Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity … best ideas from the ad world’s annual week of self indulgence

July 5, 2017

Marketing can be an incredibly exciting, disciplined, profitable and respected pursuit … until it’s left to advertising agencies and all their hangers on. Some creative agencies are intelligent, visionary and make a real difference to their client’s success. Others are just luvvies, who are obsessed with glorifying their own egos, drinking too much champagne, talking absolutely bollocks and delivering superficial ideas.

You tend to find the latter types in June in Cannes.

This year, in between their drinking sessions, there was lots of overhyped playing with VR goggles (how many of their consumers actually have these?), lots of talk about AI and chatbots (when what they really need is a few smart algorithms, and smart people), lots of  swooning over celebrities to endorse their brands (when actually consumers want authenticity, and to trust each other), and lots of snogging on the Snapchat ferris wheel (which served no purpose other than to say “we all love to be millennial, don’t we”).

Whilst business needs more creativity than ever before – to make sense of fast-changing worlds, harness the potential of new technologies, and engage consumers in way that is useful, meaningful and profitable – its a pity that so much of the creative capacity in the business world (most of the senior people in agencies, and to be honest, some of the senior people in companies) fritter away their time and ideas, on adstract indulgence.

It’s time for business leaders to take a lead – to say that creativity is too important to be left to marketers obsessed with smooching with their over-friendly agencies – and for the marketers who do “get it” to step up. Time to make sense of how the world has changed, what Chinese or Indonesian consumers really want, how to leverage big data and blockchain to engage individuals, to build useful local communities that give brands meaning but also loyalty, and to drive practical and purposeful innovation, that sustains profitable growth.

For those of you, here are three of the best ideas from Cannes 2017:

The economics of creativity, by McKinsey

Great creative generates tremendous buzz and awards. But does it drive business performance? In an extensive study using data from Cannes Lions awards going back 16 years, McKinsey & Company analysis provides a definitive answer – yes! Not surprisingly, performance varies across different sectors while some standouts dominate the competition. This research also explores some of the key management practises that foster innovation and creativity.

Machine learning for everyone, by Google

Machine Learning is making the world we live in smarter, providing answers to complex problems from tackling climate change to improving public health. It’s also changing our creative world at a dizzying rate. Hear how Machine Learning is providing insights into human behaviour, and how passionate engineers and policy experts are using this knowledge to reimagine products, and foster creativity.

Creating the next agency model, by R/GA

Consulting firms, in-house agencies, owned media platforms – the list of powerful disruptions deconstructing the advertising industry is growing. To shift from being the disrupted to the disruptor, agencies must completely reimagine their model around delivering innovation. Join R/GA founder, chairman, and CEO Bob Greenberg, global chief creative officer Nick Law, chief strategy officer Barry Wacksman and senior vice president of consulting Saneel Radia as they unpack how R/GA disrupted itself and created a new model that combines the strategic insights of innovation consulting, the technology chops to implement the solutions you recommend and the creative skill to meaningfully engage people.

The official reason for the event is to celebrate the best marketing campaigns of the year. (Of course, campaign is an outdated word – marketing tends to be much more interactive and realtime, responding to context and individuals rather than a relentless push). Cannes Lions does showcase some of the most interesting marketing activities from around the world. The biggest winner was a room layout by the Art Institute of Chicago (but also promoting Airbnb) which was refreshing.

More generally, advertising still dominates the formats (although no longer in companies budgets), there are now awards in many more categories. Of course, the criteria for winning is still highly subjective – more about its creativity and execution in the eyes of advertising types, rather than how effectively they engaged their audiences, or delivered profitable growth.

The 2017 Grand Prix winners, in alphabetical order by award:

Art Institute of Chicago‘s Van Gogh BnB wins the Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix:

Last year, the Van Gogh BnB, where the Art Institute of Chicago joined forces with Airbnb to recreate Van Gogh’s Bedroom painting as a real room visitors could stay in overnight, won 14 Cannes Lions awards. This year it picked up the Grand Prix for Creative Effectiveness. Agency: Leo Burnett Chicago

TAC Victoria‘s Meet Graham wins the Cyber Grand Prix

Meet Graham, the weird and wonderful campaign for TAC Victoria, which saw artist Patricia Piccinini sculpt a model of the type of body you need to survive on our roads (based on scientific evidence), won two Grand Prix awards at Cannes Lions this year, including this one in Cyber. Agency: Clemenger BBDO Melbourne. 

Mailchimp‘s Do You Mean Mailchimp

Also picking up a Cyber Grand Prix was this witty campaign for Mailchimp, which plays on people being unable to remember the brand’s name (most notably in an ad that was part of the 2014 podcast Serial) and takes this to the nth degree. Agency: Droga5

Bank of Aland‘s Aland Index/Baltic Sea Project

The third and final Grand Prix in Cyber goes to the Aland Index/Baltic Sea Project, which sees the Band of Aland provide its customers with an index showing how their spending effects the environment and how they might offset this. Agency: RBK

AP Thai‘s The Unusual Football Field wins the Design Grand Prix

Picking up the only Design Grand Prix was this non-rectangular football field, created by property developers AP Thai for teenagers to play on in an over-populated area of Bangkok. Agency: CJ Worx

Björk‘s Not Get video won the Digital Craft Grand Prix:

Björk’s ambitious real-time VR video for the song NotGet, directed by Warren du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones, which changes with each viewing, won the Digital Craft Grand Prix. Teaser shown above. Agency: Analog London

Burger King‘s Google Home of the Whopper won the Direct Grand Prix:

In an example of the old adage that all publicity is good publicity, Burger King’s intrusive ad campaign, which was specifically designed to activate Google Home devices to read from the BK Wikipedia page, won the Direct Grand Prix. It received a ton of negative press at its release but was praised to the skies by the Cannes jury. Go figure. Agency: DAVID, Miami

Channel 4‘s We’re The Superhumans won the Film Grand Prix:

No huge surprises here as Channel 4’s brilliant trailer for its Rio Paralympics 2016 coverage picks up the Film Grand Prix. Agency: 4Creative. 

The Blaze‘s Territory video won the Film Craft Grand Prix:

The top honour in Film Craft went to this striking music video for Territory by The Blaze, directed by The Blaze. Production company: Iconoclast

State Street‘s Fearless Girl won the Glass Grand Prix:

The Fearless Girl statue, created to honour International Women’s Day (and asset management company State Street), won three Grand Prix awards this year, including the Glass Lion. Read our report on it hereAgency: McCann New York 

Boost Mobile‘s Boost Your Voice won the Integrated Grand Prix:

This is the first of three Grand Prix awards for Boost Your Voice, a project that saw Boost Mobile stores in the US turned into voting booths for the Presidential Elections last November. As Boost stores are located in communities with fewer polling stations, Boost Your Voice allowed more equal voting access. Agency: 180LA, Santa Monica

Santander‘s Beyond Money won the Lions Entertainment/Entertainment Lions Grand Prix:

In a surprising moment where a branded film is actually incredibly good, this film from Santander is a Black Mirror-esque exploration into our relationship with money. It’s totally gripping. Agency: MRM/McCann Spain

Adidas‘ Original is Never Finished won the Entertainment Lions For Music Grand Prix:

This spot for Adidas Originals features a remix of Frank Sinatra’s iconic song My Way. Agency: Johannes Leonardo, New York

TAC Victoria‘s Meet Graham also won the Lions Health/Health & Wellness Grand Prix:

Agency: Clemenger BBDO Melbourne


Whirlpool‘s Care Counts won the Lions Innovation/Creative Data Grand Prix:

In the project Care Counts, Whirlpool installed washers and dryers in schools to see how having clean clothes effects attendance rates. Agency: DigitasLBI Chicago

Humanium Metal Initiative won the Lions Innovation/Innovation Grand Prix:

The Humanium Metal Initiative is a weapons destruction programme that sees illegal firearms recycled into units that are then made available for commercial production. Agencies: Åkestam Holst, Stockholm and Great Works, Stockholm’s Innovating Saving won the Media Grand Prix:

Ecommerce company picked up the Media Grand Prix for its witty and clever ways of spreading its money-saving message to customers. Agency: R/GA New York

Seem’s The Family Way won the Mobile Grand Prix:

The Mobile top prize went to Seem, a device that allows men trying for children to check their sperm count with their smart phone, in the privacy of their own home. A bit icky maybe, but kind of brilliant. Agency: Dentsu Y&R Tokyo

Tigo-Une‘s The Payphone Bank won the Product Design Grand Prix:

The Tigo-Une Payphone Bank aims to offer micro-banking options to Colombians currently unserved by the major banks. All transactions are carried out using the humble payphone. Agency: Grey Colombia, Bogotá

Boost Mobile‘s Boost Your Voice also won the Promo & Activation Grand Prix:

Boost Your Voice picked up a second Grand Prix in Promo & Activation. Agency: 180LA, Santa Monica

KFC‘s The Sad Man Meal won the Radio Grand Prix:

The Radio Grand Prix went to KFC for its witty campaign The Sad Man Meal, where a voiceover laments various minor acts of daily sadness, such as when the toilet paper tears up instead of across or when you’re angry and you don’t know why, or when a KFC meal deal ends. Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg

Boost Mobile‘s Boost Your Voice also won the Titanium Grand Prix:

And finally a third Grand Prix for Boost Your Voice. Agency: 180LA, Santa Monica


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