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With Hyundai's 2022 Wins, Should Cannes Lions Matter to OEMs

After what happened at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last year, I am giving serious thought to packing my bags and heading to the south of France on June 19th. You remember, it was really big news in the auto business. Hyundai Motor Company’s brand campaign ‘The Bigger Crash’ — which highlighted the seriousness of climate change and natural disasters — won two Silver Lions. What an incredible feat.

The Festival of Creativity is a global event for those in advertising and creative communications. With 15,000 delegates from some 90 countries, the event is the de facto Academy Awards of the creative business — with winners earning bragging rights for the best of creativity in brand communications for the next 12 months and beyond. This year is the event's 70th year.

Car companies are not usually contenders when it comes to the big awards. Hyundai’s 2022 second-place finish in two categories was quite an achievement. The campaign ran on outdoor billboards and in print media. The campaign showed the seriousneess of climate change, by showing the devastation caused by hurricane’s around the world. The creative prominently featured automobiles, and sometimes trucks, that had been tossed about by the speed and power of the hurricane winds (as opposed to the speed and power of the vehicles themselves).

The campaign was designed to steer the conversation around climate change toward a greener future and shows Hyundai Motor’s thoughtful approach to offering various means of mobility. The campaign also stresses Hyundai Motor’s commitment to taking an active role in tackling the issue for the benefit of future generations. The campaign was brilliant, if I say so myself. I loved the billboards, they were larger than life.

At the time of the big win, Sungwon Jee, Vice President and the Head of Brand Experience subdivision of Hyundai Motor Company, said, the “award recognizes Hyundai Motor’s efforts to show our customer that we are sincerely committed to fostering a sustainable future.” Jee’s words, the two Lions Awards, and “the Bigger Crash” campaign itself, should be inspiratons to all of us in the auto category to do more and to do better.

I have been giving thought the last several days as to whether car brands should be stepping up their game, when it comes to addressing the big issues that are impacting their markets and communities, issues like equality, hunger and food security, gun violence, the refugee crisis, healthcare, racial injustice and the income gap… and I have concluded that they should do more. Thoughtful advertising campaigns on any of the aforementioned topics could result in strong emotional connections to customers and brand affinity that could last a generation or more — and, who knows, they might also win an award or two next year in the south of France.

But any such ad campaigns must be thoughtful — a campaign like this can’t be just thrown together. If marketers decide to try and tackle one of the big issues, they need to do it in a balanced way that doesn’t alienate the customer base. They should follow Hyundai’s lead and address the topic, and not necessarily advocate a position. A balanced approach on the big issues of our time is the only approach that will work in today’s day and age.

In a Deloitte Insights2Action report, dubbed Brands Can Benefit By Taking Stand On Social Issues, But Risks Exist, published in May 2022, the opportunities and threats of tackling big issues was made abundantly clear. While, according to the report, two-thirds of consumers want companies to be more involved in social and political issues, it is important to consumers that companies do so in an authentic manner.

The report says, “before taking a position on highly charged social issues, companies should consider their own history and values, as well as the audience being targeted.” Needless to say, I agree.


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