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What should you have brought home from Cannes, apart from a
weary body and a bulging contacts book?
With a whopping 17 award categories and more than 250 speakers
from the worlds of entertainment, business, culture and
advertising, the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity is an
opportunity to rethink what's possible. A visit to the south of
France helps us understand how the marketing landscape is changing
and serves as a vivid reminder of what great marketing can look
Here, we offer seven key takeaways from the 2014 Festival.
STORYTELLING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER
"One thing that will never change is the need to tell a
story... one that can seamlessly travel across platforms. What has
changed is that - now - there's no place to hide." - Sasha Savic,
CEO, MediaCom USA
"Storytelling" invaded more Festival seminars than anyone could
possibly count. A related theme was that technology providers are
attempting to move away from their traditional focus on delivering
ROI and direct messages toward something far greater: helping
brands tell deeper, more immersive brand stories.
Vice Media CEO and co-founder Shane Smith is the embodiment of
making storytelling work, even when everything says it shouldn't.
As a special guest in the MediaCom Suite, Shane explained how
stories have the power to move people and the world. Give consumers
instant content, and they will expand its relevance and immediacy
via co-creation and sharing. Getting this right, of course, doesn't
just require telling a compelling story, but also an understanding
of the interconnectedness of platforms.
Vodafone's "Ghita, the Social Shepherd" is a great example of
how good content lives and breathes through many interdependent
connections. In Romania, where 45% of people still live in the
countryside, Vodafone wanted to push smartphone adoption in rural
areas to reinforce its "best coverage" claim. They gave Ghita, a
real shepherd living in a remote village, a smart phone and a
tablet and taught him how to share stories of his life online.
Ghita's story grew into a social phenomenon and he became a
national TV star with half a million Facebook fans.
2. ALWAYS ADD
"Consider why anyone would care. I believe the technical
term for that is the 'give a crap factor.' How can you tap into
something people really care about?" - Marc Pritchard, Global Brand
Building Officer, Procter & Gamble
The second big lesson this year was that advertising has to add
value. And if there was one quote from the week that could serve as
a beacon for advertisers, it was: "Why would you want to work on
anything that people will learn to avoid?"
In an age of fast-forwarding TV ads and online ad-blockers,
traditional advertising will struggle unless we change our mindset
and give consumers content with which they actually want to engage.
Simply put, brands need to "make stuff people want, not make people
Advertising needs to help brands deliver a service. With value
comes credibility: something that will live a lot longer than the
average campaign. A favorite example of this is Mobile Grand Prix
winner "Nivea Sun Kids," which turned magazine advertising into
tear-off wristbands that could be linked to a tracking app on
parents' mobile phones to ensure kids didn't run off or get lost
while playing on the beach.
ENGAGEMENT IS STILL THE NEXT BIG THING
"Tell me the truth! Make my life more interesting or leave
me the f**k alone." - Jared Leto, Actor, Singer,
While storytelling is key to getting consumers' attention, every
brand's story still needs to live somewhere. According to Jeffrey
Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, that place is still social
- specifically, YouTube. According to Katzenberg, the Google-owned
hub "gives a platform or voice for all kinds of creators to be able
to express themselves, to share and tell stories," which is great
news for brands.
We are still at the beginning of what is possible for shared
social stories, but engagement levels already outstrip campaigns
without social elements. Social remains the ultimate place for
encouraging consumer engagement.
A wonderful example of this is "24 Hours of Happy," the campaign
that helped launch Pharrell William's hit single, "Happy." The
success of the track and its subsequent explosion wasn't just a
happy accident; it was part of a master plan that earned the
campaign a Gold Cyber Lion for Best Use of Video.
To turn the song into a great experience, the track was launched
via a 24-hour interactive film housed at 24hoursofhappiness.com.
With more than 300 people dancing to a repeated loop of "Happy,"
the film was recorded in a single shot. The official music video
regrouped the best moments of the 24 hours, and "Happy" went from
50,000 sales to over seven million in just a few weeks.
Anticipating its cultural transcendence, the creative agency
went a step further and created the wearehappyfrom.com site, which
currently houses 1,950 homemade versions of the clip from 150
countries. The campaign was so successful, it resulted in a UN
Official Global Day of Happiness, helping to make the world a
4. ACT ON
INSIGHTS, NOT INSTINCT
"The heart knows today what the mind will learn tomorrow." -
Tham Khai Meng, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy &
For so long, we've been told the world is "going digital." Well,
now everything is digital, and brands and agencies have reams of
data at their fingertips; the real challenge is what to do with it.
Data alone is almost useless unless you have people who can
interpret it, interrogate it and understand its value.
Data lives hand-in-hand with insight. In the pre-digital days,
the amount of consumer information that could be collected was
limited. Now we know nearly everything, and we have the skills to
put the emotion and heart back into the numbers to turn strong data
into powerful, intimate insights.
Human insights were at the heart of "My ID," a Gold Lion-winning
campaign from Coca-Cola Peru that changed the mood of a nation.
Despite its rich culture and growing economy, Peru is often ranked
at the bottom of the global happiness index. Coca-Cola wanted to
change this, and exploited a remarkable insight to spread its
message of happiness.
Peruvians are required by law to carry photo ID and, every year,
hundreds of thousands of applications are processed by the
government. But while there is no law against it, no one ever
smiles in these pictures. Coke installed special photo booths in
key cities to get them to do just that.
To get a free photo - and a valid ID card - you didn't have to
push any buttons... you just had to smile. Peruvians went crazy for
the idea; in the first month alone, 90% of the IDs made by the
Peruvian government were HAPPY IDs.
5. REMEMBER TO
STAY RELEVANT AND PART OF THE CONVERSATION - FAST
"We produce 15% of the content. Consumers produce 85%." -
Wendy Clark, SVP, Global Sparkling Brand Center, The Coca-Cola
The contextual relevancy of advertising is more important than
ever before. It's no longer about putting a :30 spot in a TV show,
it's about making that :30 spot an event - commenting on the
content, adding to the conversation and then continuing it across
all social platforms and paid, earned and owned assets.
Whether you listened in on R/GA and Beats' presentation on
"Advertising at the Speed of Culture," or to Wendy Clark from
Coca-Cola - with her belief that Coke should be part of the
conversation on "any given Tuesday" and that "speed trumps
perfection" - one thing remains clear for brands: even traditional
offline media must now be part of the conversation, reacting to
events in real time, but also driving the conversation and adding
to the discourse.
This approach changes not only the message, but also the media
choices that brands need to make. Take Sony's "Bottled Walkman"
campaign, winner of a Bronze Lion in the Media category.
Having failed to get people to understand their waterproof USP
with traditional advertising - even via athlete and swimmer
endorsements - Sony went literal, selling their waterproof Walkman
from vending machines in bottles of water. What better context for
a waterproof device? Plus, a great way to keep the conversation
"Write what makes you laugh, not what you think will make
someone else laugh." - Armando Iannucci, Writer/Director
Consumers are sick of being lied to. To retain or regain
credibility, brands need to be passionate and mean it. As Hollywood
star Jared Leto stressed, "When brands or products speak, and when
you reach out and try to communicate, the most important thing is
The connected world is saturated with brand messages, and
consumers are increasingly looking for brands that share their
values. Practice what you preach and your target audience will be
more inclined to trust and connect with you. Be totally clear and
transparent about who you are and what you do best, and be careful
not to fall out of sync with your audience by blindly following
That's exactly what Intermarché, France's third-largest
supermarket chain, attempted to do with "Inglorious Vegetables."
You may not know it, but 2014 is the European Year Against Food
Waste. Intermarché wanted to help solve the problem of wasted fruit
and vegetables being thrown away by growers(simply because they
didn't look pretty) and, at the same time, make it more affordable
for their customers to eat the recommended five portions a day.
Intermarché decided to offer consumers the chance to buy fruit
and vegetables that wouldn't normally make it past the doors of any
supermarket at 30% less than better-looking produce. Promoted as
Grotesque Apples, Ridiculous Potatoes and Hideous Oranges, the new
Inglorious Fruit and Vegetables were an instant hit.
By cleverly and authentically labeling these uglier fruits and
vegetables, and offering a discount to boot, store traffic soared
by 24% and the campaign reached more than 13m people in France.
7. DO WELL BY
"Brands can change the world." - Mick Ebeling, CEO and
Founder, Not Impossible
With more and more brands committed to "doing good," this year
saw the inaugural Cannes LionHeart Award presented to Bono for his
pioneering (RED), a fusion of branding, activism and
The LionHeart Award recognizes a person or organization that -
through innovative use of commercial brand power - has made a
significant difference to people or the planet, thereby further
elevating the momentum of "doing good" in the world of
With campaigns like Skype's "Impossible Family Portraits" and
Coca-Cola's "Small World Machines," through to the Grand Prix
winner for Good, "Sweetie," a life-like digital child avatar to
catch online sexual predators, there are more and more advertising
campaigns helping to change the world. Without wanting to sound too
cynical, one thing's for sure: if you can hit your brand KPIs and
make the world a better place, then you've really hit the
One memorable campaign with genuine altruistic motives is "Bald
Cartoons" for Brazilian cancer charity GRAACC, which took home
seven Lions for the effort. Kids look to TV to make sense of the
world; when they don't see anyone resembling themselves, they can
be left feeling isolated and alone. This is particularly true for
children with cancer, who've lost their hair due to
To help normalize the condition and give these children
confidence, GRAACC partnered with Cartoon Network and Discovery
Kids to have favorite cartoon characters shave their heads in
solidarity. For the first time, kids saw heroes including Garfield,
Popeye and Hello Kitty with no hair, just like them. The result
raised awareness for the charity but, most importantly, drove home
the message that children with cancer are children first - not the
illness they might have.