Cannes 2018: The Big Not Easy

Richard Brett

With over 20 years experience in the communications industry, Richard has broad national and international experience covering all areas of brand communications, corporate communications and communications agency leadership. Richard is currently CEO at opr (formerly Ogilvy Public Relations Australia), the largest PR agency in Australia.

This year’s Cannes Lions program is packed full of data, robots, algorithms, voice technology, blockchain, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and machine creativity.  

But I’m just as interested in more subtle trends and insights. AI might change the way we come up with ideas in three years’ time, but how does the work we need to create today need to change?  

It seems, by making it the hard way.  

Let me set the scene. We’re surrounded by quick and easy communications. We live in an era of fast, addictive and clickable images. We scroll through hundreds of pictures and films every day. The content we consume, and the content we create as marketeers, has to be fast, good and cheap. It has to be quick to digest and easy to understand. We have to engage our audiences in seconds.  

Additionally, we live in a world where the most powerful person in the world is an expert in quick and dirty communications. On Monday, we heard from Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury, the New York Times number one best-selling exposé of the Trump White House. Wolff said that: “For Trump, the moment is the moment and nothing else exists”. With a few quick-fire characters, Donald Trump is impacting stock markets, upending decades-long global alliances and undermining proven facts.  

Set against this backdrop comes something interesting and surprising – a return to ideas that are difficult to realise. Content that’s tough to create, packed full of craftsmanship and intrinsic beauty, often celebrating 100-year-old traditions.  

Welcome to the Big Not Easy – ideas and content that are hard to make, hard to build, hard to create and hard to deliver – but are winning at Cannes this year thanks to their effectiveness. There are a few outstanding examples of this that have caught my attention in the first two days of this year’s Lions.

The first one is the incredible ‘History Will be Made from the BBC. The British broadcaster’s stunning campaign for the 2018 FIFA World Cup took the centuries’ old tradition of Russian embroidery and created a stunning film where every frame is an individual piece of needlework; each illustrating an iconic moment from previous World Cups. As well as the short film the BBC released last month, the organisation aims to host a public exhibition of a seven-metre-long wall hanging that includes all the frames from the film, as well as new renditions from this year’s tournament.  

The silver Lion winning ‘Battle in the Bone (Area 23) is a campaign for Bayer’s Xofigo drug. It consists of a stunning CGI illustration of a carving that captures the battle going on inside the bones of a man with advanced prostate cancer.  

Prescribed to Death is an arresting, shocking and confronting example of the Big Not Easy.  Commissioned by the National Safety Council, it’s designed to raise awareness of the opioid crisis sweeping the US.  It’s a memorial to the 22,000 Americans that died of an opioid overdose in 2015 with each dead person represented by a pill with their face carved into it. That’s 22,000 micro-carvings all arranged to form a stunning and thought provoking visual spectacle to showcase how someone close to you or your family could be impacted by this national emergency. The campaign contributed to a $US4 billion Federal budget commitment to fighting the epidemic.  

Sehat ka Batua (or the Health Purse) from Mahindra Rise is another Cannes Lions silver award winner. This is a series of intricately designed women’s purses, each with a print that was hand illustrated with a traditional Indian design. It aims to remind Indian women to self-examine for breast cancer.   

Nike took the hard route with ‘Breaking 2 (Wieden & Kennedy). This is an ambitious attempt to crack the two-hour marathon. It used the latest advances in shoe design, technology and athlete training to try and help three athletes smash this long-held barrier. A one-hour documentary told the story of the attempt with the race also live streamed.  

Unfortunately, the two-hour barrier remains, but Eliud Kipchoge finished the ‘Breaking 2’ marathon in 2:00:25, beating the official record by more than two-and-a-half minutes.  

So, while billions continue to snack and dip on our phones, more and more of us are being drawn to the inspiringly difficult, tough to do and intricately detailed. Welcome to the not-so-easy.

Tags: creativity, brand strategy, Cannes Lion

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