Originally published on Little Black Book.
OMD’s global chief strategy officer and jury president of the Creative Strategy category at Cannes Lions speaks to LBB’s Alex Reeves about her rigorous jury room prep, thoughtful strategy in fraught times and how brands can be the “trust re-builders”
As the first in-person Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity continues, planners the world over will be paying special attention on Wednesday evening – when the celebration of advertising’s most thoughtful aspect is celebrated in the Creative Strategy Lions.
The winners announced will be the result of diligent deliberation under the capable leadership of jury president Chrissie Hanson, global chief strategy officer at OMD. For her, the task of considering what campaigns to award Lions to was a chance to “dig into the guts of great thinking.”
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with her to hear about what we should expect from this category’s Lion winners.
LBB> How are you preparing for the jury room this year?
Chrissie > The jury preparation begins six-weeks before we meet in Cannes, as each juror embarks upon what I believe is one of the most intellectually rewarding journeys in a career. It’s an intense and incredible immersion into some of the very best work conceived by our industry; the body of work speaks volumes about who we are, what we value, and where we’re going. By the time I’ve completed shortlisting, I’ll have spent at least 60-hours reviewing the work, deciding which submissions meet the criteria set out by the Creative Strategy category, as well as the sub-sections within it.
I’ll have familiarized myself with the body of work, scored every campaign, so I’m primed and ready to review and debate in person.
LBB> What is it about the Creative Strategy category that really excites or interests you?
Chrissie> The opportunity to delve into the Idea behind the Idea is an amazing honor. As a strategist, so often you’re thinking is intentionally hidden, and lays the foundations for the consumer experience that captivates and converts.
The connection between your audience and your brand are the heroes of the story, rather than the strategy.
The joy of this category is that we’re able to celebrate the thinking, to see the golden thread that makes meaning of a multitude of data points and see the creative leap that propelled the ‘why’ of human behavior into the ‘what’ of a campaign, and whether it arrived at a differentiated path to achieve better outcomes and growth. That’s invigorating!
So what is always visible is the content, sometimes the media craft, but rarely is the rigor and creativity of the thinking itself so apparent. The idea of the creative leap can be hard to see.
But this category is about exactly that, and it’s a joy to collaborate with clients and top strategists from different agencies around the world to dig into the guts of great thinking.
LBB> And what are the current big debates within the category – or more generally across the industry – that you expect to see coming through in the judging?
Chrissie> Three topics are likely to demand our attention and keen assessment this year.
Firstly, we need to consciously juggle the 3Ps of purpose, profit, and play, and ideally give recognition to all three.
The challenge is that our decisions do not happen in a vacuum; we’re all affected by the violent tragedies around the world that tend to bring our need for CSR efforts to the fore. But I’m confident with the jurors we have that we will achieve a good balance and shine the spotlight on the work that is joyful, irreverent, that achieves strong commercial outcomes.
Secondly, diversity in the depth and breadth of perspective that led to the work itself will be of keen interest.
You can spot work that’s been developed by a genuinely collaborative and inclusive team. The layers and textures to the insights and the craft itself, and therefore its impact on the culture, commerce, and consumers, are evident.
Thirdly, the more innovative uses of technology and data are likely to prompt debates that take us into the realm of applied ethics, so the moral considerations of our actions. How teams use data to extract sharper, predictive insights, while being respectful of consumer privacy, could make for a very vigorous debate.
LBB> It’s the first in-person Cannes since the start of the pandemic, like a pivotal moment for an industry that’s been massively disrupted – how do you think that’s going to shape your thinking about strategy in particular?
Chrissie> The seismic events that have pummeled individuals, communities, and nations over the last 2.5 years have pushed so many of us into cycles of re-evaluation and re-calibration as we consider what ‘better’ really looks like.
Strategists are, by and large, a breed of pensive, self-reflective thinkers. It’s why we’re drawn to this discipline; to reflect and consider the big and small questions and consider the role of strategy is a world buffeted by racial unrest, rampant mis/disinformation, and ongoing wars/conflicts. We’re going to do our best to look through multiple lenses, and value the smart expressions of joyous as much as the serious endeavors to battle harm.
LBB> Last year Cheetos ‘Can’t Touch This’ won the Grand Prix. What lessons would you take from that for great strategy today?
Chrissie> The Cheetos campaign is a brilliant reminder of the critical importance and frankly, the phenomenal power of a brand that knows exactly who they are and what they do. That strategic clarity then gives a team the confidence to double down on the insights and actions to take a brand into more daring spaces that connects at the most powerful emotional level. In this case, Cheetos delivered a fantastic mix of nostalgia, humor, irreverent fun that captured the attention of jurors and the brand fans alike!
LBB> In recent years it seems like effectiveness awards have grown in prestige and agencies have paid more attention to them. How do you think this has impacted on strategy’s place in creative awards?
Chrissie> It’s not an either/or when it comes to effectiveness and creativity. Today, there’s a keen expectation that creativity is a growth multiplier, and with that expectation comes the active interest in understanding the strategy that resulted in the final execution. The Cannes Lions Creative Strategy is the perfect category for demonstrating the latest thinking a team might have regarding how to decode human behavior, or how to shake up long-held beliefs around nudging, or how to better balance long-term and short-term goals. It’s such an interesting time for the strategy function, as organizations increasingly recognize that a data & tech ship that’s bereft of a strategic captain will ultimately sail nowhere fun, fast.
LBB> More generally, what sort of work do you want to see winning in Cannes this year?
Chrissie> I believe that brands can be the great trust re-builders so I’d love to see where and how brands can address the consumer priorities of diversity and belonging, and also where brand safety and responsibility can come to the fore.
I am excited and hopeful for what our industry can do to nurture a more inclusive and positive ecosystem. And with everything that has happened over the last few years, I’m curious to see which brands are actively tackling mis/disinformation and brand safety in the partnerships they strike, the technologies they employ, and the content they create.
But back to the 3 Ps, I really want to have a good laugh too, to see work that takes a risk, that celebrates the rich tapestry of life, and is uplifting and brilliantly fun!
LBB> Having not been to Cannes for the past two years (at least), what’s your strategy for making it through the week healthy and happy?
Chrissie> I shall pace myself, just like I pace my shortlist judging. Steadily soaking up the goodness, while savoring the magic of the work, and making friends along the way.
Winners of this category will be announced at Cannes Lions tomorrow evening.