Disturbing trends in the Cannes Effectiveness Lions

by Nigel Hollis | August 13, 2018

In a previous post I mentioned that there were some disturbing trends lurking in WARC’s analysis of campaign trends from this year’s Cannes Lions. To my mind those trends say a lot about the sorry state of marketing practice today.


In the WARC report, my colleague, Graham Page, Kantar Millward Brown’s Managing Director, Offer and Innovation, focuses on the positive in his assessment of key themes from this year’s winners. He notes that news-driven motivation has a powerful impact on sales, that emotionally powerful or humorous advertising has always been effective, and that purposeful campaigns are powerful because they have meaning and command attention. All true. And all too often ignored.

In contrast to Graham’s assessment, the trends that struck me from the WARC report were far less positive.

Lack of budget

In 2018, 20 percent of shortlisted papers claimed not to have any budget, up from 8 percent the year before and reflecting a general decline in budget size. While WARC dresses up smaller marketing budgets as ‘brands become more resourceful’ I see the trend to smaller or no budgets as an outcome of the ‘do more with less’ refrain that has dogged marketing for years. Let’s be clear, the evidence finds that the odds are stacked against doing more with less. If you do not reach new buyers your brand will not grow, and while big budgets are no guarantee of success, they do help you afford the media to reach a good proportion of potential new buyers.

Short-term focus

When it comes to duration WARC does not dress up its finding that ‘short-termism dominates’. 71 percent of shortlisted campaigns had a campaign period of three months or less. That is not a campaign, it is an event. Too many marketers are focused on driving social commentary (the most popular media channel used by 86 percent of those shortlisted) which requires them to come up with a series of shareable events that fail to build brand coherence and have a cumulative impact.

Lack of effectiveness metrics

WARC definitely does not dress up this one, stating,

“Despite regular calls over the years from judges in this category wanting to see clear commercial results, many papers listed impressions as a metric for demonstrating an impact, or regarded flimsy data that was self-serving as sufficient to prove their case.”

As noted by Paula Lindenberg Vice President Marketing, AB InBev Brazil, metrics proving the impact of marketing make it easier to sell creativity and get the budgets to make it happen. But more than that, I would argue that effectiveness stems from setting the right objectives in the first place. If you know how a campaign or activity is going to make more money it makes it a whole lot easier to assess whether that campaign has been effective or not.

What do you think of my assessment of the state of marketing today? Too negative? Please share your thoughts. 


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  1. Serah Katusia , August 22, 2018

    I agree fully. Especially on effectiveness, if we have no business metrics, how do we even measure effectiveness, if these metrics were not set at the start and monitored throughout the campaign period, are they even metrics?

    3 months, it is not a campaign its an event! I love this!

  2. Rand Pearsall, August 13, 2018
    Too negative?  Not at all.  You are exactly right.  Creativity for creativity's sake has been replaced by data for data's sake.  No wonder clients think they can do this in-house by themselves. 
  3. ed williams, August 13, 2018
    Dead on Nigel.  Short term wins at the expense of long term brand building.  Those brands that do not correct course and properly measure thier marketing efforts will pay a heavy price. 

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