What the Cannes Lions Winners Mean for Travel

What the Cannes Lions Winners Mean for Travel

July 2, 2019
5 min read

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is billed as the global benchmark for effective creative marketing communications. The five-day festival judges the most creative and forward-thinking advertisements of the year. The winners can serve as a marker for the current zeitgeist, and provide a loose roadmap for other brands to follow in their quest for consumer engagement. Brands in the travel market can look to the underlying sentiment and execution to get a glimpse of the industry’s future.

Flipping the Script to Encourage Travel to New Destinations

An ad from FCB/Six centres on the concept that once every three minutes someone uses the pejorative “go back to Africa” on social media. The agency flipped the negative statement to an invitation (of sorts) with a pan-African tourism campaign. The ad features the sights and sounds of African countries, while describing the purpose of the campaign – to replace negative uses of the phrase “go back to Africa” with positive images of international travel for Black & Abroad.

This reversal isn’t new in the travel industry; Airbnb famously ran its “We Accept” ad in 2017 in response to the Trump administration’s ban on refugees and immigrants from mostly Muslim nations. Similarly, after being referred to as a ‘derogatory cesspool’ by the former President Trump, the countries of Haiti and Zambia used his comment to invite people to experience the country and judge for themselves.

In a time of polycrisis with climate issues, ongoing conflicts, economic uncertainty, and environmental issues around the world, travellers are more careful than ever about where they chose to travel to. These issues were highlighted in the 2023 Cannes Lions event with the ‘Seize the Future’ section where the United Nations Foundation’s Senior Communications Director highlighted that “inequality is the underlying theme of the polycrisis”. As explored in Mintel’s research on vacation planning, more than half of consumers planning a vacation look to visit new places, and nearly half seek out destinations that are off the beaten path. Businesses need to help travellers live the lifestyle they want to while navigating these global issues through education and showing industry leadership. 

In 2021, Swedish fintech company Doconomy took home the Creative eCommerce prize for their credit card which is limited not by a dollar amount, but by a carbon budget. DO Black is a card that works with an app to measure the carbon footprint of purchases made with the card, and if the card’s carbon budget is exceeded, the purchase is declined.

DO Black’s release comes at a time of introspection on the part of travellers and the industry. Being that planes and cruise ships are big carbon polluters; whose bookings are often done through credit cards, the card can serve to underscore travel’s impact on the environment. The groundwork has already been laid; in Sweden, a phenomenon known as flygskam, or “flight shame,” has taken root as environmentally-conscious Swedes both feel and impart guilt for using air travel. By tying this passion directly to finances, the DO Black card can drive travellers away from planes and ocean liners.

Travel Experiences Providers Can Attract Nearby Travellers

In 2021, the Mobile Grand Prix participated in the “Whopper Detour” campaign, which used geofencing to identify every McDonald’s restaurant in the US. Generating an offer of a one-cent Whopper to any Burger King app user that came within 600 feet of the Golden Arches. The ploy serves as a great example of the lengths brands need to go to in order to grab the attention of consumers.

The “Whopper Detour” showcases how activities at a destination (like a tour or museum) can virtually capture a traveller through geolocation and give them an offer to lure them in. Part of what makes this idea effective is how fluid vacationers see their plans. Nearly two-thirds of millennial vacation planners agree that a good deal would make them change their original travel plans.

Try Before You Fly

From Marvel to Marshmello, Fortnite has been no stranger to integrated marketing. However, Fortnite was able to take integration further with Wendy’s, creating an in-game avatar resembling the company’s mascot. The mascot travelled the playing field on a journey to smash the refrigerators in all of the game’s restaurants and replacing them with fresh burger facilities. This was to point out that Wendy’s never uses frozen beef. The judges hailed the effort as “setting up a new trend” with this kind of immersive, in-game marketing.

In this light, destination marketing can be a fitting partner with video games. In an environment where destinations like Croatia, Iceland and Ireland saw an uptick in visitors after being featured in Game of Thrones and the Star Wars movies, as escapists desired to see the inspiration for virtual worlds.

What We Think

Every year Cannes Lions sees creative efforts bringing people together and sparking ideas that lead to new opportunities. While not all ads are directly targeting travel companies, the underlying sentiment of the big winners certainly captured the essence of what travel is all about and what travel companies can do in this ever-changing creative world.

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Michael Gallinari
Michael Gallinari

Mike is a US Travel and Leisure Reports Analyst at Mintel. Mike writes reports about consumer travel preferences as well as leisure market research.

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