This time last month, many marketing and communications professionals had just returned from Cannes, France, where they had attended the annual Lions Awards Festival. They are now back in their offices and have probably been comparing their own communications to this year’s winners and wondering what they can do to get one of these coveted prizes in the near future.
For the rest of us, we are also looking at the winners, but more for gathering learnings on how to make our own communications more creative and impactful, without any ambition of winning a Lions one day.
That is why I decided to review a selection of the Press Lions Category and analyse how they might appeal to their target customers. I found three dominant themes running through all the prize-winners, some of which even incorporated several of them in one single campaign. If you’d like to see all the winning ads from these campaigns they can be found in the AdWeek article linked above.
1. Simple & clear messaging
We are all in a hurry these days; we have far too much to do and so we no longer read with as much attention as we did in the past. Today we just skim headlines and articles, and quickly decide whether they’re worth digging into in more detail or whether to pass over to the next one. It is therefore essential that ads communicate their message in a way that is quick to read, understand and capture. Examples of this from amongst the print winners:
Harvey Nichols - Grand Prix Campaign
These are clean, simple ads showing nicely packaged but cheap seasonal gifts, because you decided to #SpendItOnYourself, as the campaign is entitled. The eye is naturally drawn to the simple red words, since the articles themselves are white on a white background. The reader gets the message and immediately thinks whether they too could give such items, but then also reflect on why they don’t spend (more) on treating themselves. This feel-good reaction makes for good recall of the campaign as well as the positive image transfer to Harvey Nichols.
Zwilling J. A. Henckels – Gold Lion Campaign
Rather than saying how sharp these high-end knives are, this is illustrated by the incredibly thin slices of different foods shown in the campaign. The thin slices are then overlapped to show the shape of the blade and the text below is kept in the form of the handle. The artful design of the whole ad further complements the idea that these are special – definitely not cheap – knives, for connaisseurs only.
2. Emotional resonance
The UK was one of the first countries to use shock tactics in their road safety and other public service campaigns. Stimulating people’s emotions is guaranteed to get ads noticed and remembered, but it doesn’t all have to be negative. Examples from amongst the winners:
Shanghai General Motors / Buick - Gold Lion Campaign
These ads show real people who have been injured in road accidents, holding up the signs that the drivers that hit them had ignored. The tagline “Signs are there for a reason” is clear and simple, and the images of the injured people emotionally impactful. The reader immediately thinks about occasions when they too have driven recklessly, but were lucky enough not to have injured anyone. The impact of the visuals remains long after the reader has turned the page.
Volkswagen - Gold Lion Campaign
A completely different and definitely light-hearted approach to travel is taken by Volkswagen in this winning campaign. They show how getting from one place to another can be fun in these playful, product-free ads. The visuals appeal as the viewer takes the extra few seconds to understand it and then takes away the message that driving a Polo GTI is fun too.
3. Confirming intellectual superiority
In today’s overcrowded urban areas, people look for ways to differentiate and prove themselves, whether physically or intellectually. This is one of the reasons that gaming has become so popular in all age groups. Finding the hidden signs in an image or understanding a play on words in an ad can increase the engagement, provided of course that they are neither too difficult nor too easy to solve. Examples from amongst the print winners:
Jeep - Gold Lion Campaign
This campaign includes ads that are both a play on words and images, doubly clever. Jeep shows images of animals which, when inverted became different animals or birds. The tag line “See whatever you want to see” refers to both this as well as to the advantage of the Jeep to place the driver higher up, with better visibility.
Penguin Group China - Gold Lion Campaign
At first you might find these Penguin ads rather crowded and confusing, and therefore you don’t immediately “get” the joke – I admit it took me a few seconds!. But look carefully and you will see penguins holding microphone booms in otherwise classical illustrations of well-known literature. The ads are for Penguin’s new audiobooks and are a clever and amusing way to communicate the novelty.
To sum up my findings from this quick analysis, the winners have three points in common:
- Their messages are clear and simple to understand
- They connect emotionally with their audience
- They offer the viewer something in return for their looking at it
All these ads clearly demonstrate that working with customer understanding and insight increases the likelihood that your communications will resonate with your target customers. Now we need to wait until next year to see how well these ads perform in impacting the sales and images of the brands. Which of these will be the real winners of Cannes? I would love to hear what you think.
If you would like in improving your own communications, or in understanding and engaging with your customers, whether using traditional or new media, then why not give us a call? Let us catalyze your own communications with some of our unique tools; contact us here.
C³Centricity uses images from Forbes and AdWeek in this post.