s block in between.

Cannes is just a symbol for the wider dilemma that traditional advertising is facing in the wake of the digital age. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for advertisers (brands with a product to push) and agencies to justify their expensive traditional means when they can’t clearly be tied to business growth. Spending thousands of dollars on production and media spots is becoming a harder sell for both agencies and CMOs these days.

Why create a single piece of content for everyone when you can deliver highly targeted and relevant content to each segment of your audience? That’s what social and digital give you.

Meanwhile, traditional advertising is often a one-size-fits-all message, one that isn’t relevant to every segment of your audience. With social media, marketers can strategically target audiences based on likes, interests, behavior, and demographics with a relevant message for each segment.

Anything and everything you’ve ever wanted to know about your costly billboards or television spot can be discovered through social media analytics. What’s more? You can A/B test and get to the heart of what’s working. If a specific ad isn’t performing well with a particular segment of your audience, you can adjust without consequences and repeat this process until you get it right. Compare this to the fiasco that PepsiCo endured this year with their Kendall Jenner ad this year. These are freedoms that traditional advertising methods simply aren’t able to offer. 


Even events like Cannes are recognizing how important the bottom line is becoming for CMOs. The Creative Effectiveness category exists for the sole purpose of demonstrating how advertising and marketing entries succeeded in creating a campaign that generated business results. This is becoming an essential component for nearly all advertising today, while at Cannes it’s just one category out of 24.

However, AdAge reports that only 20-30% of Cannes entries fall under this category, and have actually decreased year over year. This is another indicator that driving sales or business impact is not a priority for brand and their agencies participating in Cannes. The shiny trophy and moment in the spotlight are likely the real motivators for participation.

Grand Prix winner is proof that you don’t need an enormous budget to be innovative – their winning entry “Innovating Saving” says it all. The start-up retailer took to social media to spread their humorous message about their “super bowls” during Super Bowl, one of the most expensive advertising days of the year without spending millions of dollars. Their YouTube commercial was watched 2.4 million times with over 20 million earned impressions. Their brand gained massive exposure and increased mentions on Twitter by 139%. Even their website traffic rose by 52% which is especially important for online retailers like This is just one example that illustrates the importance of social media and demonstrates how a clever campaign that resonates with audiences can go viral and garner tangible results.

If there is one thing that is certain, it’s clients and agencies will need to adapt their strategy to thrive in the new technologically savvy world. The attention span of customers are dwindling while the demand for tailored content is becoming the norm – mass media just isn’t cutting it. Companies can benefit by striving to create a holistic approach that smartly integrates traditional media with social media, but the real takeaway here is that playing in the digital arena can no longer be avoided. If you want to reach your customers, you need to go social. As we have learned through studying great social media campaigns – bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes you can get more by having a lot less.

Social Media Marketing Manager

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