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Guest post: Brand purpose unites at Cannes

Purpose is not a new topic for Cannes Lions, but the backdrop of the war in Ukraine has changed the tone, writes our guest columnist Sonia Carreno, president of IAB Canada


Day one opened with a world affairs reality check delivered by none other than the great Russian chess grandmaster, writer, political activist, and commentator, Garry Kasparov. He had the audience at the mention of having advised for the popular Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. The series popularized the strategic game and, in many ways, serves as an appropriate analogy for business. Thinking two steps ahead, and carefully weighing the consequences of various actions are some parallels that come to mind.

But Kasparov’s message this morning was about more than business. He spoke of the horrific violence taking place just 1600 miles from la Croisette and explained the dire need for businesses to support Ukraine because Ukraine, as he sees it, is a few chess moves from us all.

Kasparov was introduced by Richard Edelman, president, and CEO of Edelman who shared some insights on the call for brands to take action. He made clear that brands are expected to stand up on issues of the day and cited a recent Edelman study on brand purpose, that showed consumers are four times more likely to buy into a brand if the brand acts and more specifically, that 40 percent of consumers surveyed would break ties with a brand that stayed in Russia.

Purpose is not a new topic for Cannes, but the backdrop of the war in Ukraine has changed the tone. Later this morning we heard a CMO panel that took on the topic of how brands today are being challenged to align their purpose with their consumers without losing their product or service integrity. This led to questions about how brands can leverage their marks and contribute to world issues in meaningful ways.

A ‘sign of the times’ conversation unfolded about a recent Deloitte study that showed that CMOs have experienced a significant drop in PR skills. To this, the panel of CMOs unanimously responded that the days of spinning are over. Full transparency requires a different set of skills and while they surround themselves with communications professionals, they are more focused today on how to deliver on authenticity and maintain purpose as their north star from within.

It was a hopeful opening day at Cannes. There was a sense of positive activism in the air with Edelman for one, calling on marketing leaders to coordinate their ideas and efforts in support of Ukraine to collectively make them happen. For the first time, we saw purpose, not as a brand differentiator, but rather one that showed a united front.


Sonia Carreno is the president of The Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada, the only trade association dedicated to the responsible growth of the digital advertising industry in Canada. With a career spanning almost 25 years, Sonia is a true digital veteran who has deep industry experience covering virtually every angle of the digital marketing sector.

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