Mini Cannes, Maxi Thoughts

On a hot and sultry Wednesday night, about a hundred or so people crammed into the ground floor at SapientNitro, London. Why? We were there to catch up on the news from Cannes. And while the CannesTan™ had faded for most, there was still plenty to talk about over a glass of rosé or three.

Kicking the event off, Creative Social Co-Founder, Daniele Fiandaca, shared some of the latest debates on whether Cannes is a good thing for creativity, or whether it’s had its day. You can read some Cannes commentary here.  Yes, there are plenty of detractors. So it was up to the speakers to tell us the juicy, positive bits from the Festival.  So what were the meaningful shifts?

First speaker, Sam Bell, Creative Director at M&C Saatchi, told the crowds that we should learn from artists, namely that we should keep just one foot in reality while firmly planting the other in the absurd. He suggested we arm ourselves with interesting things, and to remain interested. This belief is what will ensure our best work is ahead of us.

Next up was Jax Ostle-Evans, part of the Stink Digital team that gave us The Other Side for Honda, one of my favourite pieces of work from last year. I doubt there can be many of you that haven’t seen it, but just in case here is the trailer again in all its glory:

Want to win Cannes Gold yourself? Jax recommended three basic rules:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Reward the audience with quality
  3. Get a good team together

So, now you know.

Cannes comes in for some flak every year, so it was interesting to get an insider’s point of view from Senta Singerland, Director of Brand Strategy for Cannes Lions. Having done the job for the past eight years, she’d know, right?

Senta reminded us that Cannes is a moment in time and that the awards provide a benchmark. This is what drives performance – not to mention ROI. The most startling fact of her talk was that only 3% of entries win a Lion, which leaves 39,000 agencies drowning their sorrows at the Gutter Bar.

Beyond this, Senta argued (quite rightly, I think) that creativity is powerful and has a responsibility that we should harness. This is why the Glass Lion was created. The Festival is there to drive cultural change. To prove her point, Senta talked about #HIVHeroes:

Following on from this was the ever ebullient, Laura Jordan Bambach. She inspired us by speaking about being (one of the few advertising people) on the jury for the inaugural Glass Lion. She talked passionately about two specific pieces of work that took the Glass Lion Gold and Grand Prix at Cannes, as they both really made seismic cultural shifts:

‘This Girl Can’ for Sport England took Gold.

Whisper’s ‘Touch the Pickle’ won the Grand Prix.

After a short break we returned to hear Patrick Collister, one of the industry’s leading statesmen, and Head of Google Zoo, bemoan the fact that advertising has forgotten that it needs to sell stuff. He argued that, while behavioural change is great it’d be the death of the industry.

To prove his point, Patrick took us through a litany of work that didn’t win, yet was hugely effective. Here’s a snapshot of some of those pieces of work:

Radiant Returns

Radiant wanted to prove how good their products were at keeping colours looking newer for longer.

The Rabbit Race

Create a buzz around your sale by creating a lottery people can only enter by buying something.

Pepper Hacker

As mealtimes are often hijacked by technology, Dolmio Australia helped bring families back together with a piece of its own tech.

Having been harangued by Patrick, we moved swiftly on to Wiktor Skoog, Planner, Grey London and one of the people responsible for Life Paint. He didn’t labour on whether this was a rebrand or corporate hijack, but instead talked about how it provided a case study in ‘getting shit done’.

Apparently, although Volvo loved the idea it wasn’t the type of work the marketing department usually buys. So sure it would work, the team at Grey just got on with it, made the case study, shoved it on the web and social media took care of the rest. All for a minuscule budget of just £75,000. One thing Wiktor was right about was that fact that  agencies need to change to facilitate this kind of work:

  1. Be honest, brutally.
  2. Don’t be afraid to admit you have no idea what you’re doing and need help from someone who does.
  3. Bring passion, and leave the politics behind.
  4. Embrace your inner ‘suit’ – that is, be mindful of the results and the wider business needs.

Here’s the result:

Dan Harvey, who heads up the Experience Design offering at SapientNitro, didn’t go to Cannes. Instead, he stayed in London and drank rosé in Shoreditch. He talked about how it felt to view Cannes from outside, in particular the innovation category – the Festival’s tenth new category in eight years! And while some of the entrants weren’t all that innovative, those that delighted Dan did well.

What Three Words

Grand Prix winner, What Three Words, aims to bring an address to the 4 billion people in the world who don’t have one.

Clever Buoy

Optus developed a smart ocean buoy that detects sharks and alerts lifeguards on the beach.

Many of the entrants used breakthrough technology with an idea that scales. And the creativity of the idea motivates others to take that thinking on. Dan went on to note that to win an Innovation Lion you had to understand that data matters, APIs need to be open, and you need to pull people from multiple and disparate disciplines into your team.

Last, but by no means least, Dave Birss, Head of TV at The Drum, closed the event with some predictions of what would be hot at Cannes Lions 2016. In typical Birss style, these were crazy ideas that appeared entirely ridiculous. Which generally means that they’ll get made by someone and entered.

For my money, I’m going with #LikeADad, a brand tie-up between Oculus Rift and Loctite, where a poor teenager has a VR headset glued on so they can experience life like their Dad. Why might it win a Lion? Because it’ll lead to more incidents like this:

So, yes Cannes has its fair share of absurdity, scam entries, naff architecture, over-indulging creative directors and overblown pop stars. Yet it’s also a place that inspires, offers a chance to see a variety of work, and meet people with whom you can do business. Just make sure you keep the rose-tinted glasses on while you’re there.

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