Cannes Lions 2017 demonstrated B2B creativity at its best

Before Cannes kicked off this year I said I had hoped we would continue to see B2B making its mark. And I wasn’t disappointed. Glancing through the Lions winners from last week it’s clear B2B is more than pulling its creative weight; in fact it’s killing it.

Here are some of my favourite B2B campaigns which picked up the gongs last week:

Fearless Girl, State Street Global Advisors

Fearless Girl, the statue that famously stares down Wall Street’s Charging Bull sculpture, was the big winner of course, picking up multiple awards during the week including a Grand Prix in the Titanium Lions. The campaign, which was created by McCann New York for State Street Global Advisors, an investment firm which works with “sophisticated investors and financial intermediaries”, proves that purpose-driven B2B marketing has the capability to capture the zeitgeist like any B2C campaign can.

The firm, whose “responsible” investing enables “economic prosperity and social progress,” captured a mainstream, emotive conversation around gender diversity and in turn helped raise awareness for its “SHE” fund, which invests in businesses with female executives, among financial communities. It had to be this way round though, it appeared genuine, was evidence-based and came from the core of the organisation.

Prior to winning the Cannes Lions awards, the Fearless Girl campaign won broad support, but it was also a magnet for controversy. Earlier this year, a video of a man behaving lewdly toward the statue went viral, and more recently an artist created a statue of a dog appearing to urinate on Fearless Girl.

They were no doubt aware of these risks from the start, but State Street was brave, had a strong purpose and leveraged a topical hook (the first International Women’s Day since president Trump came to power) and went for it. And it paid off, with increased brand awareness leading the SHE Fund to a 384% increase in its average daily trading volume in the first three days following the launch.

Did You Mean MailChimp? MailChimp

The second big winner which really caught my eye, however, was Droga5’s “Did You Mean MailChimp” campaign which won a Grand Prix trophy in the Cyber category amongst others. While many B2B marketers shy away from humour in their marketing, it is for some too risky, this campaign demonstrates that B2B, and email marketing software in particular, can actually be funny.

The integrated search campaign poked fun at itself, focusing on mispronunciations of its name such as SnailPrimp, KaleLimp, and WhaleSynth, before the tagline pay off: “Did you mean MailChimp?” What appeared on the surface to be a load of disparate creative executions was intended to drive traffic and it appeared to work judging on the entry’s submission. In my opinion there are limitations to this campaign – I can’t see it working in a number of markets I work in across Europe, for example – but it shows a bold approach with a huge dollop of wit can pay off in B2B.

We don’t surgically remove the funny bone when we step into work or turn on the laptop, in fact a few days in Cannes will no doubt fuel much laughter for some over the next few weeks. While it’s got to be done in the right way – MailChimp wanted to “embody the behavior we wish to engender in our users” – more B2B marketers should consider bringing humour to their campaigns across their channels.

Neighborhoods, Sberbank

The third B2B gong I wanted to call out is Russian bank Sberbank Neighborhoods campaign, which picked up a gold Lion in the Creative Data category and then a bronze in the Media category on Wednesday. This is an awesome example of harnessing data and creativity to be useful to a target audience as well as a community.

Russia’s largest bank ran a campaign for small business loans using hundreds of outdoor ads, including empty shop windows and billboards, and geo-targeted banner ads, to gather opinions from local residents on business ideas for the neighborhood. It then used this insight to target relevant businesses, both existing customers and relevant entrepreneurs not on their books, who could fill the need (and may need a loan to do it, I suppose…). Data played a key role in every part of the campaign, from gathering the insights, to targeting their audiences to becoming the message itself. Genius.

2017 was another solid year for the creative scene on the south of France, and while there are already question marks over what Cannes might look like next year, I’m certain of one thing. B2B will be back up there on stage taking on the biggest B2C brands and budgets out there.

Henry Clifford-Jones is the director at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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