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Campaigning For Creativity

Since 1954, Cannes Lions has passionately supported the campaign for creativity in branded communications

We believe creativity can be a powerful force for business, for change and for good in the world. Our mission is to share this knowledge and help make the case for creativity globally by demonstrating the tangible commercial, social and cultural impact it can have.

Establishing the link between creativity and effectiveness

In a landmark 2010 whitepaper, 'The Link Between Creativity and Effectiveness', the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) merged data from 10 years of its Effectiveness Awards (which rigorously assess marketing ROI) with scores over the same period from The Gunn Report (an annual publication ranking the most creatively-awarded advertising). Their comprehensive analysis, as the title of the report suggests, conclusively showed the relationship between ‘greater’ creativity and better results. A second report was published by the IPA in June 2016, which re-examined the link between creative output and business impact in more recent campaigns. It showed:
  • Lion head blue Overall, Creatively-awarded campaigns were six times more efficient than non-awarded ones at driving market share growth. 'Selling Creativity Short,' IPA 2016
  • Lion head blue With equal investment, creatively-awarded campaigns are also more successful across business metrics like sales volume gain, market penetration, customer acquisition and loyalty. 'The Link Between Creativity and Effectiveness,' IPA, 2010
  • Lion head blue The greater the level of creativity (that is, the more major creative awards a campaign wins) the greater the level of effectiveness 'The Link Between Creativity and Effectiveness,' IPA, 2010

Creativity’s bottom line: brand new research from McKinsey & Company

At Cannes Lions 2017, McKinsey & Company’s opening keynote revealed landmark new research that demonstrates the link between companies who have sustained success at Cannes Lions and superior financial performance relative to their peer set. Using data from the Cannes Lions Archive going back 16 years, McKinsey assigned companies an Award Creativity Score (ACS) as a proxy measure of each organisation’s overall creativity.

The ACS index is determined by the number of Lions won, the breadth of Lions represented and consistency over time. This is then correlated with other measures of performance – organic revenue growth, total return to shareholders, average enterprise net value or EBITDA.

"We found that the most creative companies, based on their ACS, did better than peer firms on two key business metrics: financial performance and McKinsey’s Innovation Score."
What is fascinating about the findings is not only the proven link between creativity and success, but the fact that McKinsey were able to identify four key management practices commonly present in the more creative companies. For the first time, clients are able to use these insights to begin to answer the question: how can my business become more creative? Jason Heller, Partner and Global Lead, Digital Marketing Operations & Technology for McKinsey & Company, explains…

The business case for creativity 

The IPA's findings formed the basis for the 2011 book The Case for Creativity by James Hurman. Cannes Lions published a new edition of the book in June 2016. In it, Hurman highlights the share price performance of winners of the prestigious Creative Marketer of the Year award at Cannes Lions. The prize is awarded to the client organisation that has consistently produced outstanding creative work over the previous year. In 2016, he was joined on the Cannes Lions stage by Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall and former P&G CMO Jim Stengel.

James Hurman on stage at Cannes Lions 2016 reveals his findings about the positive correlation between the share price performance of large client companies and their creative output.

Creativity and share price

In The Case for Creativity, James Hurman assembled data over nearly 30 years and conducted his own original research into the link between creativity and commercial success. Crucially, he analysed business results from Cannes Lions’ Creative Marketers of the Year – client companies we recognise for distinguishing themselves by the quality of their campaigns and innovative marketing of their products or services.

Hurman found that the share price of 80% of winners was at its highest during the period leading up to their claiming of the award. In other words, when they were doing their most creative work, their value was at an all-time high. 
“In every case, the companies that have been most tenacious in their pursuit of great creativity have been among the ones out performing the stock market and enjoying historic periods of financial prosperity.”
James Hurman in The Case for Creativity

Hurman highlighted Procter & Gamble in his book. He explained that, under the leadership of Jim Stengel, the company transformed its traditionally conservative marketing approach and saw the results improve almost immediately.

“We doubled our size. We went from about $43 billion to about $83 billion in basically seven years. Our margins went up ten points. We went from nine billion dollar brands to 25. And our earning per share went up four-fold… There was no question about the results.” 
Jim Stengel served as the global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble from 2001 to 2008

And the trend can be clearly seen in P&G's performance in the run up to it being awarded the Cannes Lions Creative Marketer of the Year in 2008.


The trend has been observed in many other recipients of the Creative Marketer of the Year award.

The Coca-Cola Company (Creative Marketer of the Year 2013)


McDonald’s (Creative Marketer of the Year 2014)



"Creatively awarded work gives 54% higher ROI than non-creatively awarded work"
Matt Biespiel, Formerly McDonald’s Senior Director of Global Brand Development

It's a relationship that can be again observed in the performance of the the 2017 Creative Marketer of the Year: Burger King.

BurgerKing 2

Work that works

The Case for Creativity was published in 2011, and that same year Cannes Lions welcomed the Creative Effectiveness Lion into the fold. This award celebrates the union of ideas and results, and in the six years since launch, the Creative Effectiveness Lions embodies the strength of that relationship.

The Creative Effectiveness Lions celebrate the measurable impact of creativity. Entries have to demonstrate tangible and meaningful results over the long term; how the work drove genuine business effects and was instrumental to cultural change or integral in achieving brand purpose.

Creative Effectiveness is a growing Lion, with entries up 59% on 2016, proof that client and creative collaboration is stronger than ever. The nascent trend of clients entering work directly continues to grow strongly - up 69% year on year in 2017. The mission of the Creative Effectiveness Lions chimes with the Festival’s campaign for creativity as a positive force for business, and the work that wins here equips clients everywhere with the guidance and reassurance they need as they seek to become more ambitious creatively. 

Looking for more?

At Cannes Lions we are privileged to be able to take a bird’s eye view of the themes and trends that the industry is obsessing about at the Festival, both on and off the stage. We assimilate these trends, along with examples of Lion-winning work that illustrates them, and assemble them into a keynote presentation called Creativity Matters. We tour the world to share the insights as part of our year-round campaign for creativity. Over the last few years, over 30,000 people worldwide have heard this presentation, in around 20 countries.