Now that the awards have been given, it’s time to consider the other big part of Cannes: the seminars. The International Festival of Creativity sets the tone for the industry in the year to come. It covers every aspect of the advertising world, but also goes way beyond. Cannes is a compass to where the global trends are heading.
The next big thing is clearly VR. Virtual Reality is taking off big time and it’s predicted to create a disruption comparable to the one created by the popularisation of the internet. There’s been a lot of talk on stage about “breaking the frame” and how we are only beginning to learn how this new medium works. But the pioneers are calling VR not only an extension of gaming or the evolution of cinematography – it’s a completely immersive experience like never before, that runs on human emotion.
It’s all about being inclusive, sustainable and democratic. For example, one of the most appreciated campaigns (that won Grand Prix in Titanium) wasn’t even about selling, on the contrary: #OPTOUTSIDE is about an outdoor retailer, REI, who on Black Friday chose to close all of its physical stores and shut down its online shop as well. Instead of having people indoors fighting over discounted products, they recommended they spend the day outside, enjoying life. A campaign that costs virtually nothing, takes a break from consumerisms and engages people, leaving the decision up to them. The campaign was deeply faithful to the brand essence and served as a brilliant corporate communication tool for a shop that sells products for outdoor aficionados, in the spirit of “walk the talk” mantra.
The best creative insights you can get in the Health sector is from Empathy towards the patient. The purpose here isn’t to sell more pills to the same sick people, but to come up with ways that either prevent the disease (early diagnostics) or make their life easier when living with a condition. And you can only realise those things if you put yourself in their shoes and resonate with a patient’s issues. One of the Grand Prix winning ideas was as simple as replacing women’s boobs (which are censored) with male ones, in a video demonstrating how to search one’s breasts for lumps.
It’s been stated in this festival before that the biggest winners don’t have more “talent”, but simply “work” more. Creativity is a muscle that needs to be exercised. Probably the best lesson on how to work your way up in the world came from the seminar on Justin Trudeau’s election campaign. He’s young and charismatic, but that worked against him initially, as he was perceived as “simply not ready”. His older, more experienced political adversaries played the same old game, throwing garbage and discrediting him. Instead of entering that war, Justin’s campaign focused on positivity and beat the opposition with their own words. It goes to show that if the system is faulty, you don’t have to enter the game – play your own.
This year’s most visible brand in Cannes was, of course, Samsung, as Marketeer of the year. But as pointed out by many people on stage, the majority of the brands present at the festival, and actually playing the biggest role in the world’s economics, are young companies that wouldn’t have existed just 25 years ago. Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Getty Images, Netflix were all big winners. As for the traditional brands, they do better when they acknowledge and engage their competitors in the right tone of voice, as proven by Burger King’s McWhopper: they very publicly approached McDonalds for a burger collaboration which was, of course, rejected. But they were betting on the people’s excitement towards the idea, so DIY McWhoppers were created all over the country. Again, inclusive and democratic.
Beyond marketing strategies, sales figures and media impressions, Cannes touches on the current issues of the world, most strikingly in the Grand Prix for Good category. Shortlisted campaigns touched on illiteracy, child marriages, discrimination, domestic violence. But the award was given to a campaign tackling one of the most heated debates: refugees. UNfairy Tales for UNICEF is a series of animations based on the real life stories told by the unheard voices of Syrian children – but without the happy endings. In Cannes, there’s always a call for creativity to solve the world’s issues. In an international atmosphere that unanimously supports unity, it’s hard to believe the ruptures and hate across the globe.
Big Data was a trendy word in Cannes a few years back. While there’s no secret information is flowing in on all channels and more data is being generated than we can ever process, it seems these days that the expression has died down a bit. And that’s not because people stopped caring about it, but because they’ve become more efficient in managing the influx and reducing it to core essentials. Data is only valuable to the end user when they can see it themselves simple enough that they get how it affects them, or when the company uses it wisely to transform the customer’s experience. “The House of Clicks” is one example how a property website used its information from the searches on their site to build the most desirable house. Not only it created valuable PR, but they actually built a product people want, opening a new market for them as the houses could be sold as units.
The trends in PR are on par with the rest of the festival and with what’s been happening globally for the past few years: ecology, healthy living, education. However, while these topics might seem overused, looking at the issues from a different angle might bring you a Grand Prix. So it did for Forsman & Bodenfors, who created a campaign emphasizing the importance of organic food not by adopting the macro perspective, on how pesticides kill the earth, but went into micro-details and made it personal: what happens INSIDE your body when you start eating organic? In fact, most of the gold winners made their campaigns personal, whether you could chat to a random stranger in Sweden to promote the Swedish Tourism Association or have Heineken give you a VIP Champions League ticket as a trick to separate you from your friends – they all banked on inter-human, personal relationships.
The best Design seminars this year came from the legend Stefan Sagmeister and Yoshihiro Yagi from Dentsu, who is the most awarded art-based creative in Asia. Yagi casually presented his latest project in the seminar, only to collect a Grand Prix for it later in the week, equally casual. While the entire Design theory focuses on the intersection between functionality and aesthetics, Sagmeister centered his whole talk on Beauty: it is intrinsic to the human nature, it changes our mood, it is recognisable under any circumstances, it is generally agreed upon and, in the end, it actually improves functionality. On the other hand, Yagi presented a series of videos and summarised Design as Nature, Necessity, Culture, Logic, Touch and Research. In conclusion, Design is solving issues beautifully.
This is a new category introduced this year, in fact a mini-festival in its own right happening for two days in Palais II (just like Lions Health). However, many argue that advertising should ALL be entertainment, so we’ve got a lot to learn from the musicians, producers, athletes and actors in this segment. Entertainers naturally have something advertisers pay for: an audience, a fan-base. As a brand, when working with a talent that becomes the endorser, it is important to learn how to communicate to their audience, in the right tone of voice and with authentic visuals. Product integration is key to intertwining the two: when the viewer is looking to be entertained, advertising has to be a seamlessly integrated part of the content, rather than a distraction from it.