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Inside guide to Creative Effectiveness

Cannes Lions Director of Awards Simon Cook answers all the questions you've always wanted to ask

What Simon and his team don’t know about the Lions isn’t worth knowing. We decided it was time their knowledge was shared with the world. This week: Creative Effectiveness

created on Tuesday 7 Feb 2017

"The Creative Effectiveness Lions are the best way of demonstrating the commercial value of marketing to the CEO, CFO and procurement."
Gurdeep Puri aka Mr Effectiveness
The 2016 Creative Effectiveness Jury. Andrew Robertson (top centre, six from right) was Jury President. 

The Creative Effectiveness Lion, sometimes known as ‘Creff’ was born in 2011. It is the clearest example of how Cannes Lions believes in the value of creativity for business, for change and for good in the world. 

As you can imagine, this is an award that gets clients particularly excited. It's the Lion which speaks their language, and clients now feature on the jury line-up. In 2015 we appointed our first ever client Jury President: Wendy Clark, then CMO of the Coca-Cola Company. That year the Creff Lion received a record number of submissions, sending a clear signal that brands were part of the new generation of campaigners for creativity. 

Mr Effectiveness, by Simon Cook

"Well crafted Creative Effectiveness papers become collateral for marketers to break that boardroom ceiling."
Gurdeep Puri
For two days in June, the international planning elite meet to deliberate the business-driving performance of some of the most creatively awarded work on the planet. They are fiercely intelligent. The level of debate is high and the atmosphere electric. 

It's Wednesday during 2016 Festival week, and I’m on my way to see one of the 'Inside the Jury Room' sessions: a behind-the-scenes, panel with members of the Creative Effectiveness jury, fresh from their intense judging experience. It’s really insightful stuff as you might imagine. 

“Mr Cook!” someone shouts as I hurry down the Croisette. It’s a familiar voice accompanied by the simultaneous screech of bicycle brakes as Gurdeep Puri appears, almost magically, at my side. As usual he doesn’t wait for me to respond, and just launches straight into an animated monologue:

“Clients eh? I was just telling someone, the problem is, marketers are overwhelmed by the magnitude of data and the exponential rate at which technology is evolving. Then there’s the number of channels available and the fragmentation both on the agency and client side is really not helping!”

Gurdeep Puri is possibly the most effervescent and relentless person I know. He's crazy smart too, although he'd have you believe that his colleagues at The Effectiveness Partnership are the real brains of the outfit. “I'm just the court jester,” he assures me. “It runs in the family. My sister is a famous Bollywood actress.”

His is a career path which has touched ship brokering, institutional banking, research, and then what he calls “the glorious world of advertising!” His enthusiasm is indefatigable: he lives and breathes effectiveness. Well versed in statistics, econometrics and forecasting, Mr Effectiveness is on a mission: to embed the culture of effectiveness into the organisation of every client and agency worldwide. 

He's not your usual planner type: he often sports a summer scarf, frequently lunches at the Wolseley and sends bottles of pink champagne as gifts. He's also the only person I know who rents a bike in Cannes, literally peddling his wares along the Croisette. 

“The problem with a lot of these Effectiveness papers,” he explains at his trademark break-neck speed, “is that they’re full of what I call 'luvvie' metrics. There’s no clear explanation of the strategic development of creative. It’s getting there, but I still see submissions that don’t hang together well, and don't have the mustard to be taken into the client boardroom.”  

Gurdeep works closely with Cannes Lions to connect our Creff entrants with experts from the world of strategy and planning to help them improve the quality of their Effectiveness papers. It’s a truly invaluable service for first time paper writers.

We ditch the bike, enter the Palais and shuffle downstairs to catch the tail end of the panel session. Within seconds of finding a seat, Gurdeep is already deep in one-way conversation with the person next to him: “So you realise, the Creative Effectiveness Lions are the best way of demonstrating the commercial value of marketing to the CEO, CFO and Procurement. These awards are not just about your moment in the spotlight and agency celebration. Well crafted Creative Effectiveness papers become collateral for marketers to break that boardroom ceiling…’ The unsuspecting delegate’s mouth hangs open. I’ve seen this before. A confused mix of bewilderment and awe in the presence of Mr Effectiveness. 

As Mr Effectiveness, few work harder than Gurdeep to champion the importance of creative work that works. He gets it. He’s just waiting for everyone else to catch up. He is without doubt, a champion for creativity. Say hello if you see him peddle by.

The Creative Effectiveness Lion: essential information

"In short, it’s creative work that works."
Simon Cook, Cannes Lions
Cannes Lions: Let’s start with the official definition of the Creative Effectiveness Lion: 

Simon Cook: “The Creative Effectiveness Lions celebrate the measurable impact of creativity. The work will need to demonstrate hard results over the long term; that is how the work drove tangible business effects, was instrumental to cultural change or integral in the achievement of brand purpose.”

CL: And what does that mean in reality? 

SC: “In short, it’s creative work that works. The key word being ‘creative’. This Lion is the only global award that truly recognises the direct correlation between highly creative, award-winning work and business driving results. You must have already been shortlisted or won a Lion the previous year to be eligible.

That correlation is so important. Just look at all the recipients of our Creative Marketer of the Year Award – a single, highly coveted accolade that we present to a brand marketer each year in recognition of an impressive body of award winning work. An independent commentator carried out a study on this award and he discovered that each recipient (like Honda, Nike, P&G, Coca-Cola) were experiencing a share price three times more than the average at the time of receiving the award. Sorry, I’ve gone off topic...

CL: Don’t worry. You were telling us about the link between creativity and effectiveness: 
SC: Yes. It’s an important relationship, and the Creative Effectiveness Lion celebrates that very powerful link. BBDO’s Andrew Robertson, the 2016 Creff Jury President, summed it up for me. He said, ‘Simon, this is the single most important award at Cannes because these Lions prove why the rest of all this can happen and should happen.’” 

CL: Surely it’s impossible to compare two campaigns that were measured in different ways. How does the judging process work? 

SC: “Well first of all entries in this category need to write a paper, or a story, as I like to call it. It’s so important that these things have a narrative. Facts and numbers are critical of course, but you need that story as the backbone. It’s a lot of work but it’s also a very educational and rewarding process. The paper will be assessed by a multi-disciplinary jury made of clients, planners, strategists and creatives. They represent some of the sharpest minds in our industry.

In terms of comparisons, until this year, all entries sat together in one big, single category. Our juries were finding it increasingly difficult to judge like for like so we’ve categorised things a bit to make their lives easier, and to ensure the value of the Lion. We now have creative effectiveness for marketing; global and regional specific results; longer-term effectiveness; and creative effectiveness for good.

As you’d expect, results need to be solid and proven but many entries now focus on brand-building stories that deliver awareness and engagement - campaigns that have not only demonstrated commercial success but have also forged a meaningful, long term relationship with consumers. So it’s also about shifting culture – and being able to prove that. “ 

CL: What key piece of advice would you give to anyone entering Creative Effectiveness? 

“Start early, collaborate and use all of the resources available to you. Entering has the effect of bringing agencies and their clients together to collaborate on submissions – which is a valuable process that in itself educates. If you’re eligible, you should have received an invite. If not, contact me directly if you like! We’ll give you all the info you need. If you’ve never written a paper before – don’t be put off. The Awards team here offer support and can connect you with an expert in the field who will advise and guide you through the process and help make your paper shine!

We realise that writing an effectiveness paper can be quite an undertaking. To help people craft their entry, we’ve introduced the Creative Effectiveness Advisory Scheme, matching entrants with world-class planning and strategy gurus who mentor people through the process – free of charge. It’s a service still in place today. People just need to email me for details.”

2016 Silver Creative Effectiveness Lion - Rabbit Race, by Media Markt. See the full credits on the Cannes Lions Archive 

Lots of help and advice is available for this and all the Lions from our Awards Team or in the Awards section. You can also see previous Creff winners on the Cannes Lions Archive