“To change is difficult. Not to change is fatal.” Such were the words of a controversial clergyman, who lived in the 19th century. Which is surprising, since those words have never been as true as today and nowhere as much as in the advertising industry.
And where better to observe that than at the Cannes Lions festival, the pinnacle of global creativity. In this 3-part article I will attempt to analyse some crucial changes and trends to be observed in the body of work awarded at the festival and what they mean for the advertising world at large.
Part one, which you are reading, is devoted to the topic of innovation – in more than one meaning. Innovation in technology and advertising channels used to deliver brand’s message. But also true innovation of advertising itself creating new technologies, communication channels and products.
TECHNOLOGY – WHAT’S ON TOP THIS YEAR?
Want a simple answer? Nothing. Through the years many technologies had a strong impact on advertising landscape on the year of introduction or, more often, sufficient popularisation. To limit ourselves to just last few years, think QR codes, Twitter, augmented reality, wearables, NFC & iBeacons, VR headsets… But this year, there was nothing so universally embraced. Disappointed? Don’t be. This is a proof that digital advertising is entering it’s maturity.
Instead of fixating on a single solution this year’s work present an amazing creativity in using existing ones in new, creative ways. One Grand Prix went to an ingenious… YouTube preroll ad. And not just some Grand Prix. The Film Grand Prix – most prestigious and talked about award of the entire festival. Also, take a moment to consider the significance of this award going to a film that only ever aired on the Internet. Have we (finally and long overdue) reached the time, when all meaningful advertising is digital?
Another great use of Internet video in general and YouTube in particular is Honda’s The Other Side. An aged online communications channel, yet used in a way that has never been done before (and flawlessly crafted as well). The experience is well worth the 3 minutes it takes, so click the link, use the R button on your keyboard and enjoy.
Much like YouTube, bit.ly (and link shortening services in general) is nothing particularly new either, but it’s modification, hope.ly for Red Cross won the hearts – and more importantly donations – of great many. Oh, and a gold Cyber Lion as well.
My last example is the winner of another esteemed category – Integrated – and quite possibly the most celebrated and simplest idea of the festival. One that proves even such an established advertising channel as Twitter is far from reaching it’s full marketing potential. And that now you can ruin your trendy new gluten-free diet faster than ever before.
THE YEAR OF TRUE INNOVATION
Does all this mean, that technology is getting less important in communication? Actually, to the contrary. That fact, that there is no single external technology dominating means that there is more room for internal innovation – something more constructive than just fitting your brand’s communication into the given channel or using well established, even if modern, solutions.
Creating your own, brand-dedicated new technologies has been a growing trend for a few years now, each year bigger than the previous. In recognition of that the Cannes Lions “Innovation” category has this year been turned into a separate (though closely linked to the main one) festival and award – the Innovation Lion. This year’s awarded projects are a great testament to the continuous growth of this trend.
The one you surely already know is Google Cardboard, which has been a phenomenon well before Cannes, where it won not only a gold Innovation Lion but also the Mobile Grand Prix. But to me that is not the most exciting example. Much more meaningful are the innovations created not by tech companies – as a product or a tour de force – but by brands and agencies as an integral part of marketing communications.
A stunning example is the project that won the subfestival’s Grand Prix – what3words. You can discuss and have doubts about the practicality or application potential but you have to tip your proverbial hat to the simplicity and ingenuity of the idea and the use of technology behind it.
Among the other projects awarded at Innovation Lions there are two more that illustrate this trend perfectly. First is Lisnr, standalone technology created by R/GA, Cannes Agency of the Year (a fascinating case of a future-proof organisation I urge you to read more about). Technology advanced enough to challenge bluetooth and NFC as a go-to short-range mobile transfer protocol.
Second one, the Clever Buoy, much like Lisnr, is a solution developed by an agency for a brand that goes way beyond standard communication methods. This time Australian mobile carrier was talked into tackling one of most prominent local problems – sharks. And together they did, with great benefits to the brand, the agency and bodily integrity of Australian beach-goers.
THE NEXT BIG THING
Since, as I argued, there is no single “right-now” thing how about the fabled Next Big Thing? Do we at least have this? Good news – we do. And it is coming really soon. At least if you believe the creator of the Internet era’s first big thing. Yes. The Internet itself.
“Artificial intelligence is not just heading for our industry, it will radically change the machinery we use in marketing.” said Sir Tim Berners Lee during his presentation at Cannes Lions 2015. How exactly will the AI change advertising? Nobody can be sure of that at this point. One thing we can be sure of is, that right now is a damn exciting time to be in the communication business.