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Cannes 2017: The ones that won, and one or two that got away….

APG collaborated with the Guardian on a review of the festival for the benefit of all those who didn’t make it as far as the croisette.

Cannes is often an interesting barometer of opinion, politics and the culture of our industry so we asked 4 brilliant people to tell us what they thought of the work – choosing the campaigns and ideas that most stood out for them.

They were 2 creative directors, a digital director, and a head of strategy and we started by asking them what forces were having the biggest impact on creativity right now.

Franki Goodwin is Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and a Cannes juror for promotion and activation. She thinks that there’s been a move away from tech-led ideas because we’ve got a bit of tech fatigue and that as politics gets more extreme, it’s coming up more and more in the work.

Lisa de Bonis is Executive Digital Director at Havas. For her the biggest force on creativity is social and political division which has fueled more purpose driven work - and the rise of local vs global brands.

Laura Jordan Bambach is Chief Creative Officer at Mr President. Laura thinks that radical collaboration is the force that will have the most impact on creativity.

Clare Hutchinson is Head of Strategy at 101. She also thinks that our unstable times mean anything could happen – good or bad – including the unthinkable.

So the themes so far – inescapability of politics, tech weariness, collaboration.

But what of the work? What did they laud and why?

Laura was up first and she chose ideas that exemplified the positive impact of radical collaboration between partners and agencies to do some extraordinary things.

Meet Graham for the Transport Accident Commission of Australia is an example of a boring brief radicalized by a completely new angle. Seeing, feeling and experiencing an accident is a powerful and fascinating way of bringing home the impact of traffic accidents and it’s been used by the UN.

Her second example was Aaland index/Baltic Sea Project, which counts the true cost of consumption on the environment – specifically the Baltic Sea, which is one of the most polluted in the world. This is a brilliant example of a really creative use of data to create something so effective that it has been adopted by Mastercard.

Lifebuoy shows how you can effectively scale an apparently simple but actually highly complex bit of product innovation and get Indian children not only to wash their hands before lunch, thereby reducing infection and the spread of disease, but to go home and encourage hand washing there as well. Chalk mixed with soap? You couldn’t make it up.

And Tiger Beer, an example of extreme collaboration. Tiger Beer is traditionally drunk on the street with street food, but with increased pollution street consumption is declining. It’s a complex but brilliant little story involving bunging up exhaust pipes to prevent the spread of particulates, and manufacturing ink to sell. You have to read it to believe that level of collaboration.

Lisa was on the Cyber Jury. She had some interesting insights about definition of terms. What is cyber and what is digital, and how to work out what to award? The test she set was to ask of each contender, could this idea have existed 20 years ago? If it could, it was out.

She started with the Downs Syndrome Answers, which she thought was brilliant at putting the user first and understanding the questions prospective parents are asking about having a Downs child. It used Downs individuals to give the answer to the 40 most common questions on Google search. She compared it to a previous campaign that made the same creative leap, using a film of Downs child speaking to future mum but without the power of context, and the incredibly potent use of search to bring to life the same thinking but at precisely the right moment in the parent’s experience.

Black Lives Matter hacked the safety feature on Facebook at specific and powerful moment – Martin Luther day and the controversial inauguration of Trump. It was not technically a hack, but it was social in every sense, got under the skin of social behavior, radicalized the black community and and could not have existed pre Facebook.

MAX Motor Dreams is a Ford project, and for Lisa, cyber in its biggest form. The idea is a connected cot that mimics the sensation of being in a car to help babies sleep. It’s a universal insight (the nightmare of non sleeping babies), a brilliant example of crafting a product and also of collaboration; a genuine partnership to get it right. It has the potential to catapult Ford in to a completely new category, arguably the most precious space in your life. It oozes trust, innovation and potential for new revenue streams. But is it a project or a pilot? Only time will tell..

Franki was on the promotion and activation jury. She had some interesting reflections on how different juries can award very different campaigns and ideas, using Ford as an example as it was canned in her jury. She finds it strangely reassuring that an idea discussed in one room can be slated in another. It just shows how important it is to be confident in the quality of your own work and thinking.

Her jury were interested in meaningful activation beyond a tweet or a selfie.

So her first choice of campaign was Boost Mobile’s Boost Your Voice – facilitating the voting of low income and minority communities in the US who have reduced opportunities to vote. It meant working out what within the system was suppressing voting and finding the radically simple solution of using Boost Mobile stores as polling stations. It was a brilliant response to Obama’s call at SXSW to the creative industries to apply their creativity to the most important political act – taking an active part in democracy.

For fun she chose Tide #BradshawStain and its Super Bowl stunt, noting that to pull off an idea like this with a client like P&G was a heroic piece of planning and execution and a brilliant blurring of live and pre-created content and unusual social activation.

Her next example, Footnote for the Breast, was one where she had her mind changed completely by the conversation in the room – another factor of judging and its unpredictability. A breast check campaign in the UAE, where imams in mosques allowed pebbles to be placed in women’s shoes to remind them to check. For Franki a very small and subtle initiative was made powerful and relevant because of the close understanding of the consumer and cultural context.

Fearless Girl – the biggest winner of the festival, was apparently rumoured not to get Grand Prix. Her jury awarded it because it creates a destination linked to fund that supports women in business. It encourages young girls to take a stance – literally and metaphorically. Taking a selfie at the moment when you think about your confidence is a powerful moment to be celebrated.

Clare is a self confessed Cannes virgin and as the strategist of the evening saw her role as looking where no-one was looking; at what didn’t win and why? Hooray for the quirky thinking of planners, she decided to stay with the bronzes.

Her first example Payphone Bank is marriage of commerce and social good: A telephone company behaving as a bank and facilitating banking for 8 million ‘unbankable’ people in South America. People who earn less than $3.50 a day who are now able to pay bills and use transport. It makes money and helps people – ‘nuff said.

Then she turned to gaming, which gets a pretty bad reputation from a health point of view. This time it was NBA 2K17 combined with a Fitbit Boost that makes your players stronger if you’re doing 10,000+ steps per day. Another excellent marriage: Makes gaming look good, and encourages kids to exercise.

So two positive points, now for the blacker marks. Clare chose EITB as an example of bad storytelling: Yournalist. It’s inspired by a great insight that 81% of news comes from the same source. It’s an app based on IBM Watson that gives you 6 different sourced perspectives on a news story. It’s like an app version of the Economist for general news. Great idea. Shit name. Let down by the packaging.

Lionfish. Those gorgeous but terrifying sea creatures that are having a serious effect on biodiversity in the Atlantic. The solution was playful and creative: Fishing nets in the guise of posters aimed at single, local fisherman. A nice mash-up of communications and utility.

And finally a pure commerce story in which the agency counseled the client not to advertise. Kraft Mac & Cheese updated the formulation to make it healthier and only told their consumers after the event. They sold 500m boxes. Slam-dunk.

Clare closed with a timely homily for our community. She thinks that the preponderance of do-gooding campaigns and ideas at Cannes is inspired by existential angst. As a community, she believes we should be standing up for the service of commerce. Business and good do not need to be at odds with each other. By making money you serve society and culture.

My conclusion? Maybe Cannes this year was an uneasy mix of the good and commercial. Should we be setting our sights far higher as a community and an industry? Focus rigorously at the properly commercial campaigns and ideas on the one hand, and on the other go further than Obama’s challenge by applying our creative and strategic brains to properly service the world’s biggest problems: The march of fascism? Global warming? The decline of Western Liberal democracy? We’re not short of the most serious challenges and if we could collectively work on some really creative solutions, and more important, some really creative ways of getting them implemented, that would be worthy of real celebration.


Wonder what happened last year at Cannes? Go here to read The ones that won and the ones that got away from our event with the Guardian in 2016.

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