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The New Mantra of Advertising

Last week I was invited to attend the ‘Best Of’ screening of the Cannes Lions 2014 awards – the global celebration of our industry’s greatest advertising ideas. In 2014 there were 1,142 Lion winners but only a few really stood out to me as powerful, persuasive and share-worthy.

When I looked for a common thread between these stand outs, I was reminded of John F Kennedy’s quote:

“My fellow Americans, ask not what you can do for advertising, ask what advertising can do for you.”

Okay, JFK didn’t really say that, but it’s an apt description of what makes great advertising great today.

Don’t take my word, just YouTube some of the 2014 Cannes winners:

BGH – My Home Is An Oven (a smart way of getting air-conditioners into the hands of people who need it the most)

Nivea – The Protection Ad (giving parents an easy way to keep track of their kids at the beach)

CNA – Speaking Exchange (bringing English learners and speakers together to share their stories and help each other)

Universal – Pharrell Williams 24 Hours of Happy (a new platform that launched Pharrell’s new video, sparked 2,000 individual happy stories and created the UN’s International Day of Happiness)

Sure, these aren’t ‘traditional’ advertising like Mad Men of the 60s, but – trust me – they’re still ads.

Great advertising continues to evolve with the times: to reinvent itself from ‘push’ to ‘permission’, to bring genuine utility to people’s lives, to spark bigger conversations, to remind us what it is to be human.

Next time when the sceptics proclaim advertising is dead, it might be worth remembering what JFK said about advertising.