Joydeep Bhattacharya
Thomas Müller

Trends and Insights from Cannes Lions 2016

During the annual storm in the creativity teacup, Cannes Lion is the culmination of the industry’s pathological FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). The gathering unfolds in a seemingly familiar ritual, including days that seem to never end, nights that are always too short, conversations that move quickly, and of course the expected as well as controversial award winners. Then add on top the ubiquitous bottles of French rose wine, the promenade, beaches and alleyways of Cannes filled with minglers, dancers and bystanders. You have yourself a perfect cocktail of equal parts glitz & glamour and smoke & mirrors.

This year was no different than many others. As we find ourselves towards the end of 8 days of win announcements and disappointments, clarity runs the risk of getting replaced by a fog of confusion. Who won, why did they win, what was so special about it, and why should anyone care?

However as we have spoken with many of our customer, current colleagues at Fjord and Accenture Interactive, as well as former colleagues, a few overarching themes have risen to the top, which we will share as Fjord’s Top 9 Cannes Trends:

1. Purpose (not quick profits) 

In a conference that has its roots originally in advertising, it was incredibly refreshing to hear so many people – from the main stage to intimate conversations – having meaningful conversations about the importance of purpose. Individuals, millennials, products, brands, experiences, you name it, those who start with purpose, play in a different league. Or as Will Smith put it, “Smoke and mirrors in marketing and sales is over. People are going to know really quickly and globally whether a product has a real purpose at the core.”

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2. Beauty (not superficiality)

At an event like Cannes one would expect a lot of beauty. Beauty, that goes beyond the superficial but comes from within and shines as a result of the total experience, the craftsmanship, quality and attention to detail that was invested. None less than the iconic Stefan Sagmeister tried to convince the audience in nearly the same sentence that “Beauty is art of being human, and that we usually can agree on what is beautiful” while at the same time scolding the audience for the incredible amount of ugly s*** that lines the promenade, walls and screens.

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3. Authenticity (not automation)

While we clearly are in the middle of an Artificial Intelligence revolution (AI), which designer, marketers and technologists revel in generally, no one less than the musician, artist, creator Brian Eno gave an insight into both his fascination for AI as well as voicing a few cautionary remarks. While his latest album is mostly created with an algorithm, Eno makes the case that humans are still needed to make great art. “What really matters is what you put in at the beginning and how you make use of what comes out at the end,” Eno told his audience that filled up the Forum as well as an overflow screening room.

4. People (not consumers)

While this is clearly nothing new for a Fjordian, we should take note that the rest of the creative class is waking up to the notion “it’s all about people, not customers or consumers.” The Wharton Future of Advertising Program moderated a panel discussion on ‘New Creativity Standards for the Future’ which above all emphasized the point that today we deal with ‘empowered and skeptical people not consumers, with lives, aspirations, challenges and communities.’ Impactful work understands that distinction and focused on the people it tries to serve.

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5. Individualization (not personalization)

Marketing technology companies have tried to convince us forever that personalization is the holy grail to brand loyalty and love. But we all know that at the end of the day, we seem to be receiving more pings from brands we like as well as from brands we seriously don’t care about. The tone of the content is improved, because as recipient I am slotted into some magic micro-segmentation model. But so what? Is the content of that location based content truly individualized? Carlsberg’s magic band and smart pints know which event we attended, what we consumed (type and quantity). So please try a little harder, instead of sending me a few days later an email with a generic party picture, deliver that same night a service, that has an Uber ready for me and a coupon for Advil, all delivered with a happy-selfie in the fun photo-app MSQRD or Snapchat.

6. Experiences (not campaigns)

“So what?” you might think. At Fjord we’ve been talking about this forever. But here is the twist, there are experiences and there are experiences. While there is overwhelming evidence that advertising as we’ve known it is from a bygone era, I want to challenge you to acknowledge that some of the best advertising was and still is brilliant at one thing – storytelling, tapping into people’s emotions, making them laugh or simply entertaining them. As the world fills up more and more with services enabling increasingly decent if not great experiences, which experiences will you remember? The ones that got the job done, without personality and character or the ones that told you a story, moved you and spoke to your mind and heart. Experiences that truly move has seen quite the buzz here in Cannes.

7. Diversity (not uniformity)

Great leaders hire people who are smarter than they are, who challenge the status quo and push them and everyone around them further. Stop hiring from the same places where you and your team are from, look in unexpected places. Diversity can create positive creative friction, keep a culture alive and make sure people and products are honest and with both feet on the ground. Diversity of ideas, processes, methodologies, background, people and teams was both woven through the content of the Cannes Lions as well as by simply looking around and making it a point of meeting and connecting with as many people that think, talk, create and make things totally opposite of your comfort zone. That’s what we learn from.

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8. Worlds (not frames)

So for all the skeptics out there: Virtual Reality is here to stay, the technology has made leaps and bounds, yet is still at the very, very beginning. The tools for storytellers and story builders are evolving and the opportunity for all us to build story experiences are incredible. Everyone seems to be participating from Google, to Facebook and YouTube, and of course Samsung, but the absolute highlight was when Glen Keane, a 38 year veteran of Walt Disney Feature Animation painted live on stage Ariel “The Little Mermaid” with Google’s VR Paintbrush. This was not a technology demonstration, instead it felt more like a ballet performance and VR painting forming in front of the audience.

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9. Emotion (not leaderboards)

Very timely to coincide with the Euro 2016 WearableX, who brought us a few years back Fundawear for Durex Australia, launched the ultimate fan jersey, which taps into real-time sports-team data and allows fans to get a skin-deep experience. A variety of vibrations, stimulate the fan experience by simulating player emotions, gestures and animate the fabric texture. Google’s project Embarque explores similar experience territories. As the tournament’s excitement rises in the next 2 weeks, this jersey is certain to add a new dimension to the total fan experience.

Joydeep Bhattacharya
Thomas Müller

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