Tara Nolan, Vice President, Global Growth, Havas Media Group, and Cannes Lions jury member, discusses the festival’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) category.
Tara, who acted as an SDG jury member, says the category’s shining stars developed work that will have a lasting positive impact on the planet and society, and embraced partnership for the greater good.
Here, she talks about her experience at this year’s digital festival and what she will miss most about Cannes.
Tell us about the Sustainable Development Goals category and the criteria the jury based its decisions on.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) category is judged within the 17 Global Goals subcategories, and celebrates creative problem solving, solutions or other initiatives that harness creativity and seek to positively impact the world. Each SDG has a very specific set of targets, and as a jury, it was important to make sure that the winning work aligned with the essence of the particular SDG that the work was entered in. We discussed the work extensively as we believed that our decisions are very much signals to the industry at large of what truly drives impact. Work that was gimmicky, ingenuine, or felt like greenwashing was eliminated outright. Our criteria made sure that the winning work was actually working towards a long-term positive change, rather than just scratching the surface. One of the key things we considered was if brands had open sourced their idea – had they made it available for others to remodel and execute on? That was a real insightful qualification of the work because it shows a brand’s commitment to overall purpose and not just their bottom line. And of course, whether or not it legitimately influenced or changed government decision making, pushed for reform, and achieved it.
What trends have you spotted within the category?
Within the SDG category, the main trend was providing utility to people by giving them the power – to impact change or to live an easier and more promising life. Whether that was through an app or other tools that pushed for the greater good (such as those that measured carbon footprint or provided ways to manage ESG investments), the ideas that prevailed were not splashy campaigns, but ones that were truly solving problems in this space. There were some amazing campaigns that we judged, that felt fully baked and integrated, but still just felt like an ad campaign and didn’t have the weight and purpose of some of the other contenders. It was much more about work that solved issues with long-term sustainable ideas.
Another trend was partnerships, which is SDG #17. While there were very few pieces of work submitted to this category, the work that was there was very inspiring. If you think about what partnerships are essentially, they’re about leveraging scale, brand equity, and resources to make a meaningful difference. There were a few wonderful examples of brands coming together to form long-standing solutions to problems that impacted communities. It’s something that companies need to do more of, because it shouldn’t just be about putting the stake in the ground for what one single brand assumes may boost their perception. Reinventing and rethinking how we use currencies, democratising education, product innovation, creating new mediums and channels for media that have local nuance and value, and really letting the imagination run wild to encourage change were all implemented one way or another. Because after all, it should be about finding those universal points of connection for things that matter.
This was your first time judging! What was it like?
We viewed over 1,000 entries and landed on a final list of 20 winners. It was wonderful, even if it was a little bit challenging given that we were all apart. It was really exciting because everyone was so passionate about work like this – work with purpose. There was a bit of tension between the creatives in the room and those who were more on the UN side, which was actually ideal and yielded a very balanced jury. We wanted to recognise some of the ideas that were brilliant and very creative, but they just fell short on actually adding value to what we’re working towards with the goals. I had the lucky time slot of a 6am start while the majority of jurors were in EMEA, and we had one juror in Australia and another in LA with an even tougher schedule of 3am go time!
What will you miss about Cannes this year?
I’m going to miss the opportunity to connect with other people and celebrate what we’re there for, which is to toast to incredible creativity in our industry. I will say that Cannes can also be a crazy rosé-fueled, always on type of environment, and it was quite nice with this experience to be able to be fully dedicated and just dig into the work. But when you’re in Cannes, you’re with the best talent in the world and that’s something I missed this year. And all the side show events and activations always prove to be surprising, entertaining, and often hilarious making for top stories.
Do you think sustainability and consciousness was threaded throughout all of the categories this year?
The majority of SDG work hit on one of the 17 Goals in the way it was ideated and packaged up, but that didn’t mean it came from a place of authentically driving the sustainability agenda. But I think that’s a lesson for those marketers, to hopefully learn from this year based on our winners. Across the board, the notion of conscious marketing is something that is definitely having its moment and hopefully it’s not just a moment. It’s something I hope we are making a systemic change towards as a collective, especially in this industry.