4 Ways to Tame a Cannes Lion 910 words · 5 minute read

A silver moonman, a gilded gramophone, a crystal prism – and now, the music industry has one more award to add to its list of statuettes: a gold lion.

Next year, a new two-day festival, dedicated to entertainment and music, will be added to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, according to a recent announcement from the Lions Festivals. Evolved out of the former “Branded Content and Entertainment” category, which didn’t award a Grand Prix at all during the last two of its four years, the “Entertainment Lions for Music” is reshaping expectations of greatness for branded content.

For the first time in Lions history, music will have a place along the Croisette.

The question is, however, will the Entertainment Lions for Music meet the same fate as its parent category, Branded Content, and fade into obscurity without a single Grand Prix to its name?

We don’t think so.

Music is such a key part of the whole industry, there are bound to be prides of Lions during the two-day Entertainment festival. But as the Branded Content and Entertainment category before it has shown, it’ll take more than a disruptive piece of media to earn a brand the Grand Prix.

Here are some of our expectations and predictions to what the juries will likely look for when weeding out the Lions from the lambs.

1) The campaign will use music to support the creative AND be its own narrative

First and foremost, music is meant to support the story of the campaign, brand, and/or ad. Good music follows good creative, not the other way around; however, the music can also be a compelling narrative in and of itself. This doubles the impact of the campaign and delivers greater value to the consumer, as was seen in this Gold Lion winner from 2015, “Monty’s Christmas” by John Lewis.

2) The music helps drive real business results in a specific way with clear goals of success

“Entertainment from a brand needs to be more than entertaining, it needs to accrue to the brand’s benefit and drive business results,” said Philip Thomas, CEO of Lions Festivals on the expectations from the Entertainment Lions category. All modern marketers in the branded content industry balance this double-edged sword: creating content that is so authentic it might just be entertainment, yet also branded in a way that effectually delivers strong ROI. As Philip goes on to say, the brands and agencies who will win the Music Lions and who can maneuver this double-edged sword will truly show us all the near future of marketing.

“You need to address the integrity of the product and find the music that is going to deliver that next level [engagement] for you, but you are looking to find something that will ultimately fit those marketing needs; i.e., something that is going to spread socially or generate viral views.” – Raphi Lima, Global Music Partnerships and Marketing, EA Games

3) The campaign and/or music empowers consumers beyond product purchase

According to Philip Thomas, customers are indicating that entertainment is a prominent part of the industry. The work has to be more creative, less intrusive, and empower consumers in authentic ways that bring real value to their lives and their community. With commercials such as “Like A Girl” by Always that act as both a change agent and an advertisement, content in the Entertainment Lions in Music also have to find a way to market a brand and empower consumers. For example, Leo Burnett recently teamed up with Chicago Ideas Week to produce the video and campaign “Put the Guns Down,” a social movement that aims to help prevent gun violence in Chicago through music. The campaign also motivates audiences to submit their own verses to its website that can be shared online so they may also be part of the track alongside local artists.

“I might not necessarily be an activist, but I do want to make things that empower others to want to make things. Everything we do boils down to connecting to our humanity,” said Matt Monahan, Producer at Leo Burnett and of “Put the Guns Down.”

4) The music will anticipate trends, not follow fads

It is much easier for a brand to pluck a song from the charts as a way of connecting with consumers’ music needs; however, there is nothing innovative about that music strategy. To truly earn the Grand Prix Lion for Music in Cannes, the brand will have to flex its creative muscle and curate music for the consumer that anticipates and even sets trends in the music space. That is the real power of marketing with music.

“[Advertising] is a powerful change agent, trendsetter, and entertainment vehicle. The modern consumer is exposed to so many messages every day. Thus they wield an incredible amount of power and demand more from brands in exchange for their loyalty … more relevance, more entertainment, and more purpose.” – Jean Batthany, Executive Creative Director at DDB Chicago

We’re neither mind-readers nor lion-tamers. We are, however, experts on music and marketing. We won’t be so bold as to predict which ad, agency or brand is most likely to take home the first Grand Prix for “Entertainment Lions in Music,” but we’d be willing to bet our best set of headphones that the winner fulfills all or most of these four expectations.

In fact, let’s shake on it when we’re all in Cannes.

By: Zach Miller, Music Dealers