Cannes Hands

The global significance of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity gathers momentum each and every year. This year both official attendance figures and advertiser entries increased in excess of 20%. This is quite remarkable when you consider the broader economic challenges that nearly every business and geography is facing.

So why does the Cannes Lion momentum keep growing? From my vantage point I see two main drivers of interest.


Firstly, no other award festival covers so many critical categories for advertisers. Cannes Lions now boast 18 award categories, including: Design, Film Craft, Outdoor, Branded Content, Good to Media, Mobile, and arguably the most important, Creative Effectiveness. The breadth is staggering and it will only continue to grow as more and more genres of creativity are embraced to drive business growth.

Not only are the categories increasingly broad but so are the nationalities that Cannes Lions represents. The festival attracts award entries and delegates from as many markets as The Coca-Cola Company does business in. While this increasingly global presence at Cannes is impressive, it is even more beautiful to watch the distribution of recognition grow to these new regions. This year countries as diverse as Finland, Peru, Guatemala, Denmark, China, Costa Rica, South Africa, Kenya, India, Dubai and Turkey all picked up major awards. Long may this distribution of recognition continue. It certainly makes the global soup of creativity more interesting for the palette.

But an awards festival that focuses solely on breadth could be destined for a dull and uninspired future. Cannes is not about volume. It is absolutely, steadfastly and utterly committed to quality. And to me, few things are more important. Cannes Lions simply curates the world’s finest strategies, ideas, executions and craft. To be recognized at Cannes is to be recognized by the world’s finest creative minds. Minds that are not only brilliant, but brutal in their critique of the work. Winning a Cannes Lion builds careers.  Permanently.

See the work at:


I have long been an absolute believer in the correlation between outstanding creative success and outstanding commercial success. In this year’s marketing platform for Cannes Lions I am quoted as saying ‘If Cannes has taught me one thing, it is that creativity drives effectiveness. You can not have one without the other. That knowledge has been instrumental to my career. I have been going to Cannes for nearly 20 years and can’t help but notice that the the client organizations recognized as Advertiser of the Year often enjoy periods of historic financial success at the same time. Let’s take a brief look at a few of them.

Clearly the correlation between winning at Cannes and winning in the market place is compelling. That’s one of many reasons why The Coca-Cola Company places a premium on creative excellence. It simply makes sound business sense. The creative industries and client organizations are in a co-dependent relationship – we need each other. As Phil Thomas, CEO of Cannes Lions, puts it: ‘‘The Advertiser of the Year award is presented to advertisers who have distinguished themselves for the inspiring, innovative marketing of their brands and who embrace and encourage the creative bravery of the creative work produced by their agencies.’’

If you still doubt the correlation between creative and business success, please check out the wonderful book ‘The Case for Creativity,’ by author James Hurman.  We met in Cannes this year. Credit to James, he actually spent years analyzing the data. His book is a compelling read but I have also included a link to his presentation summary.

Click here to see the presentation.

I firmly believe that winning at Cannes Lions is important for The Coca-Cola Company. Good, vibrant, creatively dynamic brands make for good, vibrant, creatively dynamic companies. And in his beautiful words of wisdom and insight James concludes his book:

In every case, the companies that have been the most tenacious in their pursuit of great creativity in their advertising have been the ones outperforming the stock market and enjoying historic periods of financial prosperity. And in every case the leaders of those companies had created a culture of innovation that advertising was just symptomatic of, but which extended well beyond advertising and into culture, the products, and the day to day activities of those companies. A creative day to day that produced the most extraordinary results in the history of the world’s most illustrious companies.

As I look forward with the above beliefs held firmly in place I am incredibly excited about the future of The Coca-Cola Company. This year we took home an all-time high of 30 Cannes Lions. This number is nearly twice our previous record, included 2 Grand Prixs and awards from 3 Asia Pacific, Latin America, North America and the Global team. We won for Coke, Coke Zero and Sprite. We won across 9 categories and most of our awards demonstrated a fusion of storytelling, technology, social and executional excellence. I couldn’t have been more proud of the work produced by our incredible System this year.

Today we also found out Coke won Cannes Lions 2013 Creative Marketer of the Year.

Read more about our trip to Cannes on The Huffington Post.

Jonathan Mildenhall is VP Global Advertising Strategy & Content Excellence at The Coca-Cola Company.