Small NGOs winning in Cannes


How to make your environmental cause stand out among so many movements and get the attention of the international community? MarViva, a non-governmental organization based in the City of Knowledge and dedicated to the conservation of marine and coastal resources in the Eastern Tropical Pacific was able to do just that.

Magdalena Velázquez, MarViva’s Communications Manager and Omar Polo, McCann’s Creative Vice President explain how they managed to get the campaign “No straws, please” to win the Act Responsible Cannes Tribute International Award, along with the organizations Eco Éxito and Tortuguías.

It all started in 2018, when the Eco Éxito movement launched the popular campaign “Sin carrizo, por favor” (No straws, please) in Panama. It was at that time that MarViva decided to support this effort with the aim of reducing plastic consumption, mainly straws, that eventually ends up in the ocean. Later, in 2019, inspired by this initiative, the McCann agency team led by Omar Polo, decided to approach MarViva to work together developing an artistic concept that showed, in a timeline, the link between the life of plastic straws and historical moments.

As a basis for the conceptualization of this idea, McCann’s team was mainly inspired by a straw’s linear shape and all the “history” this disposable item can accumulate over the years, a period as long as the evolution of the media or the conquest of space by man. MarViva, on the other hand, provided updated and valuable data on ocean pollution and its effects on marine life.

From Panama to Cannes

For both organizations, the campaign’s success came unexpectedly and very organically. Magdalena says that within a few days of having spread the content on MarViva’s, Eco Éxito’s and Tortuguías’s social networks, came wide acceptance, both nationally and internationally. With the passing of the days, Instagram accounts from India, London and Germany echoed the campaign. However, Omar clarifies that this would not have been possible if NGOs and other organizations hadn’t succeeded in generating widespread conversation on the subject so that the problem remains relevant in public opinion; so much so that they have influenced national policy, such as the approval and enforcement of the law that prohibits the use of plastic bags in Panama.

Given the community’s acceptance of the campaign, as seen in local magazines and social networks, McCann’s team decided to register these pieces in different festivals such as Volcano in Costa Rica and El Sol in Spain. Afterwards, someone contacted MarViva on social media to invite them to participate in the Act Responsible award that takes place at the Cannes Festival, to highlight responsible advertising. Once enrolled in the environmental category, the winner is elected through public vote. Days later, with the support of Panamanians and foreigners, the campaign achieved the most important recognition in the category.

Creativity and its support of NGOs

There are currently many organizations and foundations raising public awareness about different environmental causes. However, Omar emphasizes the importance of having a simple message that catches the attention of the community in a different and creative way. The need to reinvent oneself again and again to influence changes in behavior and address problems in an innovative way. Also, Magdalena adds that this can only be achieved with the support of allies, since it is unthinkable for NGOs to assume the kind of investment needed to work with talent and professionalism of this caliber.

For McCann, to collaborate with MarViva, Eco Éxito and Tortuguías was more than a mere donation, since they were able to attain their goal of attracting more companies from different sectors to support such causes – where the participation of society as a whole is necessary. After obtaining the award, construction companies, supermarkets and others have set their sights on the organization, offering support and taking an interest in the cause.

The campaign in other contexts

Just like the useful life of a straw, the campaign’s life continued. After their participation in Cannes, the campaign was presented at other festivals in the region such as: El Ojo de Iberoamérica in Argentina and the Festival of Antigua in Guatemala. In addition, new commemorative adaptations were made at the local level celebrate of the 500th anniversary of the founding of Panama City, a historic milestone for the country and its citizens.

There is still much to do in terms of environmental awareness, both locally and internationally. Therefore, it is increasingly necessary to have institutions, organizations, foundations and companies willing to work collaboratively to create synergies that may allow us to find solutions to the challenges we have today as a society.

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