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Creative Brand Strategy Cannes Lions

We shouldn’t just retire Lion-winning campaigns after the applause fades


By Jitender Dabas, Chief Operating Officer & CSO

June 18, 2024 | 6 min read

What if award-winning campaigns became open-source, free for all to use and adapt across the globe? McCann Worldgroup India’s Jitender Dabas asks a real provocative question.

A retired Cannes Lion on a rocking chair

Cannes Lions, the annual advertising extravaganza, is back with a fresh wave of brilliant ideas – some game-changing, some life-saving, all with the potential to empower, include, and disrupt. But what happens to these award-winning campaigns after the applause fades?

The disappearing act

This question struck me in 2021 while serving on the Cannes Lions Creative Effectiveness jury.

We’d just awarded the Grand Prix to Nike’s ‘Crazy Dreams’ campaign. There were other contenders that impressed – an organ donation campaign, a bone marrow transplant initiative – but as the ceremony ended, a concern gnawed at me: what becomes of these ideas?

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After scaling the Cannes Lions peak, where do they go?

Award glory, short-lived impact

The answer, sadly, is often oblivion. Celebrated ideas frequently get shelved. Creators chase the next big award-winning concept, while others hesitate to touch existing campaigns for fear of appearing unoriginal.

This is a colossal waste.

Powerful ideas, lauded on the grandest stage, shouldn’t fade away. It’s a missed opportunity for humanity. Imagine impactful campaigns – a blood donation drive from Germany, a women’s empowerment movement from India – locked away in creative archives, their potential for global good unrealized.

Learn from other industries: replication

Great ideas, in contrast, thrive on replication in other industries. They’re borrowed, adapted, and improved upon as they travel, reaching wider audiences and creating a larger impact. Shamelessly copied, they often become more effective as they’re implemented across different markets.

Advertising, however, operates differently. We avoid using each other’s work, prioritizing novelty over impact. This reluctance stifles the potential of truly transformative ideas. A blood donation campaign from Germany could save lives in Guatemala. A women’s empowerment initiative from India could empower women in Kenya. But these ideas are confined, unable to freely travel and make a difference.

Cannes Lions: a catalyst for change?

Cannes Lions has the power to rewrite this narrative. By making award-winning ideas “open source” – free to use without permission or credit concerns – they can create the world’s most powerful library of ideas for humanity.

Imagine a vast archive readily accessible to governments, NGOs, and changemakers. All it might take is a simple declaration from entrants in the purpose, sustainability, or glass categories, pledging to “donate” their idea to this open-source library.

Another hurdle is the industry’s ingrained resistance to using others’ work. Cannes Lions, the ultimate stage, can champion “ethical borrowing” and replication, encouraging ideas to travel the world and create a bigger impact.

But let’s not stop at an open-source library. Imagine a dedicated Cannes Lions category that celebrates and rewards the effective reuse of existing campaigns. This would revolutionize our approach to creativity and innovation in advertising.

And Cannes Lions should lead this change. It would imbue the creativity celebrated at Cannes Lions with greater meaning and impact. Secondly, sustainability isn’t just about preaching; it’s about practicing. Every new campaign has a carbon footprint. By encouraging adaptation, the industry can reduce its environmental impact while fostering a culture of resourcefulness.

Winning ideas are often executed on a small scale for award consideration. What if these ideas could reach regions that can be scaled up for maximum impact?

Here’s my vision:

  1. Create the world’s biggest archive of impactful creative ideas.
  2. Incentivize idea donation from award participants.
  3. Establish an award category celebrating the reuse of existing ideas.

By embracing this vision, Cannes Lions can ensure that brilliant ideas don’t just have a fleeting moment in the spotlight. They can illuminate the world, making a lasting difference where it’s needed most.

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Together, let’s build a legacy that transcends awards and accolades. Let’s create a world where the best ideas travel freely, grow, and change lives. Cannes Lions can be the catalyst for this revolution, setting a new standard for creative effectiveness and sustainability. The time to act is now.

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