Cannes 2019: McCann scores one final Silver

Sustainable Development Goals jury president David Droga on work that can scale and go beyond "jazz hands."

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Cannes Lions counted nearly 900 entries for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) category in 2019, as much as more advertising-driven categories like Mobile and Creative Strategy.

While the category criteria might seem to lend itself to non-profit work, 97% of those submissions involved brands, according to David Droga, the jury president and founder of Droga5.

“That says a lot about where the industry is headed… It makes me so optimistic for the industry; the collective minds and willpower and strength and influence of brands,” he said.

While two programs from Canada were nominated for a potential Lion this year – one for Shoppers’ “The Monthly” by John St., the other for IKEA’s “Climate Change Effect” by Rethink – the country fell short of being placed among the 22 SDG winners.

However, one U.S. program that was led in part by a Canadian agency did win a Silver. “Second Chances” by McCann Worldwide and McCann Toronto, which has won several other prizes over week, including a Gold in PR, picked up its last trophy Friday evening in Cannes.

“There were some fabulous things in here that actually did very well in other categories. But we have to scrutinize and look at it beyond the creative idea, beyond just the intentionality of the idea. It had to prove that it was something that had genuine impact and something that could scale up,” Droga told members of the press on the final morning of this year’s Festival of Creativity, before revealing the Grand Prix and its “creative problem solving [that] positively impacts the world” (as per the category boilerplate).

Not only did The Lion’s Share (a program co-founded by the UN Development Programme, with Mars Australia as its founding member and Clemenger BBDO as its creative partner) win SDG’s second-ever Grand Prix, it will also be gifted with $350,000, the money that Cannes received in entry fees for the category.

The fund was created to bridge conservationism and consumerism. It implores big-budget advertisers to give 0.05% of their media spend to the program. But not any brand, or for any campaign – only those that feature animals in their commercials and ads. By becoming a partner, brands can divert a small fraction of their spend (approx. $18 billion is spent on ads featuring the planet’s creatures each year) to help conserve wildlife and their habitats.

“[The Lion's Share] was a program that was instigated and backed by a big brand, supported and put together by an incredible creative collective. They didn’t make a good film about what they wanted to do, they actually set up a sustainable program,” said Droga of the fund, which has so far raised $16 million from 50-plus brands so far.

Sustainability and purpose frequently came up in conversations among delegates, certainly driven by discussions on stage in Cannes. Many have questioned the intentions of marketers as the threat of woke- and green-washing looms. Droga shared his thoughts on the issue by first stating that “whether brands are playing in that space out of necessity or morality… I actually don’t care. Because as long as people are moving in that direction, we all win.”

“[But] where it all goes pear-shape, is when they [try] to seem like they’re in a good space, but they’re not really doing it. That’s where the cynicism kicks in,” he added. “If you are committing a million dollars to a cause, but then you spend 20 times telling people you’re doing that, then you’re doing it the wrong way around… [Brands should be] creating things [that are more than] jazz hands. Brands are citizens too and they have a role to play. And consumers demand it – and not just because it’s trendy, or because you can win a Lion.”

Advertisers leading the charge

Strategy picked some of the best SDG programs that were initiated or supported by commercial bodies for sustainable good.

“Morse Code for GBoard”
Advertiser: Google
Agency: Google Creative Lab, New York

“Snap Pack”
Carlsberg / Denmark Town House, Copenhagen

“Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive”
Advertiser: Tommy Hilfiger
Agency: Wunderman Thompson New Work