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Dispatch from Cannes 2019: A Time of Transformation

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This year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity captured an industry in transformation, with brands extending their capabilities in-house, embracing performance and shifting attention toward emerging platforms and formats that have disrupted the environment.

And of course, there were parties. MediaMonks teamed up with MassiveMusic to host an embassy-themed rooftop party in which every attendee represented a unique fictional nation. In all the revelry, the party offered a diplomatic neutral ground to celebrate creativity—much like the festival itself. If you were unable to attend, we’ve got a nice summary of emergent trends and things to look out for coming away from La Croisette. 

A Push for Inclusivity

On a sober note, the MMMMbassy party signaled the power in bringing people together with creativity. And it’s a prescient message, as inclusivity and values-based messaging has struck a chord: Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign, featuring Colin Kaepernick, took both an Inaugural Entertainment for Sport Grand Prix win in addition to an Outdoor Grand Prix win, while Johnson & Johnson’s 5B, a documentary following nurses who cared for patients during the AIDS epidemic, also took a Grand Prix win in the Entertainment category.

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Google hosted a panel on diversity at Cannes.

Our own “Mind the (Pay) Gap” campaign, in collaboration with Serviceplan and German transportation company BVG, took away a Bronze Cannes Lion Direct. The campaign powered ticket vending machines throughout Alexanderplatz with facial recognition to determine passengers’ genders, rewarding women with a 21% discount on flat-rate tickets. The discount reflected the 21% gap in pay between women and men.

Maybe it’s time for a Cannes Lioness? Google showed off its Lioness AR app that surrounds the user with 3D lionesses representing women in the ad industry. When users tap a lioness, they hear a real woman’s story, then answer questions about their own workplace experiences. Users then see the percentage of others who answered similarly, breaking the silence of gender inequality with a lioness’ roar.


These ticket machines, enhanced with facial recognition, were sure to put a smile on some women's faces.

Renewed Focus on Responsibility

Social responsibility isn’t just about showcasing a great cause. Elsewhere, global brands and media partners alike came together to launch a Global Alliance for Responsible Media in response to growing unease from brands about sponsoring or appearing alongside harmful content. And with mounting anxieties about data practices, organizations will have to adopt responsible governance practices that place value and user benefit at the forefront. As MediaMonks Founder & COO Wesley ter Haar says, “People want to feel heard, not overheard.”

Our “People are the Places” campaign for Aeroméxico—which won a Gold Lion for Brand Experience and Activation—demonstrates how handing over personal data should be a value-based exchange. Noticing that travel destinations are just as much about the people and culture as they are the location, the “People are the Places” website prompts visitors to input information about themselves and the people they’d like to meet, resulting in a dynamic video pulling from social content that transforms individual people into destinations themselves.

Creative ingenuity can also poke holes through forms of oppression. On World Day Against Censorship, Reporters Without Borders launched an innovative playlist—found on major streaming services like Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music—that translates important stories by censored journalists into subversive songs. We worked with DDB Berlin to launch the platform for the initiative, which won a Titantium Lion award celebrating ground-breaking work. The campaign’s success shows the social impact that outside-the-box creative can achieve.

Offering a Taste of the Future

Of course, Cannes isn’t just about looking back at the most interesting creative produced in the past year; La Croisette was packed with demonstrations of new content formats and innovative ways to connect with consumers. Over at the Unity cabana, for example, attendees could step out of the French Riviera and into an alternate dimension powered by augmented reality with Pharos AR.

The AR experience, produced by MediaMonks in collaboration with Unity, Google and Childish Gambino, takes users on a cosmic voyage from an enigmatic cave to the furthest reaches of space and is infused with a soundtrack from the artist that features an exclusive new song. “The journey from cave to space feels like the story of humanity,” Donald Glover told Fast Company. As for the reason why he chose AR as a platform? “AR technology is going to play a huge part of everyday life in the future,” Glover said.

Not to be outdone, Facebook offered their own immersive stage for storytelling with its Stories Xperience, which we built in collaboration with 72andSunny. It comprises a series of monitors that display vertical video Story content, inspiring attendees to embrace the growing format. Users select the theme of content that plays, and can direct the kinetic monitors to come together or apart, offering several perspectives on the potential of Stories.

But you can’t highlight new creative opportunities without mentioning Fortnite, a game that’s dramatically risen in popularity over the past year and has turned into a hangout spot for digital natives. Fast food brand Wendy’s took the Social & Influencer Grand Prix for its Fortnite livestream, which recognized the brand for setting a new trend. “Fortnite is the new Facebook in some ways,” MediaMonks Creative Managing Director Henry Cowling told Ad Age earlier this month. “Millennials and Gen Z are much more used to living on platforms like Fortnite.”

Evolving Beyond Traditional Formats

In addition to flashy formats, attendees at Cannes showed an interest in reinventing and evolving more traditional types of advertising as well. In an interview with LinkedIn, S4 Capital Executive Chairman Sir Martin Sorrell discussed the importance in experimenting with tried-and-true formats, mentioning the 1.7-second videos that MediaMonks made with L’Oreal following a Facebook insight about video consumption behavior.

Even the humble radio ad has potential for an upgrade. Take Spotify, for example, who is looking to provide dynamic ad insertion for its podcast content. “The audio ad unit hasn’t seen any innovation in the last 80 years, so we feel we need to disrupt it,” Spotify VP and Global Head of Advertising Brian Benedik told Ad Age.

Similarly, Comcast expressed interest in opening up more inventory for addressable TV advertising, which is currently limited to two minutes on the hour. The growing use of addressable ads will vastly improve the personal relevance of TVC, whose strength had traditionally been to cast a wide reach across the general population. Both this and Spotify’s move toward dynamic insertion show how traditional formats are growing up—and brands will have to get their data in order to take advantage of these programmatic opportunities.

While the past year may have been a bit rocky for brands and agencies alike, you can’t deny that it’s an exciting time. This year’s Cannes International Festival of Creativity highlighted that energy, and conveyed an optimism for how the industry as a whole has set expectations for greater heights—not just in terms of creativity, but in social impact as well.


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