Cannes Lions International Festival of Purpose 2019

By Mitch Wiffin (Senior Account Manager)

Ever since the previously separate, ‘Lions Health’ event aligned itself with the main festival in 2017, brands and campaigns with a ‘purpose’ have been a salient theme for both judges and entrants of the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

2019 saw no signs of this trend slowing with 22 of a total 27 Grand Prix awards (up from 14 of 30 in 2018, and 10 of 23 in 2017) going to brands that associated themselves with some form of social or political purpose.

A notable 2019 Grand Prix winner who highlighted the social and business impacts of backing ‘purpose’ was Nikes ‘Dream Crazy’ campaign. A campaign which heroes’ black rights activist and NFL player Collin Kaepernick and his decision to kneel during the national anthem in protest of the systematic racism against African-Americans. A move that saw Nike stocks rise to an all-time high and sparked national debate that even the United States President got involved in.

Another was The Female Companies ‘Tampon Book’ which highlighted the unfair ‘luxury’ tax on tampons in Germany, a move that ultimately lead to the German committee of legal affairs debating the taxations of female hygiene products.

Both positive and meaningful usage of ‘purpose’.

However, in an industry known for its transfer propaganda, some argue that brands who associate themselves with “false-purpose” are quickly turning this seemingly positive trend into a double-edged sword. When Unilever CEO, Alan Jope sat in on a round table at this year’s festival, Jope expressed both his excitement and concern.

“Purpose is one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve seen for this industry in my 35 years of marketing,” Jope told the crowd at Cannes Lions.

“Done properly, done responsibly, it will help us restore trust in our industry, unlock greater creativity in our work, and grow the brands we love.”

But with fake news, and virtual signaling being growing topics of concern around the world, Jope also held strong views on brands who “woke-wash” and dealt with “false purpose”.

“It’s putting in peril the very thing which offers us the opportunity to help tackle many of the world’s issues. What’s more, it threatens to further destroy trust in our industry, when it’s already in short supply.”

Consumers have already shown that getting ‘purpose’ wrong can have detrimental effects on business, with Pepsi’s consumer perception dropping to a 10-year low after the brief release of their ‘Live for now’ commercial featuring Kendal Jenner, uniting protesters and police officers with nothing but a can of Pepsi Cola.

But with 2019 global ad spend predicted to exceed $800 billion NZD the trend of ‘purpose’ is poised to have global influence, whichever way the industry decides to tip it.

Date: July 15, 2019