It was the best year ever in Cannes for “Goodvertising’ cam­paigns – and it was the worst year ever

ArabAd - - CONTENTS - By Thomas Kol­ster* *Thomas Kol­ster aks Mr. Goodvertising is an au­thor, speaker, and sus­tain­abil­ity ex­pert.

Leav­ing Cannes, I feel even more schiz­o­phrenic than I did dur­ing my hard­work­ing years in ad land.

On the one hand it’s been the best year ever in the fes­ti­val’s his­tory for ad­ver­tis­ing that does more than sell snake oil, call it ‘Goodvertising’ if you will (do­ing good for peo­ple & planet = do­ing good for brand & bot­tom line).

On the other hand, it seems like most agen­cies and mar­keters are treat­ing the big­gest is­sues of our time as a new trend, as if do­ing good is sim­ply the ‘new black’ or per­haps pink (judg­ing from the num­ber of fe­male equal­ity cam­paigns on show).

Like ev­ery brand in the 90s was all about lifestyle, it seems like brands to­day are firmly on the so­cial is­sues band­wagon like bees around a honey pot (even though the bees are also a cause we should worry about). Yes, it’s great that more ad­ver­tis­ers sup­port these is­sues, but be­fore you count the record-high num­ber of ‘Good’ medals awarded, like beads on a rosary, we’re still too full of shit!

Sorry, there are too many gim­micks, too lit­tle sub­stance – or as I wrote in my Cannes Li­ons predictions: too much roar­ing, too lit­tle bite.


What hap­pened to the ele­phant in the room: con­sump­tion? If we as an in­dus­try don’t find so­lu­tions to the ram­pant over­con­sump­tion we’re pro­po­nents of, we’re just slowly but surely saw­ing off the very branch we’re sit­ting on.

How many Li­ons tack­led the con­sump­tion is­sue? Or sus­tain­able trans­for­ma­tion un­rav­el­ing ev­ery­thing we know? How many key­notes in the Palais ad­dressed this much-needed change? Or brought at­ten­tion to the new 17 Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals?

We need more de­bates, we need more key­notes, we need more cre­ative so­lu­tions em­brac­ing sus­tain­able trans­for­ma­tion, cir­cu­lar con­sump­tion, the shar­ing econ­omy, new ma­te­ri­als, re­new­ables and eco­nomic equal­ity etc. So­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal en­trepreneurs are solv­ing things, while ad land per­pet­u­ates more stunts with lit­tle to no ef­fect.


Sus­tain­abil­ity is not an in­stant Si­mon Sinek pur­pose or a way to roll the brand in honey to make it oh-so-sweet. Our in­dus­try is faced with a rel­e­vance cri­sis. As the sus­tain­able rev­o­lu­tion is un­fold­ing, peo­ple are ask­ing brands: our world, our coun­tries, our com­mu­ni­ties are be­com­ing a dump, what are you do­ing about it?

One-offs like ‘Fear­less Girl’ for State Global Ad­vi­sors with a male-dom­i­nated lead­er­ship team (only five women out of a lead­er­ship team of 28) is not cre­at­ing

last­ing change – al­though it is ad­mit­tedly a po­etic and artis­tic piece of work.

We can con­tinue to put the spotlight on some of the world’s burn­ing is­sues from the refugee cri­sis (like Amnesty’s Refugee Na­tion) to so­cial equal­ity (Chan­nel 4’s We’re the Su­per­hu­mans), but talk is not enough nei­ther for our planet nor for peo­ple, who WILL call out the talk­ing heads.

Ad land was too slow to em­brace digital and now his­tory re­peats it­self with the sus­tain­able trans­for­ma­tion. We’re miss­ing out on what’s truly go­ing to rev­o­lu­tionise busi­nesses over the next 30 years: cli­mate change and re­source scarcity, ur­ban­i­sa­tion, de­mo­graphic change and eco­nomic shifts to­wards the de­vel­op­ing world. Sim­ply telling sto­ries about these things is not enough. What are brands ac­tu­ally do­ing?


A medal won at Cannes, a sales peak or short-term busi­ness suc­cess is no longer enough as Ford showed us three weeks ago, when it got rid of its chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Fields de­spite him de­liv­er­ing record prof­its. His re­place­ment was out­sider Jim Hack­ett, who came to Ford last year to over­see the com­pany’s self-driv­ing car ef­forts. Ford no longer sees it­self as a car com­pany, but a mo­bil­ity com­pany. And as the sky-high val­u­a­tion of Tesla shows us, sales are far from the only indicator of a com­pany’s value. Tesla is eval­u­ated higher than Ford de­spite sell­ing only 5% the num­ber of cars. The win­ners in this space are those brands that are able to ar­tic­u­late a co­her­ent vi­sion for the fu­ture – and de­liver on it!


I don’t want to sound grumpy and dooms­day-like and I truly want to ap­plaud all the brands and agen­cies that dared to em­brace a new mar­ket­ing model and matched it with cre­ative ex­cel­lence, well done! But let’s not rest on our lau­rels, we have big­ger and more chal­leng­ing Li­ons to hunt.

The work that ex­cites me the most moves be­yond gim­micks and blow­ing the cause trum­pet and rather de­liv­ers real im­pact while of­ten be­ing scal­able. This is not about cam­paigns with a de­fined start and end date, but pro­grammes that de­liver last­ing change like Whirlpool’s Care Counts (mak­ing sure im­pov­er­ished kids in the US go to school), Tigo-une’s Pay­phone bank (cre­at­ing bank­ing in­fras­truc­ture for the poor), Boost Mobile’s Boost your voice (en­sur­ing not only eas­ier, but equal ac­cess to vot­ing in the US), Savlon’s Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks (im­prov­ing hy­giene through play), Fair­phone (a mod­u­lar phone made out of con­flict free ma­te­ri­als) or Aland In­dex (link­ing pur­chases with car­bon emis­sions to make en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age vis­i­ble to peo­ple).

These pro­grammes de­liver real value to peo­ple’s lives, rather than just talk­ing about is­sues or that old ch­est­nut: rais­ing aware­ness.


As the dis­cus­sion this year emerged around trans­form­ing Cir­cus Cannes or even can­ning Cannes, I’d sug­gest sus­tain­abil­ity play an all-im­por­tant role. As the ad­vi­sory board mem­bers are ap­pointed for this piv­otal Cannes trans­for­ma­tion task, I’ll be ex­cited to count the high num­ber of ad­vi­sors bring­ing sus­tain­abil­ity to the ta­ble as well as of course ap­plaud­ing the gen­der di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion.

In many ways Cannes can be viewed as a sym­bol of the greater cri­sis in ad­ver­tis­ing, our very own Tower of Ba­bel, so as I praise mar­keters and agen­cies mov­ing in a bet­ter di­rec­tion, let’s see if the in­dus­try is truly ready to sing to a dif­fer­ent tune: sell­ing more shit to peo­ple who don’t need it or truly en­abling a bet­ter life and a bet­ter planet?

I don’t want to sound grumpy and dooms­day­like and I truly want to ap­plaud all the brands and agen­cies that dared to em­brace a new mar­ket­ing model and matched it with cre­ative ex­cel­lence, well done! But let’s not rest on our lau­rels, we have big­ger and more chal­leng­ing Li­ons to hunt. Thomas Kol­ster

Chan­nel 4’s We’re the Su­per­hu­mans cam­paign

Fear­less Girl’ for State Global Ad­vi­sors

Tigo-une’s Pay­phone bank

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