Hear the Roar: B2B Lessons from the Cannes Lions 2018

Side profile of a lion statue

Last week the advertising powerhouses of the world gathered in the south of France to celebrate the best of the best in ads over the last year.

This was a year of transformation for the glitzy Oscars of the ad world. This past fall the event announced quite a few changes to its structure, including pricing, switching from eight days to just five, and probably most significantly, switching up the award categories. That includes a new “track” structure which categorizes entries into nine groups: Communication, Craft, Entertainment, Experience, Good, Health, Impact, Innovation, and Reach.

Fun fact, the last of those tracks, Reach, focuses heavily on strategy and data, and appropriately includes a PR Lion. And another fun fact: the “s” in Cannes is silent, which was simply and effectively visualized by Ogilvy here.


For those of us on the outside looking in, it’s not difficult to feel removed from the Hollywood production value that many Cannes winners possess. And for those of you in the B2B space, particularly startups, you may be thinking there’s nothing that could possibly translate to your business from these top-dollar, internationally-televised campaigns.

But if you’re not looking at these incredible campaigns for inspiration, then you are seriously missing out. We’ve pulled some of our favorites (winners and those “honored just to be nominated”) that we think hold more than a few helpful insights for B2B brands:

Immerse, Don’t Tell

The old adage, “show, don’t tell,” has been upgraded to creating full-on “experiences.” For Apple, the winner of the Brand Experience & Activation Grand Prix, this experiential approach is part of their DNA. It hardly feels like a campaign, it’s just who they are as a brand, and Apple fans want to be a part of that culture and experience.

In its campaign “Today at Apple,” this tech giant gave that community of fans another opportunity to connect not only with Apple but with each other through exclusive events, courses, and other Apple gatherings. With daily programming to inspire the creativity of its community, the campaign has hosted more than 600,000 events since its launch in May 2017.



And the beauty of this kind of person-to-person approach is that you don’t have to be an enormous tech company to do it. It starts with thinking beyond selling your product and services to uncover how you can connect directly with your target audience in a way that’s as beneficial for them as it is for you. Don’t create a demo, create an experience. Maybe that means pop-up demos or hosting an event. And it never hurts to think visually, making that worthwhile experience for you and your audience come alive.

Data. Data. Data.

This year as part of its new Reach track, the Cannes awards shone a very direct light on the value of data with the introduction of the Creative Data prize. Entrants demonstrated the countless ways data can inform content. In the case of the winner, “JFK Unsilenced,” data was the whole foundation of the campaign as 831 pieces of audio data were used to create the speech JFK would have given the day we was assassinated.



Another incredible display of data power came from Google with its “Know What Your Data Knows” campaign. Using decades of historical data from the NCAA and Google Cloud technology, Google made live in-game predictions during the 2018 NCAA March Madness tournament.



These are two very different, but equally impactful examples of how data is informing content. For B2B companies looking to make the most of their content efforts, using data to inform content strategy creation is ideal. Making certain you have the tools in place to capture that data is critical and can sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Something as simple as monitoring keywords with a simple listening process can help you get ahead of trends to inform your content creation process. We shared a few tips for getting started in a recent post.

Think Outside of the Blockchain

One of the runner-ups in the Creative Data category, TD Ameritrade took the data-driven approach quite literally with its blockchain campaign. As they struggled to find a way to educate consumers on this new technology, they looked beyond traditional channels and went right to the source to place “The First Ad in the Blockchain.” By showcasing the process, they were able to demonstrate the technology while making their mark (literally) on it too and rising above the noise of a very crowded space. 



Thinking outside of the norm or even your usual platforms is a great lesson for any company looking to catch the eye of its target audience. Just because you’ve always tweeted, blogged, or whatever it is you usually do, doesn’t mean that needs to be your strategy forever. Approaching each campaign with fresh eyes is where true innovation can happen, no matter your industry.

If you’re hungry for more inspiration, you can see all the winners here, and for a weekly dose of that creative spark, subscribe to our Sixty Seconds for Social newsletter, where we break down the latest social headlines and share some content motivation to inspire your own campaigns.

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