Last week, that of June 17, 2017, a portion of the advertising world was focused on the south of France. The Côte d'Azur. Promenade de la Croisette. Le Carlton et Le Majestic.
Yes, the Cannes film festival is long over.
But we've just seen the passing of this year's festival of creative selling: The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Why should we care? The Cannes Lions is big. We are people interested in the small.
Well, let's remember one of the Slow Burn Marketing mantras: brand your small business like a big business and you can make great things happen.
And forgetting a lot of the advertising nonsense that comes out of Cannes (it is a festival of creativity after all, which sometimes becomes creative for its own sake and serves purposes other than ours), Cannes still has a prize category that is near and dear to my heart.
MEET THE CANNES GRAND PRIX IN CREATIVE EFFECTIVENESS
Yes, even the great global advertising creativity dog pile, or pile de chien, in the south of France has an award for effectiveness.
So, are you one of those people? The ones who love to say, "Advertising that wins awards never produces results!"
If so, back off, Jacques.
There's plenty of award-winning advertising that produces results. And as it happens, I've even created some myself.
But I've produced nothing of the magnitude that anyone at Cannes would care about.
Nonetheless, the beauty of the effectiveness award is twofold.
One, it fires a bazooka right at the guy who loves to say, "Advertising that wins awards never produces results!"
AND TWO, IT PRESENTS GREAT IDEAS WORTHY OF STEALING
Well, maybe "stealing" is too acute a word.
How about, the category presents ideas that can inspire.
Because again, this category provides documentable results. It shows the world creative and inventive advertising that made stuff happen.
But on a huge budget, right?
The category's winner this year was a campaign for the Art Institute of Chicago that ran on Airbnb.
The campaign was celebrating the first-ever visit to the US of the iconic Van Gogh work, The Bedroom. Or, if you prefer the proper French title, La Chambre à Arles.Or, since Van Gogh was not French but Dutch, Slaapkamer te Arles.
The Bedroom campaign gave people an opportunity to sleep in a life-size recreation of the room in Van Gogh's painting by renting it on Arbnb.
THE PERFORMANCE OF THE CAMPAIGN WAS IMPRESSIVE
ADWEEK reports that the campaign attracted 133,000 visitors to the Art Institute, and generated $2 million in revenue.
And this happened with an investment of just $500,000.
I know what you're saying.
You can't recreate Van Gogh's bedroom in life size, and half a million bucks is your annual revenue if you're lucky.
Plus, didn't I tee this up with a promise of full authenticity and zero media budget?
The authenticity here is questionable, and the budget is way above zero.
This is not the campaign to which I was referring. But it is fun.
THE CAMPAIGN THAT WAS AUTHENTIC AND CHEAP DID NOT WIN
It was an also-ran.
But it is really cool.
You may have heard about it when it was running.
It was a social media darling.
The campaign is called, The Swedish Number.
How's this for affordable: a media budget of zero.
No media was purchased for this campaign. None.
And it generated $147 million in earned media through international news coverage.
SO, WHAT IS THE SWEDISH NUMBER?
Sweden is a country with a grand tradition of tourism.
Swedes are a gregarious people who love to welcome visitors.
They also don't have any standout tourist attractions that make people say, "Hey, let's go see the Swedish fill in the blank!"
IKEA? Meatballs? Lutefisk?
And Sweden's tourism marketing budget is tiny. They don't have a lot of money to tell you, "We're so much more than IKEA, meatballs and lutefisk."
Enter Swedish PR firm INGO.
Their solution? Simple: a phone number for Sweden.
Anyone in the world could call Sweden on the phone, and a random real live Swede would answer.
Yes, I know. This conjurs up images of 12-year-olds dialing Sweden and saying, "Sven, is your refrigerator running?"
IT MAY HAVE HAPPENED
But far more consistently, random people from around the world called random people in Sweden and had very nice conversations about what it's like to live there.
Over 180,000 calls were made to Sweden.
They totaled over one year of talk time.
35,000 volunteer Swedish telephone ambassadors fielded calls from 180 countries.
The longest call lasted almost five hours.
And the media budget was zero. The Swedish Number was promoted with a couple of online videos and some PR, and news outlets worldwide picked up the story and ran with it.
Radio and TV programs everywhere picked up the phone and called random Swedes live on air. That included Good Morning America and the largest TV news channel in China.
If you search The Swedish Number on YouTube, you can see a Swiss TV host calling Sweden and asking about how all Swedes live in an IKEA and eat free meatballs, and Switzerland and Sweden always get confused for one another. (But only by Americans, apparently.)
AND TALK ABOUT AUTHENTIC
It doesn't get much more real than talking to a truck driver, a school teacher, a farmer, a pharmacist, a designer...
The list goes on.
Even the Swedish Prime Minister took a phone call. It was videotaped for YouTube.
It's safe to say that more people around the world were suddenly attracted to the idea of visiting Sweden than ever could have been accomplished with an under-budgeted TV campaign.
Why did this campaign work?
And why did so many people from around the world make so many phone calls to speak with people they didn't know?
ONE WORD: CONNECTION
Simple, human connection is a powerful thing.
The sound of one voice speaking to another.
Two people making contact.
It's just that simple.
And in a world where advertising contrivance runs amok, where everyone clamors to get your attention with offers and absurdities and craziness and scarcity and discounts and yelling--
A simple, human connection cuts through.
It shouldn't be that surprising. Some of the most effective advertising campaigns of all time have been based on simple, human connection.
At Slow Burn, some of our most powerful advertising campaigns have capitalized on just that. Last week, I was recording Dr. Sam Giveen from New Hampshire for yet another series of radio commercials where he speaks simply and candidly about having a better life with better eye care. Straight talk. Better vision.
SIMPLE, PLAIN-SPEAKING, UNGLAMOROUS DR. SAM IS A LOCAL CELEBRITY
He has never once made an offer in any of his advertising.
He has never pitched product.
He has never been a huckster, nor has he hired one.
Dr. Sam has always worked for a simple, human connection with his patients.
Throughout my career, I've created dozens of campaigns just like that. Recently, in fact, I was asked to record more announcer wraparounds for the legendary Sonny Sardo, an interiors specialist in Southern California.
Over a decade ago, I created a campaign that now numbers well over 100 commercials--all of them Sonny talking candidly, telling stories about things like re-upholstery, drapes and custom furniture.
He, too, is a local celebrity. He makes bank on making a simple, human connection with the radio listener.
BUT THE SWEDISH NUMBER STRIPS THE SIMPLE, HUMAN CONNECTION TO ITS RAW BASICS
And with zero media budget, zero actors involved, zero funny copywriting, and zero trendy art direction, a dinky nation of 9 million people got $147 million in free advertising around the world.
Pick up the phone.
Talk to a Swede.
How much simpler could it be?
You often don't need huge budgets, fancy production, or The Next Big Idea.
Sometimes, all you need to do is be human. Be real.
It's all good. And it all works.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.