Cannes Lions 2015: tech takes its place at the heart of creativity


Our industry is no longer looking toward “cyber” and “mobile” – everything we do is cyber and mobile. Innovation is the norm and storytelling is now powered by technology, both hardware and software. Data drives insights as well as distribution. Cannes has historically been dominated by the agencies and the work they have spent hours creating to transform the relationship between their products or services and the customer.

This year it’s different. The backdrop and beating heart of Cannes is still the amazing work, but the dominant players permeating the keynotes, conferences and late-night parties aren’t just the agencies and clients. Technology and media companies are now key power players in this ecosystem. The outsiders are quickly becoming the insiders, taking their place alongside the creatives, agencies, holding companies and brands.

This isn’t going to be apparent solely at the festival’s many events. This shift will be represented within the work as well. The heart of creativity is now technology, data and content, and it’s inherently mobile. It doesn’t just interrupt, it participates. It’s native, it’s available and it encourages us to share. As Paul Berry, CEO of Rebel Mouse, puts it: “When an idea really works, sharing it completes us.”

This year’s highlights

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A definite highlight for our agency’s New York office was the work it produced with Coke Zero, creating the first ever “drinkable” ad campaign. One particular strand of it – the TV ad – utilised the Shazam app, inviting consumers to use their mobile device during the ad to receive a digital “sample” of the product. As the big screen ad poured a drink, the mobile screen filled up with Coke Zero, eventually giving the viewer a coupon for a free drink. By tapping into consumer behaviour – in this case, using a mobile phone while watching television – the brand was able to get millennials to interact with it and ultimately try the product.

Pepsi Max delivered another great example of native advertising, but via a much larger screen. The brand delighted and frightened London bus passengers with its “unbelievable” bus shelter, which presented unusual and shocking visuals that were almost too real. This outdoor campaign shows that tech continues to transform advertising, even in its most traditional mediums.

One piece I particularly enjoyed this year was G-Shock’s Five Minutes, an interactive game with seamless brand integration. It’s an example of a brand using interactive video and leveraging both gaming and a recent cultural phenomenon – in this case, zombies – to create an unforgettable experience.

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Honda’s Civic R Type ad used modern technology to tell a great story, or in this case, two stories at the same time. Through a video platform, viewers could switch between two concurrent, shot-for-shot narratives by pressing R on their keyboard.

I would be shocked if there are no winners from the internet of things world (think Wink, Amazon Echo, the Myo Band and other wearables). It also wouldn’t be surprising to see media companies such as BuzzFeed or Vice Media represented in the winner’s circle.

Essential viewing

Aside from honouring the best creative advertising in the world, Cannes Lions is always an unforgettable week thanks to the big names that descend on the festival as speakers and guests. This year, the roster may be as diverse as ever.

Apps such as Snapchat and Tinder have become go-to mobile platforms for people and brands alike. Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel and Tinder founder and president Sean Rad will be sharing their knowledge with the elites of the ad world.

I’m also looking forward to hearing from Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who will be talking about the coming AI revolution, and Al Gore, who will be taking part in the annual Cannes Debate with Sir Martin Sorrell, chief exec of WPP.

The advertising world has long had to adjust to technological advancements and changes in human behaviour and culture. But now the changes are happening more often – and more rapidly. Lines aren’t being blurred as much as they have intersected. Brands must still tell great stories, but the canvases, tools and materials have changed along with the way audiences experience them. This year at Cannes will be a great illustration of how storytelling will never be the same again.