Thomas Müller

6 insights from Cannes Lions 2018

Cannes Lions is a landmark event in our industry’s annual calendar, and is a golden opportunity to take its pulse — to see how organizations are developing their thinking, which will shape our future. I learned plenty this year and was inspired by so much of what I saw and heard that it’s no easy task distilling it into digestible chunks, but here’s my best shot:

1. A festival of creativity and innovation

Cannes is continuing noticeably in its own pursuit of repositioning itself from an advertising and marketing awards gathering into a Festival of Creativity and Innovation. The emphasis on innovation is particularly striking as they dedicated the entire Palais 2 to this theme, including a focus on unlocking the potential in life-changing creativity for Health. Some of the most intriguing talks and content covered a broad span of topics, including:

– Human + machine: Stronger together in the age of co-creation

– Using behavior change to fight the world’s largest disease burden

– Reimagining patient engagement in the social media era

– Blockchain: From touch point to trust point

– The new innovation mode: Data-driven creativity

– The ethics of AI

2. Consultancies are here to stay and initiate more change

The ones who lead the field and reinvent themselves as the world around them progresses are putting design, data, creativity and a laser-focus on people at the center of their work (just look at what we at Accenture Interactive are doing to see what I’m talking about: we deliver the best customer experiences with four simple and clear areas of focus: design and innovation, commerce, content, and marketing). More traditional agencies are tenacious in their work and are putting up a good fight. Both sides will continue to challenge each other for the leadership position, which is good for everyone and most importantly for clients, who will benefit from the continuous raising of the bar and reinventing the offering approach.

3. Brands are working to combat the global trust crisis

We had already seen enough to reinforce our existing belief that the global trust crisis is both real and highly serious. At Cannes, we saw that brands are acknowledging it, working to combat it, taking a leadership position by transforming touch points into “trust points”, and looking to use blockchain as part of the solution (but far from the only one). The reasons many agree why this is necessary include:

– Trust is the most valuable currency and the easiest to lose

– Trust is under attack and in decline globally

– Investing in transparency, simplicity and clarity of experiences can help reverse that trend

– Looking at blockchain and its underlying technology approach can provide an element of independence and verifiability, which are crucial to overcome suspicion and start building trust

– Evidence where blockchain is starting to be included spans industries, services and interactions across all aspects of life (e.g. birth certificates, residency, contracts, voting, cities, health, culture etc.).

4. The ethics of artificial intelligence

As we explore and develop more in the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, it’s becoming abundantly clear that as designers we have a responsibility to build ethical considerations into our design processes, so that the autonomous systems we build are guided by strong moral compasses. Our Fjordian colleagues Hollie Lubbock and Jivan Virdee gave a brilliant talk on the subject, which they’ve summarized in this article.

5. Focus on work that speaks to people’s minds and hearts

Brands are constantly battling to be noticed in a “sea of sameness”, and it was good to see some of them putting together work that aims for an intentional balance between beauty and utility – “beautility”, if you will. This work speaks to people’s minds and hearts to trigger a reaction. It means their work is remembered because it was fun, or made you smile, or tugged at your heartstrings etc. Some highlights that are demonstrating how to do this include:

– Rothco’s JFK Unsilenced

– Seeing AI – Talking Camera App for the Blind

– Samsung Smartsuit

6. New markets coming to the limelight

We saw some bold and ambitious work from places like Brazil, Colombia and Africa, piquing our interest beyond the markets we see and hear from most, including:

– “Emergency route” by JC Decaux (Sao Paulo)

– “Soccer for change” by AB Inbev (Cape Town)

Cannes Lions continues to reposition itself as a festival for the advertising industry to one that celebrates and champions Creativity and Innovation – and it does so with huge success. Cannes Lions is here to stay. I hope to see you there next year.

Thomas Müller

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