Many of us may not have travelled more than a kilometre or so from our front doors in the last year and a half, but mobile devices have been our windows to the world. They’ve been so central in coaxing us into the virtual world to socialise, shop and learn – and through them brands have been finding innovative ways to reach and help communities.
So, this year’s Mobile category at Cannes Lions looks like it will be one to watch. Andrew Keller, VP, global creative director at Facebook, has been heading up the jury and he says he’s been impressed by a crop of work that’s been created not simply to serve a brand but that’s been driven by a real sense of purpose. LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Andrew to find out how judging has been going and why this year’s winners will set the tone for the industry as it moves forward.
LBB> After a year and a half of Covid-19, why does the business and creative world need award shows?
Andrew> The truth is that brands are doing so much for the world. Marketing is the humanity of business. And what we’ve seen at the shows is that the majority of awards, not just now but over the years, are recognizing brands and their ability to drive meaningful change in the world. Award shows help signal where marketers should be heading, and I’d say these shows are having a very positive impact.
LBB> What advice will you be giving the jury and what criteria do you want people to keep in mind while assessing the work?
Andrew> Mobile is one of the most, if not the most, important category at Cannes. Mobile is simultaneously the most universal and personal medium. It’s our first screen. It's the first thing we look at in the morning, all throughout the day and the last before bed (and even when we wake up in the middle of the night).
Mobile is personal and intimate. It’s expressive, interactive and gives people the ability to participate. This creates a high bar for what we look for in effective mobile advertising, and they are based upon these three principles.
The first principle is value:
The big question is, “Was it worth it?” We don’t want to waste people’s time, especially when we come into this most important space.
Is there symmetrical value?
The second principle is around innovation:
Did they leverage the opportunity on mobile to its absolute fullest? So maybe it was valuable, but was it as magical as possible? As frictionless as possible?
Did they truly leverage all the amazing technology and tools that can be leveraged to drive interaction, value and meaning, or did they just put an idea into mobile?
The third principle is about cultural relevance:
Did they bring a unique POV?
Is there meaning and relevance coming from this brand? Utility with no POV is nice and potentially valuable, but as marketers, we expect more.
Does this give a better, clearer, and more telegraphic understanding of what this brand stands for?
The last principle is around community and personalisation:
Are you connecting and elevating a community?
Mobile is massive, but it’s not mass media. It’s not about blasting a message out to everyone. The opportunity is to truly connect with the right audience, and that requires insight, authenticity, and the willingness to have a conversation.
If you can nail these four things, you are doing pretty well.
LBB> How has the Covid-19 year changed behaviours around mobile and the sort of creative that has worked on mobile?
Andrew> Covid-19 has played a major role in accelerating us all into virtual spaces, and there’s no question that mobile is at the forefront of that. Because of this, mobile played an outsized role in terms of how we all stayed connected and offered utility and functionality that could be leveraged in solving the many problems that presented themselves during Covid-19. At the same time, brands have been doing this for a while. In this situation, instead of seeing lots of different problems being solved in different ways in different countries, the ubiquity of Covid-19 created a common problem, and it gave mobile an even bigger chance to show the impact it can make.
LBB> More generally, how do you think the idea of a mobile category is changing?
Andrew> At its core, the mobile category has always been a category of innovation. The ability for a brand to spin up an app that drives utility and value or provides entertainment for their audience has been powerful. As social platforms continue to grow, the ability to connect with audiences in more intimate and organic ways has increased, and the roles of creator and influencers continue to be a powerful strategy. AR games, more interactivity and expressive tools like Spark AR and Reels are putting more creative expression into people’s hands, brand’s hands, and people’s hands for brands.
There is also straight up content ¬– we watch full films on mobile. There are ads in feeds and stories that span six seconds or 15 seconds. This requires a particular craft, and people are starting to get really good at that. So, from my perspective, mobile isn’t changing in that it’s always a place for change to happen. If anything, I’d say that it will become the most important space to connect with people, requiring personalisation and the value equation in order to be successful. And I’d say the industry is learning to harness it more and more each year.
LBB> From a creative point of view, what’s most exciting about mobile devices, what possibilities do they unlock?
Andrew> It’s the place where you can do your thing from end-to-end. For example: establish a company, engage a community, share a POV, invite participation and drive action to change the world or change your world. And you can do it all on a very limited budget. An idea has no limitations in mobile.
LBB> Generally speaking, how have you been finding the quality of work in pre-judging/shortlist judging?
Andrew> I’d say that I’ve been very impressed with the work from both years. Overall, there is very little work that seems to overly serve the marketer, and brands seem to be fully embracing purpose, personalisation, participation and innovation.
LBB> You’ll be awarding 2020 and 2021 Lions – it must be illuminating to see the comparison between pre-Covid and Covid work. I know it’s still in the pre-judging phase, but have you noticed any trends or has it given you any new perspective on how the industry has changed?
Andrew> Actually, we are judging it as though it was a two-year award season. We will have the ability to name a Grand Prix from each year if we want, but other than that, it’s all one giant group of work. It’s hard to tell the work apart, other than a lot of videos starting with the pandemic as the backdrop for the problem or the opportunity. Thematically, it’s the same – brands have a powerful role to play in society, and while it may have been heightened or more universal with the pandemic, it’s been going on for many years now.
LBB> This has been a year that has seen the industry chuck out all of the rule books, so in some ways, this year’s Cannes Lions is a launchpad for the future – how does that frame how you’ll be looking at the work? Does it give the juries an extra responsibility?
Andrew> We definitely feel the additional responsibility. We will be looking at two years’ worth of work, including work from a pandemic that was done remotely, while also judging remotely.
Mobile is more of a key category than ever, and it will remain that way moving forward. While we have a lot of responsibility, I don’t think it’s ever smart to keep all that top of mind as you judge. We hosted a session where we discussed what was important to us, and we captured principles to guide us.
LBB> Cannes is also a time of celebration. What will you be celebrating this year?
Andrew> I’m celebrating how brands showed up for their communities. It’s incredibly inspiring and humbling to watch all the videos and see the many investments made by businesses to be part of the solution.
LBB> What do you hope to see at Cannes 2022?
Andrew> The gallery in the Palais. It’s always incredible to not only walk through it, but also feel the energy of all the people around you becoming inspired and better for it.