Saron Leung
Jul 5, 2016

Cannes 2016: Where were you, Hong Kong?

One question has repeatedly surfaced in the mind of DAN's Saron Leung after his first Cannes Lions trip: Where is Hong Kong placed?

Cannes 2016: Where were you, Hong Kong?

Working in the media industry myself, I had a keen interest in the Media Lions category. After going through the 267 shortlists, I found only three entries from Hong Kong. Out of the 97 Media Lions, only one Bronze was awarded to Hong Kong—that's 1 percent.

Being a member of the Hong Kong media industry, I ask: Are we proud of these statistics? Of course not. So what are we missing?

1. Simplicity

Most of the winners were creative, but they were also very straightforward solutions that were well-executed. For example, Second Scoreboard in Mexico and Road Safety Stickers in Australia.

The business and marketing challenges Hong Kong is facing are often complex, and we don’t need to come up with even more complex solutions! Simplicity is key in developing a scalable and executable idea.

2. Boldness

How many times have we in Hong Kong heard these comments: “The client won’t approve it…”, "The budget is too small…", “Facebook won’t allow us to do it...” or “The audience won’t engage with it...”

The winners this year have shown that if we see a barrier preventing us from being creative, the best thing to do is to find a way to get around it! Be bold and push the boundaries and you will often be rewarded for it, for example, Check It Before It’s Removed in Germany and McWhopper in New Zealand.

3. Deep human connections

Similar to previous years, there is again a strong theme of human connection among the winners, for example, End the Silence in The Dominican Republic and SMS Last Words in China.

There seems to be an unwritten formula when it comes to activations in Hong Kong in recent years: campaigns with celebrities or humorous content or a combination of paid and organic views.

I see a general lack of ideas which are connected with the Hong Kong audience at a much deeper level. I am not saying celebrities and funny videos are not effective, but it is often through deeper connections that bond audiences with brands and facilitate more meaningful dialogues and foster brand loyalty.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that there isn’t enough creativity in Hong Kong. I have worked with many young and passionate people with fresh ideas in the last 12 months. As an industry, there are some key challenges we need to overcome.

Idea generation takes time; it requires extensive research to gather consumer insights and set up a solid communications strategy before we can even get started. We need to allocate sufficient time for our teams to work on idea generation and, of course, this would require support from clients. Both parties need to appreciate that good ideas do not happen overnight.

I particularly like Adam Grant’s analogy at Cannes when he said pitching new ideas is like trying to clap a tune and ask someone else to guess the tune. Research has shown that only 1 in 40 people would be able to guess the tune correctly.

When new ideas are pitched to clients, it is the first time they have come across the ideas. Just because the agencies have been working on the ideas for days or even weeks, it doesn’t mean the clients would buy into the ideas straight away. Don’t be afraid to keep trying and give the clients time and space to digest.

Clients also need to understand that the ideas will not be perfect and should be open to refine them together with their agencies. Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky spoke at Cannes and said he attempted to launch the brand four times and failed before his team finally made it on the fifth attempt.

Finally, there is a bit of friendly competition from Gold winners from China and Singapore in the Young Lions category. So Hong Kong, let’s not over-complicate things, be bold to push boundaries, start engaging with audiences more intelligently and build deeper and more meaningful connections.

Let’s show the world what Hong Kong's got next year!

Saron Leung is business director at Vizeum as well as associate digital performance director at iProspect in Hong Kong.

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