The Buzz from Cannes: The Dominance of Digital and Social Responsibility

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INFLUENCER: Marcus Wesson, chief creative officer at Dailey, reflects on the evolution of the festival since his first visit in 2013
The Buzz from Cannes: The Dominance of Digital and Social Responsibility
I first attended Cannes in 2013. Juxtaposing this year’s festival with six years ago, I began to note two significant trend shifts; digital platforms have taken centre-stage over creative and social responsibility is now the norm.
This year, in conversation with others, we observed that Cannes seems to have become less about celebrating top creative work and more about big social brands like Facebook, Google and Twitter. Gone are the sponsors from production studios like MJZ and RadicalMedia, in their place are things like Google Beach and the Spotify Party. The shift is indicative of the money moving more toward digital and data. I remember when clever ideas used to be the north star. Now the centre of gravity has shifted away from the big idea and onto the digital experience. For example, the New York Public Library’s InstaNovels campaign placed well-known novels on Instagram to reach younger audiences; Burger King’s mobile hit, Whopper Detour, forced people to be close to a McDonald's in order to download a coupon for a penny; and the Westworld Alexa integration allows users to interact with Alexa to solve an interactive story. While it’s important to embrace the digital approach, we can’t lose sight of the creative idea - ideas that are clever, witty and intelligent. Remember Chiat’s NyNex work? Crispin’s Mini work? Wieden’s Dodge work? Whip. Smart.

Another growing trend at the festival this year was overuse of the ubiquitous term, “social responsibility”. In recent years, brands have gravitated towards a social cause because they assume it will resonate with millennials. But when you look at the backlash that Gillette’s Toxic Masculinity short-form video and Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner spot received, it wasn’t from the quality of the spots, it was because they were transparent. For brands and marketers, the real goal of social responsibility should be as a means of relevance to their audience. Sometimes that means embracing a cause, but other times it means just resonating in an authentic way. If you’re Domino’s, it means paving roads so pizzas stay intact from potholes. If you’re Wendy’s, it means staying relevant to your audience by infiltrating Fortnite and destroying all the refrigerators because burgers should never be frozen. If you’re Nike, it means celebrating athletes overcoming odds and pushing the sport and culture forward.

It will be interesting to see what next year’s Cannes brings. Momentum appears to be going the way of sponsored content with more films and entertainment being sponsored by brands. Digital platforms will be key in creating never-been-done-before executions. Imagine movies premiering on Facebook, brands on Twitch and ads that don’t look like ads. There will be more and more ways for brands to seamlessly integrate within existing platforms. Exciting times ahead, as long as we don’t lose sight of the magic.

Marcus Wesson is chief creative officer at Dailey
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Dailey, 1 year ago