Marketing Cannes-do’s: Takeaways from the festival of festivals

Jodie Sangster

Jodie Sangster has been the CEO of the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) since 2011 and is also chairperson for the International Federation of Direct Marketing Associations (IFDMA). She has worked across the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific for 14 years with a focus on data-driven marketing and privacy, and began her career as a lawyer in London specialising in data protection. Her resume includes senior positions at Acxiom Asia-Pacific and the Direct Marketing Association in New York.

I’m recently back from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, where CMOs, CEOs, agency execs, creatives and tech heads gathered to applaud the world’s best creative work during the day and to party all night.

Now in its 61st year, Cannes has traditionally been a showcase for the best in advertising globally and creative talent. More recently, it has become a destination for CMOs and CEOs who want creative inspiration and to fly the innovation flag.

I met several Australian and international CMOs and CEOs during the week and from these discussions, several key festival themes emerged.

Tech companies are now major players at Cannes

Data and technology took centre stage at Cannes, and players such as Adobe, Google, Microsoft, Pinterest, Yahoo and Spotify had a strong presence at the festival.

Although this is the Festival of Creativity, the focus on technology and data was not entirely surprising. It reflects the ‘new creative’ where technology and art must go hand-in-hand, and where data plays a critical role in either informing or delivering against the creative concept.

Indeed, several people commented that Cannes was beginning to become a creatively led SXSW. Although there were some concerns Cannes could lose its essence as a creative-focused event, the reality is data and tech are introducing capabilities that significantly enhance creative output.

A case in point was the creative and data-focused ‘Magic of Flying’ campaign for British Airways (OgilvyOne), which took out the Grand Prix in the Direct category. Designed to help the airline highlight its destinations scope, digital billboards in prominent London locations featured creative that encouraged people to look up at the aircraft flying above them. A message on the board displayed real-time data of the plane including city of origin, destination and flight number.

This wonderful campaign, with adorable children pointing up at the aircraft, tapped into our childhood love for flying. But what people didn’t see was the complex back-end technology picking up real-time data from the BA planes from nearby antennae. This data was fed into an application that identified the plane flying over the billboard, which then sent information to a server to trigger the right billboard message about the plane’s destination or origin.

You can bet more creative campaigns in the future will be marked by real-time data use.

Tell us a story

It was heartening to see the concept of ‘storytelling’ again on everyone’s lips at this year’s festival. Numerous brands and agencies reiterated the need to do something significant to stand out from the noise and clutter of hard-sell ads – and some examples in the award-winning work were truly inspiring.

Chipotle Mexican Grill’s (Creative Artists Agency and Edelman) hauntingly beautiful film, The Scarecrow, demonstrated the essence of great storytelling. This short viral film, which won two Golden Lions and the Grand Prix for PR, tells the story of a scarecrow who escapes from a soulless industrial food company populated by nasty robotic crows. He starts farming his own produce and opens a burrito stand selling fresh food.

There was no exhortation to head down for a burrito at your local restaurant. Instead, The Scarecrow, seen over 14 million times on YouTube, started a robust conversation about where our food comes from, and nicely positioned Chipotle as a leader in improving America’s food system.

This is the new ground – advertising that tells a story, engages the customer and creates ‘brand love’ – and we’ll see more of these campaigns in future.

Advertising for social good here to stay

Socially responsible advertising was again highlighted this year, and several ideas implemented over the past 18 months have the capacity to change the world that we live in.

I couldn’t go past McCann Worldgroup Mumbai for ‘Share My Dabba’ for the Happy Life Welfare and Dabbawala Foundation, which earned two Silver Lions in Direct. This was a fabulous idea, beautifully executed, to alleviate the problem of child hunger on the streets of Mumbai. Through a ‘share’ sticker, the dabbawalas (a century-old network of couriers who ferry food around Mumbai) were alerted to dabbas (lunchboxes) that contained un-eaten food and gave these to children in need. Thousands of hungry children were fed and the campaign inspired many private lunch services to support the cause.

The most highly awarded social-good campaign was ‘Sweetie’ for Terre des Hommes-Netherlands (Lemz), with 12 Golden Lions and the Grand Prix for Good. But as Terres des Hommes noted, it’s not about the Lions. More important is continued interest in the message of ‘Sweetie’: That Web cam child sex tourism can and must be stopped.

Again, this is a campaign that makes the world a better place, using an exceptional idea, ground-breaking technology and data to produce outcomes that would not have been possible just a few years ago.

That said, social responsibility isn’t a new concept. McDonald’s has been doing it for years with its Ronald McDonald houses – perhaps part of the reason the company was awarded ‘Marketer of the Year’ at this year’s Cannes Festival.

The new creative

Besides traditional creatives, Cannes Lions always has a plethora of other industries in attendance including film makers, pilots, inventors, celebrities and architects. This highlights the need for us marketers and advertisers to embrace the diversity of people who can influence our work.

FutureBrand showed how creativity can create a better future with a talk featuring André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, the founders and co-pilots at Solar Impulse. The pair discussed how they pioneered the world’s first solar airplane, taking it on a successful 26-hour flight. It’s nothing to do with advertising, but everything to do with creativity, thinking outside of the box and having a vision to succeed.

I also enjoyed the session with Tim Webber, creative director at Framestore, who argued imagination is the only restriction to innovation. Tim was the visual effects supervisor for epics like Avatar and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and talked about the creative thinking and problem-solving behind the space thriller Gravity, for which he won an Academy Award for best visual effects. This was problem solving on a different scale and an opportunity to think about the bigger picture.

New design thinking

My final takeaway is that creative professionals will need to reinvent themselves. Art directors are no longer art directors, and designers are not designers. That was the point of a panel discussion I attended with Yves Behar, founder and CEO of fuseproject; Scott Belsky, VP of products and community head of Behance; and PJ Pereira, founder and chief creative officer of Pereira & O’Dell.

Behar, who bills himself as a designer/entrepreneur/integrator, and Pereira, who positions himself as a writer/visionary/salesman, said creatives now have to work in an ever-changing landscape of media, technology and disciplines to create ideas wherever consumers can and want to experience them.

To play a bigger role, Behar claimed designers need to understand finance, HR and marketing. The result? New-style creative teams that can create powerful, effective content for brands. Something to think about.

If you want to know more about Cannes 2014, I’ll be talking to David Sable, creative effectiveness president for the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, in a live web chat later this month.

Tags: data-driven marketing, marketing strategy

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