The winning good

What the Cannes Lions tells us about modern-day inspiration

While Fearless Girl was the runaway success at this year’s Cannes Lions festival of/for the creativity industry, there were plenty of other examples on display speaking to the positive side of human nature and the degree to which these stories resonate with us at a basic level.

The role of positivity and media is somewhat contentious. EB White some time back said that the role of the writer should be “to lift people up, not lower them down.” Meanwhile, Patrick Gyger, the curator of the barbican’s major new science fiction exhibition offers a counterpoint: “You are writing a story, which has to have at least some element of entertainment or drama, and a utopian society, by definition, is almost stagnant.”

A number of pieces from Cannes bolster EB White’s assertion, managing to keep a strong sense of drama, finding tension in our assumptions about roles in society, triumphing over adversity or just plain taking bad to the point of parody.

Enjoy and be uplifted…

In Nike’s “What are girls made of?” campaign, a popular, albeit old-fashioned idea of what it means to be female is contrasted with the power and athleticism of modern-day female athletes.

Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, for Nike

An old message? Hardly, given that even in emerging industries we’re continuing to see sexism run amok and individuals in power having to take penitent steps when outed. The question remains whether a brand can adopt an inspirational posture externally and use this as a lever to exert cultural change inside the organization.

Brands have also used their platform to tell the stories of the disadvantaged around us. As a particularly arresting example, take a look at the story of Evan:

BBDO New York for Sandy Hook Promise

Recovered from that yet?

On a somewhat lighter note, Whirlpool have gone a step further and actually brought the story to life by focusing on one aspect of poverty for children that isn’t often mentioned yet has a profound impact: whether you have enough money to wash your clothes.

DigitasLBi for Whirlpool

Apparently, as a result of this program, the school has seen attendance rates increase.

The New York Times takes a very simple approach to storytelling, relying on the emotive force of the subject (Syrian refugees arriving in Europe), to draw you in to the process of one photographer:

A16 for New York Times

This is just one in a series spotlighting investigative journalism from around the globe, using nothing more than still images and a voice-over.

Finally, to lighten the mood, take a look at this extreme story of Coleman Sweeney, narrated with Will Arnett’s signature deep rasp.

The Martin Agency for Donate Life

Whether the focus is on the reprehensible or the heroic, one thing Cannes Lions illustrates is the rich canvas we can employ to tell that promote good, whether they are uplifting yet not cloying, dark but still poignant, fictional or grounded in truth. There is still much currency in the belief that we can improve the world around us.

To check out more of these entries, take a look at Adage, which did a sterling job pulling together all the Cannes Lions Grand Prix winners.

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