by Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) Media is all about context. In fact, any media strategy’s goal should be to put the advertising message into context so that it is fully understood. Very simple, really. And this year’s Cannes Media Gold Lions winners clearly show once again that the ideas where message and medium work closely together to create context are the ones with impact and that win.

Cannes LionsContext is one word which keeps popping up in my head these days. The more outrage I allow myself to be exposed to on social media, the more I keep thinking “context”, and the severe lack of it that most people seem to have when it comes to any issue. How do you define context? It is fully understanding something, to understand its environment and all the factors as to why it is what it is. Clearly, EQ levels have fallen drastically globally, because there is very little context applied anywhere.

Equality Signs

Nike Colombia • J. Walter Thompson Colombia

My favourite Lions winner is a Nike idea for female runners in Bogota, Columbia, where the consumers themselves provided the context. The insight was that most signage in the city (and in any city, for that matter) uses only male figures. Ponytail stickers were placed in shoeboxes when new shoes were bought, as well as other direct-to-female media, with the call to action to change this obvious gender bias. Suddenly the signage across the city became transformed as female runners, spurred on by social media, applied the stickers.

Nike was the heroine with simple and subtle contextual advertising that was fully understood.

Fearless Girl

State Street Global Advisors • McCann New York

The more-famous example, which also won Gold in the Media category (and many others, plus four Grands Prix), was the Fearless Girl in Wall Street in New York. Having recently visited it, I can vouch that a more-simple example of context you will struggle to find. The message is so well understood that to see it in real life was a powerful, goosebump-filled moment.

Bradshaw Stain

P&G • Saatchi & Saatchi

On a much-shallower level was a Gold-winning idea for Tide washing powder which involved a simple stain on a shirt. In the pre-chat before the Super Bowl, one of the broadcasters clearly had a stain on his white shirt. Social media went mad thinking he hadn’t noticed. When pointed out live on air by his colleague, he rushed off air and, using Tide, had his shirt washed in time for the next break. What better context to show the effectiveness of your product than showcasing its benefit live on air?

Digitally, there were some really good algorithm-driven Gold winners that showed the potential of data and digital to hugely up the context potential.


Mars Chocolate Australia • Clemenger BBDO Melbourne

Snickers in Australia developed an algorithm that measured “general anger” on social media throughout the day and linked it to its instore pricing. When the nation was more angry than usual, the price of the bar went down, and it was advertised online and instore as such. Over a five-week period, the price changed over 100 times a day! A perfect example of the context of a moment and how consumesr are feeling.

Innovating Saving • R/GA

I’ve left the Grand Prix winner, an online retailer called for last, as it did use context but in a way that mislead consumers. It worked but it did feel like a gimmick.

For the Super Bowl, it created a Super Bowl commercial online so that, when you searched (the ultimate context environment) for Super Bowl ads, it came up. Very clever and it outwitted a lot of the big-spending Superbowl advertisers but, personally, feels a too much like trickery.

I find in our industry, a lot of time is spent on getting the messaging right. Just remember, the real impact comes from consuming it in the right context. Ideas would be much better if as much thought were put into that.


Martin MacGregorMartin MacGregor (@MartMacG) is managing director of Connect, an M&C Saatchi Company, with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Martin has spent 18 years in the industry, and has previously worked at Ogilvy and was MD of MEC Nota Bene in Cape Town. He contributes the monthly “Media Redefined” column, in which he challenges norms in the media space, to

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