No risk, no reward

Editor Emily Wexler welcomes new readers to strategy with a lesson in how Canadian brands can win on the world stage.

shutterstock_92859505This story appears in the June 2015 issue of strategy.

Hello, and welcome to strategy. That welcome is not for our regular readers, of course, but for the new ones joining us this month. Our June issue is a special one because it not only goes out to our subscribers and Canadian newsstands, but it’s also circulated among a select group of Globe and Mail readers, as well as at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity – the industry’s biggest advertising conference and award show.

For those reading these pages for the first time, strategy‘s goal is to cover the world of marketing in Canada – everything from advertising campaigns to research and insights to the inner workings of ad agencies and marketing departments, and how it’s all evolving. It’s a big industry, and a big goal.

Each year, strategy goes to Cannes to cover the festival and report back on the awards our country has won. For those who aren’t familiar, winning a Lion in advertising is like winning an Academy Award in film – a Golden Globe is fantastic, but everyone really wants that Oscar.

Some years we return from Cannes triumphant, like in 2007 when we won two Grand Prix awards for Dove’s “Evolution” video. Other years, we come back with our tail tucked firmly between our legs, like last year when we didn’t bring in the trophy haul we had hoped for. Ups and downs are inevitable – not every year is going to result in a suitcase full of Gold Lions.

When I asked a jury member why certain work didn’t win (work that did exceptionally well on the Canadian ad awards circuit), he said, “The jury felt they’d seen similar executions, and they were done better.” Ouch.

As harsh as this sounds, the reality is Cannes wins have a lot to do with luck and timing, and when juries are seeing literally thousands of campaigns, standing out becomes a near-insurmountable task. But not impossible. We’ve proven that we can punch above our weight before, and we can no doubt do it again.

So how do Canadian brands win on the world stage? The short answer is, be smart. That doesn’t have to mean high-tech or complicated. In fact, many are very simple in their executions. But they’re often based on insights that the brand has never tapped before, and that have everyone saying, “That’s so smart, I wish I had thought of that.”

Tapping into new insights takes a willingness for marketers to throw out their preconceived ideas about how their brand messages should be communicated. In other words, they need to take risks. And some big corporations – such as Kimberly-Clark, PepsiCo and Kraft – are realizing the value of risk-taking, and even baking it into their marketing plans (see here). Betting the whole farm on something brand new might not be advisable, but setting aside a portion of your budget to experiment is not only smart, it’s necessary in today’s fast-paced world.

As for Cannes this year, we’ll find out soon how Canada fares, but for now you can check out some of the industry’s picks for possible Canadian winners. We’ve included them in the stories on our AToMiC award winners, strategy‘s own show that celebrates forward-thinking marketing and innovation (see here).

To those who put their hats in the ring to win at the festival this year, good luck, and we’ll see you on the Croisette.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock