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7 things that inspired us at Cannes 2014

What else should you have brought home from Cannes, apart from a weary body and a bulging contacts book?

With a whopping 17 categories in the awards as well as 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, as well as serving as an annual refresher for our youthful enthusiasm and a vivid reminder of what the best marketing can look like.

Here, we offer seven key takeaways that we learned from Cannes this year.

1. STORYTELLING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER

Storytelling was part of the title in 15 of the seminars and agreed to be the way to the consumers’ coveted attention. A common theme was that technology providers are looking to move away from their traditional focus on delivering ROI and direct messages, and moving towards something far greater: helping brands tell greater, more immersive brand stories.

Vice Media CEO & co-founder Shane Smith is the embodiment of making storytelling work – even when it shouldn’t (by common knowledge). As a special guest in the MediaCom Suite, he explained how stories have the power to move people and the world, and to engage – at least when done right. Give consumers content they can connect with instantly and they will share it and bring it to life through co-creation, expanding its relevance and immediacy. Getting this right, of course, doesn’t just require telling a
compelling story but also an understanding of the interconnectedness of platforms.

We need to push the envelope by creating more immersive, nonlinear stories.

Gaston Legorburu, Worldwide Chied Creative Officer, SapientNitro

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 via social networks and online. Ghita’s story became a social phenomenon and he became a national star, with half a million Facebook fans and appearances on national TV.

2. ALWAYS ADD VALUE

The second big lesson from Cannes this year was that advertising should add value. And if there were one quote from the week that brands should live by, it was: “Why would you want to work on anything that people will learn to avoid?”

In an age of fast-forwarding TV adverts and ad-blockers online, traditional advertising will struggle unless we change our mind-set and give our customers content they are actually willing to participate in and engage with. Simply put, brands need to “make stuff people want, not make people want stuff”.

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

Content and campaigns need to help brands deliver a service: a value exchange that helps them instill credibility – something that can live a lot longer than the life-cycle of an average campaign. A favourite 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.

3. SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT IS STILL THE NEXT BIG THING

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 if they do it right.

We are still at the beginning of the beginning of what it possible for shared social stories, but engagement levels already outstrip a campaign without social at its heart. Social remains the ultimate place for encouraging consumer engagement.

The intersection between linear storytelling and social engagement is the next big thing.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO, Dreamworks Animation

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 all part of a master plan that earned the campaign a Gold in Cyber 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 from zero airplay to the video being launched, ‘Happy’ went from 50,000 sales to over 7 million in just a few weeks.

Anticipating its cultural transcendence, the creative agency went a step further and created the wearehappyfrom.com site which housed 1,500 home-made versions of the clip from 130 countries. The campaign was so successful, it resulted in a UN Official Global Day of Happiness, helping to make the world a happier place.

4. ACT ON INSIGHTS NOT ON INSTINCT

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 working out what to do with it. Data alone is next to useless unless you have people in place who can interpret it, interrogate it
and understand its value.

Data lives hand-in-hand with insight. In the pre-digital days, agencies were limited in how much Information they could collect on consumers. Now they know everything, and have the skills to put the emotion and heart back into the numbers to turn strong data into powerful human insights.

Start with something true. A true human insight always was, and always will be, the starting point for any campaign that touches people.

Marc Pritchard, Global Brand Building Officer, Procter & Gamble

 

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 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 their picture. So Coke installed special photo booths in key cities to get them to do just that. To get a free photo – and a valid HAPPY 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

In today’s highly-connected world, the contextual relevancy of advertising has become far more important. 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 platforms and paid/owned/earned assets.

Whether you listened in to R/GA and Beats’ presentation on ‘Advertising at the Speed of Culture’, or Wendy Clark from Coca-Cola – with her ethos that Coke should be part of the conversation on ‘Any Given Tuesday’ and that ‘Speed Trumps Perfection’ – one thing remains clear for brands: in this social, connected age, even traditional offline media has to be part of the conversation, reacting to events in real time, but also driving the conversation and adding to the discourse.

We produce 15% of the content. Consumers produce 85%.

Wendy Clark, SVP, Global Sparkling Brand Center, The Coca-Cola Company

This approach changes not just the message but also the media choices that brands need to take. Take Sony’s ‘Bottled Walkman’ campaign, a bronze winner in the Media Lions, for instance. Having failed to get people to understand their waterproof USP with traditional advertising – even via athlete and swimmer endorsements – they went literal, selling their waterproof Walkman from vending machines in bottles of water. What better context for a waterproof device, and a great way to keep the conversation going.

6. BE AUTHENTIC

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 when products speak, and when you reach out and try to communicate, the most important thing is authenticity.”

The connected world is saturated with brand messages and consumers are increasingly looking for brands that share their values. Practise what you preach and your target audience will be more inclined to trust – and subsequently 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 trends.

Tell me the truth! Make my life more interesting or leave me the f**k alone.

Jared Leto, Actor, Singer, Entrepreneur

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.

They decided to offer consumers the chance to buy fruit and vegetables that wouldn’t normally make it past the doors of any supermarket and offer them to consumers for 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 labelling these uglier fruits and vegetables, and offering a discount to boot, Intermarché store traffic soared by 24%. The campaign reached more than 13m people in France.

7. DO GOOD

2014 was really the year when brands stepped up their game to “do good” for the world – evidenced by commercial and non-commercial brands alike. This year saw the inaugural LionHeart Award, presented to Bono for his pioneering (RED), a fusion of branding, activism and philanthropy.

The Cannes LionHeart Award recognises a person or organisation that, through innovative use of commercial brand power, had made a significant difference to people or the planet – and further elevates the momentum of “doing good” in the world of communications.

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 lifelike digital child avatar to catch online sexual predators, it’s an exciting industry to be in when we see 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 own brand’s KPIs and make the world a better place then you’ve really hit the jackpot.

This (marketing) community can challenge stereotypes

Sheryl Sandberg , COO, Facebook

One memorable campaign with genuine altruistic motives is Bald Cartoons for Brazilian cancer charity GRAACC, which took home seven Lions. Kids look to TV to make sense of the world, and when they don’t see anyone resembling themselves reflected back, they can be left feeling isolated and alone. This is particularly true for children with cancer, who’ve lost their hair due to chemotherapy.

To help normalise the condition and give these children confidence, GRAACC partnered with Cartoon Network and Discovery kids to have their favourite cartoon characters shave their heads in solidarity. For the first time, kids saw their heroes – like Garfield, Popeye and Hello Kitty – bald, just like them. The result raised awareness for the charity, but most importantly, drove home the message that children with cancer deserve to be seen like any other child.

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