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The New & Sexy Lion?



Nick Vale, global head of planning, Maxus on Cannes categories and grey areas

The New & Sexy Lion?

In the old days it was easy to point to particular Cannes Lion categories in the knowledge that the year’s defining work would sit there, be that Film, Media or the Cybers, as that category emerged.

Now, as we see good work winning multiple awards, categories are becoming increasingly irrelevant. I suspect that Cannes’ organisers are already taking a long hard look at how the festival orders things. But while new categories like Innovation and Creative Data are undoubtedly a positive step, the whole industry needs a shake-up to recognise and reward the best work.

Take last year’s ‘The Magic of Flying’ outdoor campaign created by OgilvyOne for British Airways, using real-time flight data to wow crowds at Piccadilly Circus. That single campaign won a Grand Prix and five Golds, all in different categories at Cannes. Proof if ever there was that good work and brave ideas can translate beautifully across categories.

This highlights a growing grey area in our industry. This grey area doesn’t sit within the core competencies of any traditional agency; it exists because we are increasingly in danger of falling behind consumers’ uptake of new channels. Essentially, the technology that serves us is now moving faster than our ability to react to it. We risk no longer being the drivers of consumer behaviour.

Of course we still do see good work in those little fireworks of excitement - but it’s becoming harder to predict where we’ll find it. 

If we can’t rely on particular categories to find the best work, I hear you ask, what then should we be looking for? There are certain characteristics that define great, future-facing work today. My personal checklist when going round Cannes is for work that delivers:

 1.      Consumer protagonists: these campaigns position the individual at the front and centre of the work. As our ability to target individuals increases massively in line with programmatic advances, personalisation becomes a given of media targeting and placement. But we still aren’t seeing many creative ideas that open the door to delivering mass protagonism in an interesting and compelling way.

2.      Functional comms: work that provides the dual purpose of conveying brand while being useful. IBM’s ‘Smart Ideas for Smarter Cities’ played well in the space.

3.      New narratives: new ways of delivering stories using channels that develop stories over time.

4.      Caring comms: Over the past few years we have seen increasing numbers of campaigns where brands encourage people to make small, positive differences to their world. 2015, I suspect, will have a deluge of them.

5.      New retail channels: Many players in the creative tech space are helping brands find new ways to market. I’m hoping to see lots of innovation here.

6.      Quick hits:  these are the ‘bread and butter’ of Cannes, those exciting disruptive campaigns that help define and shape culture, such as ‘Dumb Ways to Die’.

 The bottom line is that plenty of smart agencies now understand that categories are ‘grey’ and respond by entering work into multiple categories. Last year, the majority of Media Lions were netted by non-‘media’ agencies.  At some point Cannes will shake up and redefine its system, but until then, media agencies need to realise that good work travels beyond ‘Media’ alone. We are behind the curve with this and need to get smarter.

Great, future-facing work is still an emergent art, and for now I suspect that we won’t see anything ground-breaking in the new categories for Cannes 2015. Having said that, I’m excited to be proved wrong. 

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