Thomas Müller


Every June, more than 10,000 registered delegates from 90+ countries descend on Cannes on the French Riviera to discuss, review and champion the boldest ideas, stories, campaigns, products and services in marketing and brand communications.

Until recently, the festival appeared to be fully controlled by big marketing, communications and advertising networks such as WPP, Omicom or Publicis, but it’s undergoing monumental change. Walking the Cannes Croisette or the exhibitor spaces in the Grand Palais, one can’t help but observe an all-out war for survival – and domination.

The more traditional agencies are still influential in their industry, at the same time trying vigorously to transform themselves for continued relevance while two new types of player are challenging them. The first is advertising technology companies showcasing their newest offerings and advances in the world of programmatic advertising, promising infinite precision coupled with incredible efficiency. On the other side, you find the big consulting companies, who are increasingly investing in a much more prominent presence at the Festival.

Convergence of product, service, marketing, storytelling and technology is ever present

The changing nature of the consulting firms is accelerating the convergence of products, services, marketing, storytelling and technology. This year marked the third year for Accenture Interactive’s participation at the festival and it’s the most visible presence yet. Recognized by AdAge as the World’s Largest Digital Network, Accenture Interactive partnered strategically with this year’s Cannes Festival to offer a creative solution to delegates’ top complaint over the years: it’s too hard to make quality connections. Upon registration, all delegates were offered a connected, wearable armband – coupled with the ‘Meet Bump Connect’ iOS and Android app. Created by Accenture Interactive, the wearable and its companion app offered every delegate a delightful experience, allowing them to focus on the content and networking while easily capturing names and contact details of inspiring new acquaintances. This is what Accenture Interactive calls ‘Connected Creativity.’

Big ideas are no longer exclusive to advertising campaigns, but at the core of the most impactful work focused on delivering the best customer experiences.

The amount, range and variety of work being submitted, adjudicated, shown and awarded can be overwhelming and confusing. This is exaggerated by festival categories that are discipline- or touchpoint-centric instead of being industry- or category-centric. Despite this increasingly outdated approach, this year was marked by some truly iconic work, distinguished by its obsessive focus on story, impact and execution. To me, the common thread in the most memorable work was its focus on people and innovation – something that Fjord has always put front and center.

Here are my personal highlights from Cannes Lions 2017:

1. FEARLESS GIRL State Street Global Advisor

Across nearly all categories: Grand Prix, Gold, Silver and Bronze Lions.

I applaud this powerful contribution to International Women’s Day 2017. A bronze statue of a young fearless girl challenges the Charging Bull on Wall Street, while standing for the power of women today and tomorrow. It’s a beautiful execution of a bold statement, and sparked widespread use of #FearlessGirl across social media platforms.

2. HUMANIUM IM Swedish Development Partner

Innovation category: Grand Prix.

Small firearms are one of the world’s most deadly epidemics. Someone is shot and killed every single minute on this planet, in addition to the armed conflicts reported in the news. To take guns of the streets and successfully destroy them, Humanium created the world’s first supply-chain made out of confiscated firearms. I love this this initiative for brilliantly aligning a humanitarian cause with an economic one: elements of death and destruction are transformed into resources for creation and construction. Sharp and powerful.

3. TILT BRUSH Google

Innovation category: Gold Lion.

When I saw the first demo of the Tilt Brush I immediately realized this far outstrips the VR apps we’ve come to know. This is potentially the birth of a new tool and medium, allowing creatives to paint, sculpt and story-tell in VR spaces, and walk in and around their creations in real-time. The toolset is easy to grasp, fun, and might be the beginning of an entirely new genre of expression.

4. REFUGEE NATION Amnesty International

Across many categories: Grand Prix, Gold, Silver and Bronze Lions.

The images of refugees reaching Greek islands and huge piles of discarded life vests became iconic representations of a crisis unfolding before our eyes. Amnesty International wanted to raise global awareness, ignite positive conversation and engage the world to offer support. The 2016 Olympic Games provided just the right opportunity: a team of refugee athletes, competing on a global stage, with their own flag, anthem and identity. To me this project works on so many levels, from offering dignity and a sense of belonging to the individuals, to assigning responsibility to a global audience by defining the problem through a strong identity. Compelling, iconic and brave work.

5. GOOGLE SHEEP VIEW Visit Faroe Islands & Atlantic Airways

PR category: Gold and Silver Lions.

Cyber category: Bronze Lion.

This project made me smile for its approach, creativity, and DIY attitude – “if Google doesn’t think we exist, we’ll take care of it ourselves”. A tiny set of islands wedged between Iceland and the United Kingdom wanted to boost tourism, so they strapped 360-degree cameras on the backs of sheep and let them loose. Shortly after the first video was posted it started to turn into a global story.


Innovation category: Silver Lion.

How refreshing to see something this simple and smart from the US Postal Service, showing that innovation is possible even in a category like mail delivery, which is under pressure all over the world. Using the unique signature of someone’s voice as a transactional identifier, they turned ubiquitous mail boxes into a point of transaction, handling payment in The Cloud. To me, this is the Uber-ization of our good old mail, but in the most pleasant of ways.


Direct category: Bronze Lion.

My final pick is something really simple and smart: turning boring out-of-office emails into personalised travelogues. All it requires is for a traveller to connect their automated message with their Instagram feed, which then populates it with images tagged #qantasoutofoffice. This transforms a boring email into a new medium of storytelling, combined with driving sales for destinations through offer links. Smart, fun and simple.

It was a long week of hard work, extensive networking and good fun, but I do look forward to 12 months of creativity ahead of us, that will make this year look conservative compared to what we’ll hopefully see when we walk down the Croisette in Cannes next year.

Thomas Müller

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