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The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity brings together professionals working in the creative space. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/FRANCOIS G DURAND
The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity brings together professionals working in the creative space. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/FRANCOIS G DURAND

Advertising’s global high table has been cleared for another year, with SA agencies doing well in the Cannes Lions awards feast and the industry agreeing that brands have no choice but to link sustainability to all future creative solutions in a changed operating environment.

According to the Lions State of Creativity Study released just before the event in the south of France, consumers now expect brands to step up to address questions such as climate issues. The report says: “Brands are turning to creativity to make sustainable initiatives more inventive, authentic and impactful. We’ve seen creativity help provide alternatives to plastic, provide low-cost solar energy to rural communities, and deliver real-time upcycling of clothing in-store.”

The report also gives useful insight into the operational mindset of advertising agencies. Brands looking for new partners would do well to take note.

The industry is clearly grappling with the pandemic-driven work-from-home concept, with close on 80% of agencies citing working styles and environment as either critical to their future knowledge or something they want to learn more about.

Allied to that, 70% say personal development is a very or extremely critical area in which they need to upskill the workforce in 2022. Many agencies, including those in SA, are seen as output sweatshops where billable hours are often more important than staff welfare.

Brands are turning to creativity to make sustainable initiatives more inventive, authentic, and impactful

While 85% of respondents said creativity centred on sustainability is either critical or particularly important to business today, clients are more wary of the concept of creativity, with only 10% of brands saying they are extremely confident in applying commercially successful creativity today.

Effective creativity depends on the right insight into problems a brand is facing, and that depends on exemplary strategic thinking. But the industry worldwide has a problem in this respect. Almost 90% of creative partners believe it is critical to upskill talent in strategic creative thinking, while almost 60% of brands and agencies surveyed say securing talent is the most difficult aspect of delivering the type of transformational creativity needed in today’s complex market.

To that end, the survey says the ad industry needs to reassess creativity’s role in business transformation, and asks the question: how can it spark the structuring of new products, services, operations and experiences? It’s time, says the ad industry, to consider how creativity can champion this.

“Transformative companies understand the power of imagination to unlock quantum leaps of progress. That is why they can evolve without losing their way. These are the brands that seek expansion and hone this into their operational culture. In successful cases, business transformation has applied creativity up and down the value chain.”

The survey also concluded that Web 3.0 is moving consumers away from mobile towards the metaverse, deepening their connection with brands and people online. But it says the metaverse remains an ambiguous and high-concept idea; experimentation and flexibility are key, but consistency will be paramount. Almost 70% of brands and agencies say understanding the metaverse will be critical in coming months.

On the awards front, the local Ogilvy agency won a gold Lion in the media category for its client Carling Black Label, for a campaign highlighting the scourge of gender-based violence in SA.

The Grey/Team Liquid agency won gold for its client Distell in the radio category for the Savanna Cider brand.

Pepsi’s ads for National Hamburger Day in the US, where the soft drinks giant placed its famous logo on the wrappers of the three biggest burger chains, won universal industry acclaim and two gold Lions.

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