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Keeping up with the consumers

Motivate’s digital marketing manager Anusha Azees found the conversation at the Lions was about more than raw creativity. Conscience trumps purpose, measurement matters and the customer can’t be conned

Motivate’s digital marketing manager Anusha Azees found the conversation at the Lions was about more than raw creativity. Conscience trumps purpose, measurement matters and the customer can’t be conned

Beaches. Yachts. The South of France.

Add the top creatives and marketers from around the world to the mix and you have the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity 2019.

It is fun on the outside and deeply fragmented on the inside. While the sessions were diverse, the underlying themes and focus areas for brands and agencies echoed those we face in the MENA region.

Purpose. Purpose. Purpose.

Millennials care about the world they live in and want to make it a better place. With speakers throwing out stats such as 70 per cent of millennials prefer brands with a cause, and 9/10 people favour a brand that stands for something bigger than itself, ‘purpose’ was the Kim Kardashian of buzzwords – from tackling bias to diversity, gender inequality, racism, ageism, climate change and everything else in between. Humour lost out to purpose this year with the juries favouring causes and activism over clever campaigns that make you smile.

FMCG giant P&G, under marketing head Marc Pritchard, is focusing on quality of content. ‘Re-imagining creativity’ is woven into its brand direction, and ‘brands for good’ and ‘brands for growth’ are at the heart of its messaging. It will be interesting to see how the company explores bias, inclusion and diversity in the MENA region using local insights, while being culturally sensitive.

Several speakers mentioned Nissan’s #SheDrives by TBWA, which has already done this effectively. And the region’s first Grand Prix was won by Impact BBDO with a cause-driven campaign: Blank Edition for An-Nahar newspaper. The region is ready. The world is ready. We need more brave, purpose-driven campaigns that are authentic to the region and, more importantly, driven by regional insights.

A few disclaimers here, though. Brands shouldn’t rush blindly on to the purpose band wagon. Let’s be honest, people generally don’t give a damn about what we do. As marketers, we are only trying to make things interesting and relevant enough for our audiences to care about us. So that the next time they are looking at swiping their credit card they swipe it for us.

It has to be real. It has to make sense for the brand and its consumers. Because consumers aren’t idiots. They can smell insincerity from a mile away. So don’t con your clients or your consumers with just the talk. If you feel having a purpose isn’t true to your brand, that’s OK too. Troy Ruhanen, global CEO of TBWA, said: “Not all brands need to have a purpose, but they do need a conscience.”

Just because purpose is cool now doesn’t necessarily mean it’s for everyone. Will I consider buying a lipstick brand that is sustainable? Maybe. Will I buy it because it’s the right shade of red, lasts me all day and hydrates my lips? Yes.

Purpose is cool. Perspective and self-awareness are better.

Be creative… but make it measurable

Data-driven me is going to make an assumption here that 80 per cent of people reading this have at some point given or received a brief that used award-winning, brilliant creative work as an example. Everyone loves creativity. A great story engages people. We all talk about it. We share it. We argue over it. We wish we had done it. But how often do we put our money and budgets around it, or are willing to take a risk?

While Cannes Lions had no shortage of enviable work, it was interesting to note that measurement was an important factor in deciding creative success.

Be it the tweet from Colin Kaepernick to kickstart Nike’s campaign that eventually lifted sales and stock market shares, or Burger King’s Detour campaign that took subversive advertising to a whole new level by sending customers to competitor stores to activate in-app deals, measurable impact was just as important as social media buzz in defining success.

It all came down to defining from the beginning what was being measured, how it would be measured and what would be defined as successful. Defining measurement gives creativity the direction to drive business goals. And one size does not fit all targets either. Wendy’s, for example, decided to focus on getting the attention of hungry gamers. To reinstate its brand value of ‘fresh, not frozen’, the burger chain created an avatar in the video game Fortnite that looked like the Wendy’s girl, and all she did was destroy refrigerators. Within 24 hours, other gamers noticed this and joined in on the fun. Long story short, Fortnite has now removed its refrigerators because it wanted people to focus more on the game. Effective enough to drive conversation amongst a specific target audience. Who says playing games can’t win you awards?

Privacy and brand safety

GDPR is here to stay. Trust, credibility and data security have become key components of best practice. Which means brands will now have to focus on creating and sharing relevant and engaging content for their audiences. Opt-ins will have to be strictly enforced, especially in the Middle East, where SMS spamming has become the norm. Control is shifting back to the consumers. Marketers and agencies will have to look into their data and digital marketing processes more closely to be compliant.

Brand safety is a concern with the rise of programmatic and a loss of control over what content ads will sit next to. P&G is tackling these risks with an audit process and is compiling a list of brand-safe platforms across the globe. Customer experience of the context and environment a brand is seen in is as important to the brand as the messaging itself.

Better be safe than sorry.

As marketing managers and agencies in the region, we have a long way to go to catch-up with global best practices. For me, the biggest takeaway was less talking, more doing. Let’s cut out the waffle now, shall we?