Monday, 1 July 2013

Cannes Lions 2013: Key Themes


Like a swarm of locusts, each year 11,000 advertising bods descend on La Croisette in a frenzy, feasting on knowledge and lusting after the Lions that bring their agency fame and favour.  A week on, and the dust is beginning to settle.  Sated and plump on information and rosé, all have flown back to their nest, with a fortunate few obtaining some metallic pussy cats to PR - and a couple with a mini pride in tow.  But in the madness that was the 60th anniversary of Cannes Lions, what were the underlying themes?


Whilst not the biggest focus, an underlying theme of the week was the prevalence of digital in the award entries and seminars.  Now, the near mandatory requirement of brands to having some form of social or site based digital presence means that the utilisation of such properties isn’t overly surprising.  However it was the prominence of owned and earned properties as key parts of activational strategies that was interesting.  Particularly noticeable amongst the high achievers, they were not only pushing consumers to digital so as to galvanise them, but were using digital metrics as the main vehicle for proving success to the judges. 

Though the inclusion of YouTube etc where successful is fairly obvious, what particularly came through was the provision for the campaigns to be able to live outside the confines of the brief.  Perfectly exhibited in the pride obtaining Dumb Ways to Die[1], Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches[2] and Intel’s The Beauty Inside[3], if you seek to create work that elicits an emotional reaction – whether laughter, empathy, guilt etc – allowing your work to grow organically gives it the opportunity to not only reach people, but then let them reach people.

Tech Creates Tech Creates....

Historically, creative concepts have been formulated and subsequently delivered through standard media; however we’re now seeing is a trend where data and technology is the idea.  In this new era, technology and data is beginning to lead creativity[4].

Whilst the more left-brained media-bods may be more au fait with understanding and scrutinising data and tech, they lack the inventive artistry of creatives.  But neither is fully comfortable in this space.  As such we can expect an increasing trend from both sides seeking to upskill in techno creativity and possibilities.  With a plethora of established and emerging tech companies seeking to peddle their wares this will be tricky – if nigh on impossible – and as has occurred in the UK with  companies such as Blippar and Aurasma being prime examples, we may see such companies becoming consultants as much as service providers. 

As is evident with the creativity displayed by the Zuckerbergs, Doreseys and D’Aloisios of the world, we have entered the age of the nerd, and they’re too smart to let us leave.

Original-Ab Vertising

Having been buzzing round the industry for a little while, it wasn’t unsurprising that the main theme of the week was that of “native” advertising.  I.e. advertising that provides value through seamless, natural and unobtrusive integration into its placed environment. 
It’s a familiar concept to more traditional spaces – print advertorials, athletes’ kit sponsorships etc, however due to the DR focused pop-up beginnings of digital - still echoed in the banner ads that make up the majority of non-search digital activity - it’s a far newer concept in the connected space.

In a landscape still only flecked with examples of nativity, Twitter’s Promoted Trends and Buzzfeed’s Sponsored Stories are possibly the most prominent examples of consistent digital brand integration.  However during the week Linkedin CEO Jeff Weiner discussed their heavy “invest[ment] Linkedin as a publishing platform” with a view to be the next to move into the native environment[5].  
Not being alone in his sentiments, this movement towards brands becoming more facilitative marks a positive step beyond the push focused “integrations” publishers have been promoting over the past few years.

In brands starting to facilitate experiences rather than pushing them, they shall increasingly act as service providers to consumers through the content they create/align themselves with.  Whilst more content led strategies will undoubtedly have many hurdles to overcome, the natural benefits of authenticity, trust etc makes it a highly valuable sphere to move into[6].  That said, generally speaking this more passive form of “halo” advertising is only beneficial when brands are consistently interacting with consumers – for them to appreciate the personal benefits the brand is delivering to their lives.  As such agencies may need to identify core audiences/environments to own, so as to build these relationships.

Cannesclusion – Sorry For That One

As with any emerging trend in advertising, the sell-in and movement to native advertising may be slow, however if your brand is to own a space and build a relationship with consumers, it’s always beneficial to be an early adopter.  You’ll get far more learnings by doing, than waiting for others to do it first. 
Separate to this, with the emergence of data and technology as crucial in the creative process, it appears that if you want to win big you need digital in some form to be at the heart of your communications strategy.  Who knows, if you can do all 3 at once – and are a tad arrogant – you may want to start clearing a space for one of next year’s Lions.

[4] See all Innovations Lions - , The Design Grand Prix “Self Scan Report” - , The Effectiveness Grand Prix “Heineken’s Legendary Journey” - , Direct Gold “Third Eye” - amongst many others.
[6] Brilliantly articulated in the week by Conan O’Brian in his hilarious discussion with Anderson Cooper, examining how he’s worked with brands to naturally integrate them into his shows and online content.  For example Square CNX sponsoring his reviewing of video games