Tuesday 16 July 2019

John McGee: 'Irish agencies are well capable of mixing it with the best'

This year, Irish agencies weren't found wanting in the creative stakes when it came to socially important initiatives. Stock photo: Getty
This year, Irish agencies weren't found wanting in the creative stakes when it came to socially important initiatives. Stock photo: Getty

John McGee

The luxury chartered yachts and cabanas have been returned to their owners and the famous Croisette and beaches have been handed back to the well-heeled tourists who hang out there during the summer months. And the annual hype that surrounds the Cannes Lions Festival, which took place last month, is now a distant memory.

Held every year in June, Cannes plays host to more than 40,000 people from the worlds of advertising, media, technology and marketing for a week-long session of talks, love-ins, deal-making, award-giving and the occasional faint whiff of bulls**t most likely brought on by the truckloads of rosé consumed during the week.

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This year, the overriding theme of many of the winning entries and talks was how brands and advertising can be a force for change, whether it has to do with pressing issues like climate change, sustainability or solving social problems.

Purpose-based marketing, of course, is nothing new and many brands have been trying to weave it into their strategies for years. But for many, it's still a work in progress.

When you hear Unilever's chief executive Alan Jope stand up in the famous Palais des Festivals and proclaim that all of the company's brands will have to have a social or sustainability purpose or eventually be sold off, then you know that times are changing. Many of the Grand Prix winners this year were campaigns or initiatives that were, in some way, tied to social issues.

Volvo, for example, picked up a Grand Prix for its EVA initiative, which opened up 40 years of collision data to other car manufacturers so they could make their cars safer for women. In the past, all crash-test dummies used were modelled after men. Why it took so long to figure this out is anybody's guess, but it solved a problem that has been lingering for years and, hopefully, it will lead to lives being saved or, at the very least, stop unnecessary injuries being sustained by women.

An ingenious product innovation idea from the creative agency McCann Tel Aviv also picked up a Grand Prix for making some of Ikea's furniture range accessible to those with disabilities.

Another piece of work that picked up a Titanium Lion was the powerful advertising campaign for the New York Times, called 'The Truth Doesn't Report Itself'. At a time when trustworthy, well-researched and documented news is being dismissed as 'fake news', the media is being called 'the enemy of the people' and social media is being used to divide and polarise opinions, the campaign highlights the importance of trustworthy news brands and the important role they play in society.

This year, Irish agencies weren't found wanting in the creative stakes when it came to socially important initiatives.

Rothco - which picked up seven Cannes Lions awards in 2018 - walked away with another four this year, while JWT Folk also brought home a Bronze award.

Rothco's haul included a Bronze award in the Print & Publishing category for its entry 'The Book That Grew', which it created for AIB, and its work with Teagasc in promoting sustainability in the Irish farming sector. As part of this, Rothco published a book which was, I kid you not, grown from grass roots, a world first.

It also picked up a Bronze and two Silver awards for its work with Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann (ONE), which represents ex-defence forces personnel who have fallen on hard times and in some cases are left homeless. Using one of the most potent symbols of Ireland - the tricolour - the agency made sleeping bags out of them and ex-veterans slept rough outside a number of historical monuments and buildings.

The whole idea was then seeded on social media and a short film about their plight was released.

The campaign was covered by every national TV channel, radio station and newspaper in Ireland and within 48 hours, ONE had received a 4,560pc increase in donations when compared with the previous year.

Meanwhile, JWT Folk's award-winning entry also had a homeless theme to it. In association with An Post, it created Address Point, an ingenious free service that provides a fixed address to homeless people, allowing them to receive regular post and access to essential services.

Within the first 10 weeks since launch, the Address Point service has already been used by over 1,000 people, 10pc of the country's homeless. Now that's what I call a result.

What is interesting about both Rothco's and JWT Folk's initiatives - and indeed many other winners at Cannes - is that sometimes the answer to a big problem is not always a big advertising campaign, just a big and sometimes brave idea that can surprise and make a difference to people's lives and society in general. And what's not to like about that?

Core scores on diversity

With diversity a big issue on the agenda of many companies, Core, Ireland's largest marketing communications business, has picked up a Silver in the Investors in Diversity awards, in recognition of its diversity and inclusion programme.

The award was made by the Irish Centre for Diversity, which is supported by Ibec and the DCU Centre of Excellence for Diversity and Inclusion, and aims to transform businesses' diversity practices and culture.

Havas bags Domino's Pizza

The pizza brand Domino's has appointed Havas Media Ireland to handle its media buying and planning account, following a strategic review. The account was previously handled by Mindshare. Arena Media, also part of Havas Media Group, handles the Domino's UK media planning and buying account, and the move is part of a growing trend among brands to have their international media buying housed under the one roof.

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