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B2B brands at Cannes: What can we learn from the big winners at Cannes Lions 2017?| B2B Marketing

Tom Pepper analyses the big B2B hitters at this year’s and last year’s Cannes festivals to determine whether the quality and quantity of B2B-focused campaign wins has significantly increased

It’s been a few weeks since the sun set on the Cannes coast after another year of advertising’s biggest celebrations. My post-match analysis has been focused on the lessons for B2B brands. Last year they produced some of the most groundbreaking and talked-about campaigns and this year didn’t disappoint, with ‘Fearless Girl’ – created for State Street Global Advisors by McCann New York – the winner on everybody’s lips.

But on deeper investigation, just how well did B2B fare in 2017 compared to last year? LinkedIn delved into the Lions archive to find out.

Quality over quantity

We’ve looked at the B2B winners across eight key Lions categories – creative effectiveness, cyber, digital craft, direct, media, PR, print and titanium. And we were pretty strict about the criteria: that the predominant audience should be a professional audience (i.e. we didn’t count campaigns from financial services firms who were targeting consumers). What we found was that there was actually a 30% dip in the number of awards taken home this year, compared to 2016. There was also a 46% drop in the number of B2B brands taking those awards.

What we did see, however, was more quality B2B winners this year. There were more Grand Prix and gold awards handed out to B2B campaigns in 2017 compared to last year, in the categories we compared. The ‘Did You Mean MailChimp’ and ‘Fearless Girl’ campaigns both took home the coveted Grand Prix prizes (the latter in fact picking up a total of 18 Lions, including four Grand Prix’s), with brands like Getty and Forbes bagging golds.

State Street Global Advisors – Fearless Girl

B2B more than pulled its creativity weight this year – but the dip in the number of winners in this narrow sample shows that we can’t rest on our creative laurels. We need B2B brands to continue to be brave, harness their data, throw in some humour and stand up for big issues.

For me, B2B brands leading on big, important issues was one of the most encouraging take outs for this year – a good reminder that it doesn’t matter whether you are B2B or B2C, your audience are still people and they care about many of the same issues whether in the office or at home.

Combining creativity with relevance

The trick is, picking an issue you have legitimacy to own. The Fearless Girl campaign chimed with State Street’s mission – to invest responsibly to enable economic prosperity and social progress – but was also backed up by a call on the companies they invest in to up their games when it comes to gender equality in leadership positions and launching a new product, the SHE fund (and this was enough to drown out accusations about the gender split of their own board). While Russian bank Sberbank Neighborhoods campaign, which picked up a gold in the creative data category and a bronze in the media category, showed that it cares for local communities by matching the needs of the local towns with ambitions of local businesses.  

But what was so impressive about the winning campaigns isn’t that they just caught the eyes of the jury. They challenged their sector to think differently and made a tangible difference to their brand’s bottom line while doing it. State Street’s SHE Fund saw a 384% increase in its average daily trading volume immediately following the launch while Sberbank saw three times as many customers take business development loans than from traditional campaigns.

B2B’s growing creativity combined with its ruthless focus on measurement is a killer combination. Here’s to more to come.


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