The Business of Lion Taming

Written by Nick Watmough

The Cannes International Festival of Creativity represents the undisputed creme de la creme of our industry, with aspiring lion tamers from across the world’s top agencies willing to give an arm and a leg to win there.

The advertising world’s very own Oscars, at Cannes, they let the work do the slapping. Well, before the champers start flowing anyway.

But Cannes is so much more than just a mesmerising setting where the haves and the have-yachts hang out. It’s about winning and the recognition that comes from picking up a Lion or two amongst like-minded people who covet nothing more.

With over 29,000 entries from 90 countries across the globe, competition is fierce – so getting your hands on one is never easy. Which really, is the whole point. It’s a chance to flex your creative chops, pitching yourself against the very best in the business.

The recent advances in B2B creativity are unmistakable, but only a smattering of B2B work has picked up awards at Cannes over the years. Those that have been rewarded for their vision are campaigns that, usually against huge odds, have blurred the B2B/B2C boundaries.

HP’s sophisticated dystopian series The Wolf starring Christian Slater. AI-powered Grand Prix winning masterpiece The Next Rembrandt. Then there’s Intel’s Super Bowl Drones and Field Trip to Mars.

And who could forget the Epic Split feat. Jean Claude Van Damme? This heavyweight campaign picked up a truckload of awards at Cannes including 8 Golds and 2 Grand Prix.

Overall, you could say that the B2B industry is like a Brit in Spain. They’ll drape their towel over the sun loungers, but you’ll never see them at the pool party. No, winning this fabled award means breaking the rules and I don’t mean the Speedo policy.

But finally, in 2022, that looks all set to change with the launch of the new creative B2B Lions. Supported by the B2B Institute, this is truly a step-change for the B2B industry, giving credit where it’s due and raising the creative bar even further in the process.

As much as this was a welcome surprise, it was only a matter of time before B2B was given the spotlight on the global creative stage. With its very own categories at the most respected award show in the industry, B2B’s days of being a plus-one are well and truly over.

However, this is a two-way street. To do justice to this opportunity, there needs to be a shift in the campaigns we create. Specifically, the C-Suite needs to embrace the true value of creativity, rather than boring their audiences to tears with commodity messaging. Women at a laptop surrounded by golden confetti, anyone? No thanks.

Increasingly, Cannes has focused on the effectiveness of the work. In a world like B2B, where everything needs to be measurable and accountable, the sector is perfectly primed to get with the programme, creating amazing campaigns with demonstrable business value.

But to make the most of this golden opportunity, the B2B sector must get over its obsession with short-term sales activation and embrace the long-term gains that bigger creative thinking can deliver.

Creativity has the power to change how people think, feel, and see the world.

And ultimately, it’s this creativity that has the potential to generate huge commercial value for brands. So, let's hope the allure of winning at Cannes convinces business leaders to embrace this new way of thinking and demand the calibre of work worthy of the accolade.

It’s a chance to celebrate the ones who open a creative brolly against the storm of tedious drivel that proliferates B2B. For those brave enough to push the boundaries of a notoriously safe industry, what could be a more handsome reward than winning at Cannes?

Now no longer the ugly stepsister of the creative industry, this is a game-changer that will help fuel creative excellence in B2B for years to come, helping us entice more of the best talent to the sector and taming a few lions while we're at it.



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