BLOG POST #108: eurobest swings in to London

It’s the 30th anniversary of eurobest, and this year the ‘audacious younger sibling’ of Cannes Lions comes to London. We chatted to Festival Director Charlotte Williams, our Head of Client Experience, EMEA Hugh Baillie and UK & EMEA Executive Creative Director James Nester about what they are excited to see at the Festival of European creativity this month.

Q: What’s in store to celebrate the 30th anniversary of eurobest?

Charlotte: eurobest is an unusual festival within the Lions events portfolio as it moves from city to city. As an itinerant festival, it’s almost a start-up every year, taking on the flavour, tone and zeitgeist of the particular city it’s being held in. London is obviously a hugely creative city and, with Brexit, being here sends a particularly strong message that not only is eurobest as accessible and inclusive as ever, but as the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says, London is open for business and we are looking forward to welcoming our colleagues from across Europe.

 Q: Will eurobest be good for London?

Hugh‎: I think it will be good for both London and eurobest. London is a global city that prides itself on looking out at the world and being about “the best of the best”, like the Festival. With the uncertainty of Brexit, London needs affirmation that it’s still a cultural and commercial centre, with a creative industry worth billions, and that it has friends. So it’s a natural home for eurobest.

James: It’s a shame we live in London – because if we didn’t, we’d feel really excited about visiting here.  For the creative community in London, it’s great. Eurobest on our doorstep will mean a lot more junior people and those from different disciplines can go and be inspired by the work.

Q: What sets eurobest apart from Cannes?

Charlotte: It’s more rebellious and experimental: we’re seeing submissions for presentations that are really daring. Cannes is attended by the world’s media and heavily scrutinised, so there are often things said on stage at eurobest that people might not say at Cannes. This year we’ll be running professionally-moderated debates for the first time talking about the future of freelancing and the impact that might have on big agencies, for instance, and we probably wouldn’t have debates of that type at Cannes. Everything on stage at eurobest is more edgy and challenging. It’s also a celebration of work in the region, which gives it a different feel to a global event. And it’s smaller, friendly and accessible, which gives it a lovely atmosphere.

Q: How is creativity evolving in the region?

Hugh: The move away from traditional advertising to earned ideas continues. A newer trend is the accelerating importance of corporate brands over individual brands. We’re seeing lots of creative ideas around the corporate body and purpose. What remains the same is that we still always need a big idea. As everything becomes homogenous in terms of manufacturing or service delivery, creative ideas can still be a big differentiator for brands.

James: Yes, we’re seeing a move away from big budget TV ads as the media landscape continues to fragment and the new media world order emerges. For many brands this has meant creating lots of content and putting it everywhere. But thankfully, we’ve seen a shift in the past year towards clients asking for fewer things, done better: better targeting, better craft and a stronger earned idea at the heart of it. Long may this trend continue.

Charlotte: After Cannes we do a Creativity Matters tour, looking at trends in the work that has been awarded, and based on that I would strongly agree: it’s all about work that has a big idea and great earned media, that goes beyond traditional campaigns to have tangible effects on business and culture.

Q: What do you expect to be the main themes of the award-winning campaigns this year?

Charlotte: Three key themes from the winning work at Cannes this year were inclusion, truth and fun, and I think those will continue into the eurobest winners. Award-winning inclusivity campaigns – and it is now more about inclusion than diversity – go beyond selling products to tackle attitudes to cultural acceptance and ethnicity, and have strong results in terms of engagement and market share. The theme of truth is obviously prescient in the fake news era. And we all need a bit of fun, perhaps because the world is not much fun at the moment.

James: It will be interesting to see what happens with social impact this year. For the past few years, social causes have been a golden ticket at Cannes and eurobest. But every trend has a countertrend and we’re starting to see that. Judges are increasingly looking at the companies behind the work to gauge whether it’s a superficial campaign or if they really believe in and support that cause. There’s a fine line between taking brand-building opportunities and being opportunistic. It’s about knowing what a brand has the right to be involved in and the actions it is taking. So I expect more meaningful social impact campaigns, fewer superficial ones, and perhaps even a return to work that focuses on selling products.

Q: What are the main themes of this year’s speaker programme?

Charlotte: A strong theme is creative tensions and collisions, for instance in the relationships between start-ups and agencies, and clients and agencies, where pairings that seem awkward can actually lead to better work. Allied to this, we’ve had a lot of submissions around “going against the grain” in tackling big challenges, again with the result of better creative work. There’s plenty of content championing diversity and inclusion, and also on how creativity can be used as a problem solver and can even change cultures. Finally, the programme is very focused on innovation, including what creative agencies might look like in the future.

Q: What are you particularly looking forward to?

Charlotte: Personally, I’m most looking forward to working with the Faber Academy to run a creative writing workshop. I said before that each eurobest takes on the flavour of the host city, and this is a perfect example. It also shows that the Festival isn’t a navel-gazing love-in of creatives talking to creatives: we’ve got loads of people from outside the industry coming to speak, including writers, artists, architects, podcasters, producers and screenwriters.

Hugh: However busy we are, it’s always great to take the time to get out of the office and just immerse yourself and soak everything up, whether you think it’s directly relevant or not. I’m looking forward to stepping outside my comfort zone, and having space to think and learn.

James: For me the work is the most exciting thing; having time to look at the best work, digest it and think about the lessons we can learn. It’s a massive dose of inspiration and a battery recharge. Our UK & EMEA CEO Colin Byrne’s session, To Boldy Go Where No Man Has Gone Before, will be interesting. After four decades in PR, he’ll have some great stories.

Q: How can people not able to attend in person make the most of the Festival?

Charlotte: We’ll do lots of post-event videos, posts, talks and other output after the Festival. We’re also working with youth engagement agency Livity, which gives young people from disadvantaged backgrounds a chance to work in the advertising industry, and they’ll be doing a lot of filming at eurobest for their own media channels.

Hugh: We’ll be doing a mix of formal and informal dissemination, with immersion sessions in individual offices and around the region in January, to share what we’ve seen and learned.

James: After the Festival, it’s about bringing together the highlights that are most relevant to us and our clients, the things we can really learn from, particularly from an earned media point of view. We encourage everyone to explore the winning work and get inspired, and return to it through the year.

Q: What else do we need to know?

Charlotte: It’s worth noting that we haven’t had many brands speaking before and so there was a perception that eurobest was more of an agency event. The feedback from delegates was that networking and great content are important, but they also wanted to meet more clients and potential clients. So this year we have made a real effort to bring more brands to the Festival, and we have loads of brands speaking, including Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz and EE.

Hugh: I think it’s worth saying that at a time when we’re all under such pressure, it’s going to be really valuable to have this on our doorstep in London, with a programme full of so much inspiration.

James: Yes, with everything changing so fast in the way brands are behaving, it’s critical to make the effort to attend festivals or at least see the winning work afterwards. There’s no better barometer of what’s going on in the industry and no better benchmark for the work we need to create over the coming year.

eurobest runs from 28 to 30 November in London. Weber Shandwick’s session is at 11am on Tuesday 28 November.

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