2015 Cannes Lions reconcile art and science of creative business

Cannes Lions, the global annual awards for professionals in the creative communications industry kicked off with over 13,500 registered delegates and about the same number at the fringe events.

Philip Thomas, the festival’s chief executive said, “There are 13,500 registered delegates this year, from roughly 12,000 last year and just over 3,000 in 2009. There are so many more different types of people involved…It’s an interesting mirror of what’s happening in the industry.”

It’s quite a daunting experience, with the world’s most creative and successful advertising from 100 countries, in all formats ranging from press, outdoor, PR, direct to radio and branded content on display.

The judges have to assess thousands of pieces of creative while the rest are faced with a collection of talks on every subject under the sun. Former US vice president, Al Gore talked about the role of communication in environmental campaigning. Musician Marilyn Manson discussed the reaction he generates and the popular TV star, Kim Kardashian, discussed tech entrepreneurship of her app ‘Kim Kardashian Hollywood’ that had over 28m downloads globally.

This year’s Cannes Lions, however, has emphasized advertising technology, which is fundamentally changing how advertising is created, bought and sold. Underpinning build-up hypes, panels and speeches, there’s even a giant exhibition space where much of the formal activity takes place, focused on digital advertising, social media and analytics. For the first time, a separate Cannes Innovation festival at the end of the main event that will focus on data and technology, “Today, content isn’t the topic of conversation,” Mr. Terkelsen said. “Today, ad tech is the topic of conversation.”

Many in the advertising business have used words like “seismic” and “tectonic” to describe the transformation. The industry is increasingly not revolving around three-martini lunches, but around online ad exchanges that work like stock trading platforms. Data-driven products that give marketers the ability to target consumers and assess the effectiveness of ad campaigns have also gained some heft. At the same time, concerns about ad blocking and ad skipping have grown, spurring advertisers to search for new ways to reach consumers.

Companies like OpenX, an ad marketplace, TrueX, a digital ad technology firm owned by 21st Century Fox, and the Rubicon Project, which aims to become a centralized, automated exchange for buying and selling ads, are now attending Cannes Lions alongside creative agencies like BBDO and the tech giants that now play dominant roles in the ad market like Google and Facebook.

“In the past two or three years, you’ve seen the ad tech, the data, the insights, the programmatic players that are really now driving the innovation of Cannes,” said Mari Kim Novak, the chief marketing officer at Rubicon. In the past, these ad tech companies operated largely on the fringe of the festival, holding their own meetings outside the Palais. But this year, they are central to the event.

As more industry players, particularly newer companies, have made Cannes Lions a priority, interest in the event has swelled. In addition to the biggest ad companies like WPP and Omnicom, media companies, we now have Snapchat, Twitter and Pinterest, along with BuzzFeed, AOL, Vice and Mashable hosting panels and cocktail parties.

“This is a really important year because it doesn’t just let us be outside of the Palais having very important conversations with the biggest and best brands and agencies and publishers from around the world,” said Ms. Novak, who also attended Cannes Lions when she worked at Microsoft. “It allows us to influence and shape the dialogue. That’s a really big difference.”

What has remained same is that Africa still plays on the practice pitch. South Africa, the only bright spot from Africa, through Joe Public got a Bronze in the Promo & Activation with its ‘Vote SA’ Cinemark experience app; it was the only South African agency to feature on the awards night with 117 awards handed out from a total of 3,196 entries in Promo & Activation this year, compared to 2014’s three South African awards out of 94 presented.

India bagged its first Grand Prix since 2008 with BBDO picking up the top honours in the newly created Glass Lion category for its ‘Touch the Pickle’ campaign for Whisper sanitary napkins. BBDO also got rewarded for its ‘Share the Load’ campaign for Ariel detergent, a work focused on addressing the issues of gender inequality.

The Grand Prix in that Promo & Activation category was claimed by Grey London for Volvo UK with its work, “Lifepaint” which Jury President, Matt Eastwood, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer of J. Walter Thompson, said had not only raised the bar creatively, but also made a positive contribution to humanity. “It reinforces a life-long commitment to a strategy of safety and then elegantly turns that to a guiding purpose not just for the cars, but for all of society. It’s a simple, easy to apply solution that will genuinely save lives.”

At press time, category Grand Prix winners for Press went to Grey New York for “Never stop riding”, the fantastically illustrated ads promoting biking; while carting away two gold Lions for Buenos Aires Public Bike System. Grey New York also carted home the Direct Lions for its Volvo campaign, “The Greatest Interception Ever”, Press –, Health – This girl can, Take it from a fish, Intimate words.

Mobile Grand Prix went to Google for Google Cardboard that democratized advertising technology space with its simple low cost virtual reality platform with a Do-It-Yourself cardboard mount for mobile phone described by Jurists as an “enabler, a winner that itself facilitated multiple campaign winners”. Google won without any help from its numerous creative partners.

For others, we have outdoors, creative effectiveness, PR, Media, Glass Cyber Radio Product Design, Creative Data, Innovation, Titanium & Integrated, Branded content & Entertainment, Film craft, and Film.

Apple’s collaboration with TBWA/Media Arts Lab on ‘Shot on iPhone 6’ campaign won the Outdoor Lions Grand Prix, officially referred to as “World Gallery”. According to the jury president Juan Carlos Ortiz, creative chairman of DDB Americas, “It’s not just a great idea, it’s a game changer. It’s really opening a new way of doing things and changing behavior.”

In Media Y&R Team Red, Istanbul got the Grand Prix for “Vodafone Red Light Application /Between Us”, and for the Creative Effectiveness Lions, Volvo Trucks “Live Test” Series won.


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