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Creative Creative Works Brand Strategy

Commitment combined with craft spark B2B creativity

By Ian Darby, journalist

January 10, 2023 | 7 min read

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High creative standards in B2B marketing were recognized in 2022 with the launch of the inaugural Creative B2B Lions at Cannes. As part of B2B World Fest, top marketers who also judged the B2B Lions, talked about the strong commitment required to deliver great ideas.

Reuben Webb, co-chief creative officer at Stein IAS joined by Sarah Higgins, MD at SPDR, State Street Global Advisors, and Tom Stein, chairman at Stein IAS.

Reuben Webb, co-chief creative officer at Stein IAS joined by Sarah Higgins, MD at SPDR, and Tom Stein, chairman at Stein IAS

B2B marketing is emerging as an area of outstanding creativity and a category in which great ideas shine by delivering true commercial impact.

To explore this thesis, Reuben Webb, co-chief creative officer and chief values officer at B2B agency Stein IAS chaired a session at B2B World Fest, titled ‘The Big Commit’. Webb was joined by Sarah Higgins, managing director, SPDR, State Street Global Advisors, and Tom Stein, chairman and chief growth officer at Stein IAS.

The main topic of conversation was the level of commitment needed, not only in the marketing department and agency but across a whole business, to deliver the absolute best in B2B creativity.

Higgins and Stein were members of the B2B jury in Cannes, so were well placed to talk with authority about the necessary conditions for high creative standards in the B2B world. Throughout his career, Webb has been a foremost advocate for creativity in B2B, as well.

Webb pointed to ‘the B2B Effectiveness Ladder’, one of the tools that the Cannes judges used to assess the B2B entries. The Effectiveness Ladder was published by WARC, LIONS and The B2B Institute at LinkedIn as a framework to assess the impact of B2B campaigns.

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At Cannes, work that demonstrated measurably that it was a “strategic asset” to a business – the highest run of the Ladder -- was favored. Webb also shared Stein IAS’ analysis of the Cannes-winning work that showed the best entries had “the five Cs” in common – commercial impact, craft, commitment, clarity and change.

The panel explored these themes through highly awarded work in the B2B Lions. Higgins pointed to Sherwin-Williams ’Speaking in Color’ campaign which won the B2B Grand Prize. Created by Wunderman Thompson Minneapolis, it took the form of an AI-driven, voice activated solution created for architects to generate unique, one-of-a-kind colors.

What most impressed Higgins was Sherwin-Williams’ commitment which was obviously huge. She said: “If you’re putting together new technology and an original AI, it’s going to take a long time to build the code and sell in the idea. The quantum of data to make it work is massive behind the intuitive result.”

Creative ideas as strategic assets and change catalysts

Higgins also stated that, beyond this commitment – which involved three years of development and investment – she also appreciated that the solution has become a strategic asset for the business with the potential to be relevant around the globe.

Stein built on this point by describing how the B2B Lions jury had an opportunity to set a catalytic precedent by not only recognizing the best B2B work but to only award entries that were “as good as any work in any category not just in B2B.”

Webb carried the discussion forward describing a second campaign that addressed another of the “five Cs” – change. “The Dole Sunshine Company’s Piñatex initiative, which won Gold, took the level of change to a new dimension,” Webb commented.

Piñatex is a vegan alternative to leather – and a brand launched by Dole – created by using sustainably sourced pineapple leaves as a substitute for clothing and footwear manufacturers. What most stood out in its Cannes entry? Stein said: “I thought the commitment to do what they did was extraordinary, to invent something that’s never existed before that does plenty of good for the world. But that also has the potential to do a lot of good for the business.”

Stein added that the idea also ticked off another of the “five Cs” in terms of clear commercial impact, because the brand, from nothing, now worth generates $100m in revenue, “with great expectations that it will grow and grow because it’s a really excellent product.”

Craft follows commitment

Webb asked Higgins and Stein to consider how high standards of craft made an impact in both the award winners discussed. Higgins said: “I think the commitment to the execution of ‘Speaking in Color’ had to be immaculate and perfect.”

Stein concluded with a short piece of advice for brands looking to make the commitment to genuinely creative B2B ideas: “Be super-clear about what the business strategy is, then develop the idea around it, and then invest in it, stick with it, and blow it out.”

Meanwhile, Higgins concluded with a thought about getting the business to support creative ideas: “Make the commercial case, have the data ready, and the creative support should follow.”

Tune in to catch up on the full session from B2B World Fest on-demand here.

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