The Secrets of Breakthrough Campaigns

Insights from 2013 Cannes Lions Winners

June 20, 2014


Last year they created some of the most talked-about campaigns in one of the Cannes Lions’ most talked-about categories. This week, the CEO Academy brought together the creative leaders behind Proud Sponsor of Moms, Susan Glenn and A Long Day of Childhood, winners of Gold, Silver and Bronze Lions in the Titanium & Integrated category, to reveal some of the secrets behind great, integrated, breakthrough work.

Dave Luhr of Wieden & Kennedy, John Patroulis of BBH NY and Gerry Graf of Barton T Graf 9000 spoke openly about the origins of great ideas, the bravery needed to do them justice, and the characteristics of organisations that enable creativity to thrive. Here are just some of the key principles to emerge as the basis of award-winning work:

Don’t fall in love with people like you

The perspective of the outsider is absolutely fundamental to creating great work for any brand. It means that agency founders and creative heads can’t afford only to hire people that operate the same way as they do – and marketers can’t afford only to hire agencies that share the characteristics of their own business.

Find the soul in everything

Be brutally challenging when it comes to finding the genuine reason about why people buy into your product. You’re not looking for an advertising truth here; you’re looking for a fundamental, honest, human truth.

Talk things through – and build trust

As the creative process develops, talk to your client. Build discussion, trust and consensus around the brand truth and the strategy that comes from it. Take people on a journey with you.

Integration starts with the idea

Don’t set out to create an integrated campaign; set out to create a great idea and then apply it naturally to the platforms people gravitate towards and what they do there. You’ll struggle to integrate a bad idea; you’ll struggle not to integrate a good one.

Stay in control – of your brand and theirs

This is where trust and leadership come in. Be prepared to stand up for what’s right for your client’s brand – and use the trust you have built up by working through ideas together to enable you to do so. At the same time, agencies have a responsibility to themselves to produce work they are happy to put their name to. If a client relationship can’t deliver this over the long term, then it may sometimes be time to move on.

Be focused in strategy, painstakingly wild in execution

Be absolutely focused about the strategy behind a creative brief, in order to enable wild creativity when it comes to executing that brief. But free-thinking should never be confused with loose standards. The success of marketing on any platform is all in the execution. Plan every detail – and stick to your guns about the details that matter.


Get inspiration to tell great stories. Stay tuned as we bring you stories from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity all this week. Follow along on LinkedIn and on Twitter.