Gunjan Prasad
Mar 24, 2023

Cannes Lions Creative Strategy jury president eyes growth objectives in the work

CANNES LIONS JURY PRESIDENT Q&A: Campaign speaks with Publicis Groupe's SEA CEO Amrita Randhawa to understand what brands and agencies should be aware of in their entries.

Amrita Randhawa, Publicis Groupe
Amrita Randhawa, Publicis Groupe

The 70th International Cannes Lions returns on June 19th and this year, Publicis Groupe’s Singapore and SEA Asia CEO Amrita Randhawa makes her jury president debut at the festival for the creative strategy Lions

At Cannes this year, Randhawa will have her antenna up to look out for brands that can sift through new opportunities in the changing ecosystem to demonstrate sustained growth and specific marketing outcomes. Campaign caught up with her to dive deep into her process for selecting the best work in the creative strategy category. 

As the jury president of this year’s creative strategy Lions at Cannes what are you most excited about?

To me, creative strategy Lions is one of the most important categories at Cannes Lions.

Done well, a creative strategy’s purpose is to align your brand, product, and marketing communications straight through to steer your business toward growth—the clarity of seeing that journey through the work is what I am most excited about—like watching a puzzle come together with the satisfaction of that last piece completing everything.

There are a few sub-categories I’m especially curious to judge: I’ll be looking for brand strategies that use data in fascinating, enriching ways; brands that change behaviour through bravery and progressive thinking—and as a result, demonstrate sustained growth and specific marketing outcomes. Especially important to me, coming from a culturally diverse region like Southeast Asia, is work grounded in rich cultural insights. This means working closely with other jury members to make sure we understand the cultural context and challenges that inspire each creative strategy. Not rush to award that is culturally familiar to us but that which is most culturally relevant to a brand, a market or a creative problem.

It’s a giant and humbling honour to lead a jury that will set the bar for breakthrough thinking and transformational problem-solving for our industry moving forward.

How would you define the creative strategy category? Has the pandemic changed it in any way?

You might see from the answers so far that I talk about growth a fair bit, and that to me, is primary—the intentionality of having a creative blueprint to build on, with clear growth objectives (be it sales or love or preference) paying off in the marriage of data, insight, technology and originality—delivering or smashing objectives is what I want to see.

While the pandemic changed plenty—a looming recession, dramatic changes to digital advertising and third-party cookies, a rise in short-term thinking, etc.—none of that changed the job to be done in a meaningful way, and if you spend too much looking at the negatives, you simply get caught up in a problem superiority complex.

As the marketing ecosystem evolves and newer opportunities present themselves we are seeing a rise in the “strategy of the new”—originality is not defined by trying the new—originality is for me defined by examining the new and seeing if there is a strategic role for it to play in how your brand connects with audiences. So while I am sure we will see a lot of Web3 philosophies and concepts for instance, I am more interested in how brands are strategically understanding that connecting with a generation whose preferred means of social networking, entertainment and commerce will soon be grounded in gaming, esports, and the multi-verse, changes the way they communicate.

What, according to you, would be the criteria for finding “the best work in the world” in your category?

The criteria set by Cannes Lions is clear: 25% idea, 25% strategy, 50% impact and results. From the outset, I will encourage our jury to land on a shared definition of what we mean by ‘strategy’ and ‘creativity,’ and agree on the most robust metrics that demonstrate commercial and brand success.  

WARC’s Creative Effectiveness Ladder (picture below) is a helpful barometer of the elements that make up a solid creative strategy—it is a hierarchy of the six main types of effects that creative marketing produces, from least to most commercially impactful. We’ll use it to assess how strategy and creativity combine to drive specific marketing outcomes.

In an industry that is seeing continued evolution of our media ecosystem, we need to find new and better ways of measuring and improving creative success and in the results and impact section, I would love to see a demonstration of teams embracing this complexity to prove the creative effectiveness of their work. 

Tell us about examples attesting to the creative mettle of creative strategy at Cannes so far.

This is a wonderful example of how agencies can utilise data and insights to challenge the original brief. Originally, Volvo wanted to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Volvo’s safety belt. When the agency discovered that women are more likely to be seriously injured in a car crash (because most crash test dummies are based on the average male), suddenly, the brief changed: how can Volvo close the gender crash gap? It created ‘EVA’, the embodiment of Volvo’s safety research, and made 40 years of Volvo’s safety data available to everyone. The campaign reached millions, but the bigger goal is far more ambitious: EVA could help to improve the safety of women in all cars in the future.

This is a great example of how brands can adapt to market disruption, in this case, inventing a new media space that generated 299 million impressions for bars and Heineken alike. When the pandemic brought the global hospitality business to its knees, Heineken realized that bars needed visibility to survive the pandemic, as well as financial support. With the launch of Shutter Ads, it redirected its OOH budget to display ads on closed shutters, paying bars directly. Most importantly, every single bar involved in Shutter Ads survived.

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