Brands with issues are big winners at Cannes

Chris Baylis: the executive creative director at Iris Worldwide
Chris Baylis: the executive creative director at Iris Worldwide

Cause and issue-based advertising is winning bigger than ever this year at Cannes, reflects Chris Baylis from Iris Worldwide.

If you want a Lion, find a cause or tackle an issue, which one are you going to pick and what’s left to own?

Are brands being cynical and getting behind causes to bag awards, or does this trend mean brands and agencies are being persuaded by their peers to give more back?

Remember Fight Club? There is a scene where Helena Bonham Carter and Ed Norton decide what support groups they are going to attend to get the intimacy and emotional intensity they crave.

Ed attends testicular cancer support groups even though he has never had the disease and has nothing to do with the issue.

But as the characters in the film realise, issues help you connect emotionally, they give you something to rally around and they provide a space where the rules of engagement are clearer than ‘normal’ life.

And so it is with brands and their agencies. They’re not just emotionally connecting with a wider audience, they are connecting with the juries. We have seen some lovely work in the name of equality, fairness, hope and progress.

One of my favourites is an app from Samsung called Look At Me. It’s designed to help autistic children have better connections with their families and communities, encouraging eye contact through the screen and camera on their phone. It’s very clever, has product at its heart and supports the brand DNA of ‘launching people’ and as a result won a gold.

We all know the "#Likeagirl" work, which has rightly won everything – aligning puberty, female self-confidence and product seamlessly.

The Underarmour campaign, "I will what I want" from Droga 5, picked up the Grand Prix in Cyber for highlighting the hypocrisy around the perception of women in society. Great work, but is it stretching the brand purpose a little too far? The juries think not. It has earned mountains of free PR and media and it is undeniably very clever.

"Life paint" by Grey London for Volvo is my favourite work of the year and has won so many awards. You know when something like this has worked because it appeared in my feeds from friends who have nothing to do with advertising.

What I really liked is how the "issue", in this case cycle safety sat so comfortably with the brand’s core value of safety.

But do issues and brand purpose start to get stretched? Some of the Cyber jurors were sharing their favourite pieces yesterday, one of which was for HP printers.

HP is helping Brazilians search for missing children. It’s an absolutely tragic and heart-breaking issue... and HP is helping people print out 'lost' posters. Is it just me, or did this make anyone else feel a bit uneasy? It’s hard, because all good works are good works – but missing children as advertising?

When we get back to Iris towers, we’re going to be raiding the emotional causes cabinet so next year we take home some lovely Lions. And well done to everyone who gave something back this year.

Chris Baylis is the executive creative director at Iris Worldwide

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