To the Cannes Victor Go the Spoils

Those celebratory late nights at the Gutter Bar are behind us. Now it’s time to take a more clear-eyed view of whether the award-winning work at Cannes actually delivered on the objectives shaped by the marketers who bankroll the work-people, by the way, who increasingly have made their presence known at the annual sojourn.

Marketers started to pay attention to the festival after Procter & Gamble sent top marketing execs to France in 2003. Others followed suit. This year, reps from 400 client organizations attended, accounting for 15 percent of the delegate base, an amount expected to double within five years, according to Phil Thomas, CEO, Cannes Lions.

Clients “want a better understanding of what creativity can do for their brands,” noted Thomas.

Their growing influence is being felt in the way Cannes recognizes work. For one, Thomas said the festival is considering the launch of a Creative Effectiveness Lion next year. While award applicants in some categories are asked to supply some proof of results, the new award would have a more precise mechanism to make the correlation. (The details are still being worked out.)
For now, it appears that a Cannes win doesn’t necessarily boost sales.

For instance, P&G picked up the Film Grand Prix this year for Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” spot from Wieden + Kennedy. Launched in February, it’s racked up nearly 12.2 million YouTube views. But in the 52 weeks ended June 13, sales of the featured product, Red Zone After Hours Body Wash, have dropped 7 percent, per SymphonyIRI (this excludes those sold at Walmart). P&G execs were not available to comment.

Another hit was Gatorade’s “Replay,” which scored a Promo and PR Grand Prix; a gold Lion in Integrated; and a silver Lion in Media. TBWA\Chiat\Day brought back rival high-school football teams — from Easton, Pa., and Phillipsburg, N.J. — now in their mid-30s, to replay a game in April ’09 in front of 15,000 fans. The promotional program, however, was launched in January ’09. Fascination for the game didn’t translate off-field: Gatorade sales fell 8.5 percent in the 52 weeks ended Jan. 24, per Mintel. (TBWA, however, said regional sales increased 63 percent after the game.)

But Lauren Fritts, Gatorade’s manager, emerging content, pointed to a bonanza of free media: The event was named one of CNN’s top stories of 2009 and picked up as a reality TV series by Fox Sports Net.

In other cases, a Cannes winner scored sales gains as well. For instance, Nike’s “Chalkbot” campaign at the 2009 Tour de France from Wieden, which featured a machine that left inspiring, chalk-written messages on the course, coincided with a 46 percent jump in sales for Nike’s Livestrong Collection, generating $4 million for Lance Armstrong’s fight against cancer.

But Doug Ulman, CEO of the cyclist’s cancer foundation, asked, “Was the success because of the campaign or Lance’s return to the tour? It’s hard to know.”

In another case where creative success seemed to dovetail with business success, Crispin Porter + Bogusky took home the Titanium Grand Prix for Best Buy’s launch last July of Twelpforce. A year later, Twelpforce counts 27,000 followers and has generated 30,000 Tweets. The TV spots for the launch closed showing a laptop, which also may have helped back-to-school business, with laptop sales exceeding the retailer’s goal by 40 percent, per Crispin.

Meanwhile, one of the year’s most whimsical efforts, Volkswagen Sweden’s “Fun Theory” from DDB Stockholm, also provided strong ROI. That push, which turned a stairwell in a subway into a keyboard to encourage people to take the stairs, has logged 19 million views on YouTube since its October release. The pitch, which won a Cyber Grand Prix, also posted strong sales: VW’s overall share of the Swedish market  more than tripled to 13 percent in the first six months of this year, as sales rose 58 percent, per DDB Stockholm.

Mark Tutssel, Burnett’s global CCO and a Cannes judge, said that despite the occasional exception, Cannes winners tend to be solid business successes. In previous years, Burnett has conducted surveys tracking award-winning ads with business performance. In its most recent survey, Burnett found an 86 percent correlation between award-winning work and effectiveness, up from 78 percent in 1997, the first year of the study.

“As Cannes evolves, it reflects the changes in our industry,” said Tutssel. It used to be that “the real world of advertising was about how well [an ad] sells. And then there [were ads just] designed to win awards. It’s no longer an either/or situation.”

See also: “All the Best in Film From Cannes 2010”