Global Private View: Things change, things stay the same (with Piyush Pandey and Debbi Vandeven)

Piyush Pandey

Chief creative officer worldwide, Ogilvy

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Audiences are interacting with brands on more platforms than ever before, and across a seemingly endless number of devices. Brands today aren’t just competing with each other for eyeballs, they’re competing with everybody – from the news to entertainment to sports and video games, brands are up against any and everything that demands people’s attention.

But to break through all that clutter, the rules remain the same. Audiences crave content that resonates and is relevant to them. As it was years and years ago, the way to make an impact with people is through good stories that connect with them on an emotional and intellectual level.

How are today’s brand storytellers faring? Here are my thoughts on some recent examples of marketers taking big swings to try and attract attention to, and adoration for, their clients’ brands.

Vicks. True stories can certainly make for interesting content. However, in order for them to truly resonate, the connection of the story to the brand has to be credible. I found this piece well told, genuinely enacted and touching. However noble the cause, I found the seriousness of the story here is not matched by the brand that is promoting it.

Chaindrite put itself in a difficult spot here, because the bar for whacky humour from Thailand has been set very high for many years. So much so that it is not easy to analyse this piece without comparing it to earlier standards. The piece is definitely ambitious and it does open in a very strange way that forces you to watch the rest. Overall, however, I find this advertisement, from a filming and script standpoint, falling short of the big expectations of Thai advertising.

Brexit has led to a lot of jokes at the expense of the British. It would have been surprising to see the Australians not chipping in, as swimwear brand Budgy Smuggler does here. It’s a fun ad and has to be taken in the spirit of the traditional rivalry between the two nations. Aussies will have a good laugh, and not just at the expense of the British. The ad pokes plenty of fun inward, too. I hope it sells more swimwear.

MedMen finds itself in a tough spot, being in a controversial and political space in a fraught time. This is a tricky subject in a sensitive category. This is probably the best the brand could do for a two-minute film. Nicely made, with some memorable images, and sincerely argued.

The Dalí Museum piece is a brilliant idea, a great use of technology, and made with wit and charm. All of this comes together to add life to a man who never wanted to die. Painstakingly made, this one truly stands out. Bringing out the personality of the great artist is likely to create an interest in those who probably didn’t know much about Salvador Dalí in the first place, which is exactly what our business is all about.

Irreverence has long been a personality trait of Burger King’s advertising. Its best has always chosen to follow the old rules of food advertising and mix it with a modern humorous mindset, and done so with success. Though X-rays have been used fairly often in advertising, the brand proposition here makes it stand out. The images are stark – you are unlikely to miss this while flipping through a newspaper or magazine.

Bodyform. It’s a neat idea, but I don’t know how much the brand is going to benefit from this campaign. The artwork is visually inventive and well done. The artist must have had fun doing this.

The inimitable spirit of Nike. The use of constant movement and motion here is strong, giving the advertisement a propulsive force. That doesn’t just make the ad look good, it makes perfect sense for the Nike brand – which makes it effective. Inspiring and innovative – two strong qualities for any ad.

It’s not easy to recreate a familiar scenario and give it a twist, as Warburtons has here. But then again, it helps to have Robert De Niro on your side. This piece is nicely made, quite entertaining and fun. And crucially it adheres to the saying: "If you spoof it, don’t goof it."

Here, Kia Motors makes something that’s unique – very different from most car ads. I particularly enjoy how the memorable sound tech complements the not-so-predictable visuals. Very much worth a watch.

Debbi Vandeven

Global chief creative officer, VMLY&R

Cannes is all about making connections – to great work, great thinking, great people. The ideas I admire most are those that truly make a connection with the audience. Of course, there are many ways to do it – through humour, impact, emotion. And that’s what makes our job as creatives so wonderful. We must resist the usual ways of seeing, doing and thinking to create work that connects with people whenever – and wherever – they are. Work should become a part of culture. And brands should become a part of people’s lives.

And that’s what Nike does so well. I love "Dream with us". There’s no doubt about the strong emotional connection it makes. Although as a brand, Nike needs to make sure it’s walking the walk or it risks losing its bond with its audience. As I’m writing this, I’m reading reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post about members of Congress questioning Nike on its treatment of pregnant female athletes. I’m hoping awareness of this issue leads to real change.

Something that I hope never changes though is New York bagels. And if, like me, you’re a fan, you’ll likely connect with Robert De Niro’s send-up of his mobster roles for Warburtons. He is so New York. But as I tried to find GoodBagels on my next shopping trip, I was reminded of how important it is that the spokesperson doesn’t overpower the product.

Unless the spokesperson is the product; welcome to The Dalí Museum. There is simply no better way to connect than with a one-on-one conversation, which makes this work particularly special. It shows what can happen when creativity and tech come together seamlessly. It’s so compelling, I’ve even heard it described as spiritual. All I know is that I can’t wait to hear from (and take a selfie with) Dalí myself.

I’m always impressed when a brand takes on a sensitive subject. And "Just a boy" fits the Vicks brand so well – especially given its "touch of care" positioning. I can’t imagine parents not being moved by the message. Beautiful, too, how the company is employing its message to reverse stigma and stereotypes about HIV. Not every brand could do this, and it’s very powerful for Vicks.

At the other end of the emotional spectrum is Chaindrite. Funny, weird, entertaining – in fact, humour just got me to watch a two-and-a-half-minute product demo. Once I started watching, I couldn’t look away – which is a good thing because (spoiler alert!) it’s a slow-acting formula that takes out the entire termite nest in the end.

Talk about using a cultural moment. I suspect history may be at play with Australian swimwear brand Budgy Smuggler somehow. Remember how the British established a penal colony at Botany Bay? There were probably a lot of smugglers imprisoned there. Maybe that helps explain this work. And this swimsuit style.

And about being at the right place. The bold, well-crafted Bodyform message finds an unexpected and smart place to engage with women through its colourful "bathroom takeover". Who would have thought bathroom doodles would ever look like that?

From "blood normal" to MedMen’s "The new normal", brands are making discernable changes in the world. The cannabis retailer does just what it sets out to do – brilliantly normalising its product. The quality of the craft (thanks in no small part to Spike Jonze and Jesse Williams) helps legitimise the whole idea. And that forges a connection with suburbanites everywhere.

Burger King wins my vote for cleverest use of an X-ray. And the headline is spot-on. From fires to crashes into restaurants to this, the brand has proven itself to be a master of self-deprecation and at entertaining its irreverent audience.

Kia Motors is about the power of surprise. And I was definitely surprised – especially by that meerkat at the end. Why was he there? Was he a throwback to the hamsters? I liked the hamsters. There’s no doubt this was dramatically different than the typical car ad, which is a good thing because its uniqueness drew attention. The craft was also great. And judging by the number of views, people were obviously intrigued.

As I reviewed this month’s collection, I saw a variety of connections being made. I’m looking forward to seeing more inspiring work at Cannes!