Cannes has focused on social purpose at the expense of commercial impact

This year's Cannes Lions festival prompted more debate than ever.

Is social purpose enough in campaigns? I don't think so, argues Frankie Cory
Is social purpose enough in campaigns? I don't think so, argues Frankie Cory

Has it become too corporate? Are there more suits than creatives? Should the UK PR industry ignore it altogether? And what about Publicis?

There's great value in Cannes – I've personally gotten a lot from it by investing more time at the Palais and a little less time at The Carlton.

I take enormous pride in our industry when I see global campaigns celebrated with earned at their core.

However, I do think Cannes continues to place a higher value on campaigns with social purpose – at the expense of creative campaigns delivering commercial impact.

Should brands have social purpose? Absolutely. It underpins their authenticity and inherent value to both their customers and the wider world.

Should good campaigns with social purpose be rewarded? Of course. Do I want to win multiple Lions? Absolutely.

However, there seems to be far too many examples of campaigns that focus more on social purpose without enough emphasis on commercial results.

This does the PR industry a disservice – we've continually fought to be recognised as a discipline that delivers genuine impact for our clients, with solutions that are as innovative and creative (if not more so) as those of our compatriots in advertising and beyond.

Our fundamental purpose as an industry is to solve problems, whether commercial, organisational or social.

Creativity is nothing if it doesn’t deliver real impact. That campaign video might have tugged at your heartstrings, but did the campaign seriously change anything?

When creativity leads to campaigns with social purpose that have genuine impact, then they should absolutely be rewarded come awards time. However, we shouldn't be ashamed to recognise creative campaigns designed purely to meet commercial objectives.

For me, the unsung hero of Cannes was Tide's Super Bowl campaign.

A four-time Super Bowl champion appeared on camera live during the game with an embarrassing stain on his shirt, only for a Tide commercial to air moments later with the solution.

They found a way to culturally connect and own a moment that told the brand story and ultimately sold more products - it was unashamedly commercial in its impact.

We all need to be better at recognising when creativity delivers commercially.

We can't become an industry of award chasers, taking on pro bono work just to secure a win.

We know doing good is good for business, but doing good for the good of winning awards isn't.

We need to reward the really hard challenges: the brand with nothing new or interesting to say, the brand with a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

As the PRWeek judges gather at their secret location, I would ask them to consider; is social purpose enough?

The campaign video might not have brought a tear to your eye, but if it managed to deliver an interesting and effective solution to a business problem then it must be doing something right.

Creativity is nothing without impact – whatever form that takes.

Frankie Cory is chief executive of Mischief

Read next: 'This is the time for PR to shine' - Cannes PR Lions jurors on why PR agencies should be upbeat

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