It’s the time of the year when commencement addresses are wrapping and everyone is getting on with their summer fun, including the fun being had on the sandy, sunny beaches at Cannes. In considering this year’s award winners, I was reminded of the great commencement address delivered by David Foster Wallace to the graduates of Kenyon College.
In his remarks, Wallace reminds the class of 2005 that “the most obvious and most important realities are often the hardest to talk about.” Where Wallace ends, Cannes picks up. For the award-winning PR campaigns this year are indeed talking about the most important realities and, in doing so, forcing us to do the same.
The Grand Prix winner for PR at Cannes this year is the well-publicized “Scarecrow” campaign for Chipotle, created by Creative Artists Agency, which partnered with Edelman to garner more than 12.5 million YouTube views and 650,000 downloads of the game version of the video. The campaign builds on Chipotle’s commitment to sustainable food by chronicling the Scarecrow’s journey from the industrialized food complex to a more healthy, wholesome lifestyle.
Speaking of wholesome, the Honey Maid “This is Wholesome” campaign, created by Droga5 and publicized by Weber Shandwick, captured a PR Gold for its portrayal of – and bear hug around — modern families. With one felled swoop, this campaign transformed a nostalgic cracker company into a powerhouse brand.
Joining Honey Maid for Gold recognition was the UN Foundation campaign “The Autocorrect Truth,” developed by our colleagues at Memac Ogilvy in Dubai. The campaign leverages Google’s autocomplete function to show that, despite the assumption that conversations about gender equality were over, oppressive views about women persist in society today.
In considering these winning campaigns, I was struck by what united them: creativity, excellent execution and effectiveness were all present, to be sure. But what made them stand out to me was how each confronted an obvious reality in such a way so that we were forced to pay attention.
At its core, the Scarecrow campaign is about food, a ubiquitous source of energy for us humans. We value food, but we also value our time and an entire industry of convenience foods has spawned based on not just our need for food but also the premium price we ascribe to our time. The Chipotle campaign forces us to reexamine the value judgments we make every day and ask “what if” – what if there were no trade offs, what if healthy food tasted good, what if convenient food was actually good for you too?
Similarly, “This is Wholesome” is about families, the central social construct governing each of our lives. In exploring the idea of family, the Honey Maid team made the obvious and yet perceptive observation that family has changed over the years. In seeing the creative execution of this observation, we are forced to ask ourselves “what if” a family isn’t defined as just a mom, dad and two kids, what if anyone who loves each other can qualify as a family?
These campaigns are powerful because they demand nothing less than a new examination of core values and principles. And yet, these campaigns do not over intellectualize the issue. The present us with a new reality, a response to our “what if” questions with a stark and clear statement. They do not muddy the waters – whole food is good, any group of people can be a family, women are equal.
These questions – and the brands’ responses — hit very close to home. It is in that intimate territory, that obvious reality, where I propose we all begin when tackling our next challenge. Award winning campaigns like these are provocative – and even uncomfortable – not because they are foreign but because they are so very familiar. As we search for insights, let’s be sure we start with the observations and truths that are the most obvious, and also often most profound.
To win at Cannes does not require the imagination of Maurice Sendak or the intellectualism of Immanuel Kant. Rather, it simply requires making a choice to confront and explore our most deeply held realities. This is a task for which we are all qualified, which makes it both empowering…and overwhelming.
For more information about the winning campaigns, visit: http://winners.canneslions.com/2014/pr/
Tara May is a Senior Vice President, Insights & Strategy and Head of the Ogilvy Public Relations Denver Office
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