Every year, the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity sets the marketing and advertising world abuzz, as we get inspired by brilliant thinking, smart executions, and shiny new ideas. 

In the past, the festival has been all about advertising, with PR stunts and above-the-line campaigns taking pride of place. This year, there’s been a noticeable drop in the number of entries – 1,931 less, to be exact. Officials estimate 80% of this is due to the decline in traditional print and outdoor advertising, as the trend shifts towards engagement, experience and non-traditional advertising.

It seems the industry is catching up with the idea that you can no longer just shout your message at consumers – you have to engage them in your story.

The team at Neonormal have been watching the Shortlists with great interest over the past week. And while the Gold winners have received the lion’s share of acclaim so far – such as McCann New York’s ‘Fearless Girl,’ Snap’s ‘Spectacles,’ or DDB Group’s ‘Words of Welcome’ – we’ve actually been inspired by some of the lesser-known work on show. And we noticed a thread throughout all of our favourite campaigns – human experience is right there at the heart.

So, in no particular order, here are our three favourites.

 

1. Magenta Unleashed

Saatchi & Saatchi London 'Unleash' magenta for Deutsche Telekom
Saatchi & Saatchi London ‘Unleash’ magenta for Deutsche Telekom

The ‘Magenta Unleashed’ campaign is a brilliant mix of brand, medium and message. Deutsche Telekom brought their primary brand colour to life in a surprising way, to tell the story that they are the gateway to a connected world of entertainment wherever you are.

Saatchi & Saatchi London recognised that even a distinctive brand assets can become background noise over time, they worked to reinvigorate DT’s colours, and make them relevant again. Through a clever integrated campaign that combined mobile technology, real-world branded spaces, and digital content, audiences were inspired to participate and make the brand their own.

Why it worked:

  • Not everyone has Deutsche Telekom-sized budgets. But the brand leveraged what they already had to great effect – in this instance, a signature colour – and brought it to life
  • We loved that DT let their brand act as an enabler and not the hero, and provided a platform for an exciting brand experience
  • This campaign encouraged the audience to generate some truly unique content, rather than just another tagged photo

 

2. Playnasium

McCann's 'Playnasium' turns a challenge into a solution for YMCA
McCann’s ‘Playnasium’ turns a challenge into a solution for YMCA

Your greatest creative solution is usually hiding inside your biggest design challenge. One of the most brilliant examples of this is the YMCA ‘Playnasium’, created by McCann Melbourne.

For the YMCA, encouraging parents to live a healthy lifestyle and engage with their children was crucial to the brief. The creative solution was deceptively simple. With a set of inspired machines, the ‘Playnasium’ places human connection front and centre, motivating time-poor and overloaded parents into spending literal ‘face time’ with their kids. It neatly transformed the ‘weight’ of having small children with you while you’re trying to exercise into the workout itself, facilitating more eye contact, stimulating play and crucial bonding time.

The results were impressive – 9 locations, over 20,000 family interactions, with most participants exercising for almost twice the recommended daily exercise time.

Why it worked:

  • The Playnasium puts humans at the heart of this campaign. It literally would not work without people
  • Instead of just another ad campaign, the Playnasium is a tactile experience; a chance for kids to see healthy exercise in action before their very eyes
  • Brilliantly marrying the problem with the solution shows clever design thinking
  • For a young audience that’s becoming increasingly device dependent, we love the physicality and practical nature of the Playnasium. While we believe strongly in rich digital experiences, we’re even more passionate about real life interaction

 

3. Thanks, 2016. It’s Been Weird.

Spotify thanks users for a 'Weird' 2016.
Spotify thanks users for a ‘Weird’ 2016.

Highlighting some truly unusual behaviour in their user data for 2016, Spotify took to digital billboards and outdoor media to share the most intriguing insights they found with their end-of-year ‘Thanks’ campaign

The campaign is a perfect example of bringing data to life. While marketers love consumer insights, numbers and stats, consumers often don’t care at all. But Spotify’s pitch-perfect tone of voice and messaging converted trends into stories they told back to their users, building brand connection and a feeling of community. They weren’t afraid to poke fun at their subscribers either, and the tongue-in-cheek observations clearly connected, eliciting laughs and knowing smiles along the way.

The importance of measurement for brands has never been clearer, and this shows just how creativity and data can merge to form a powerful tool for connecting personally with audiences.

Why it worked:

  • People know that brands collect their information (and some even fear it). This campaign made data collection less creepy, and more human
  • We love the way that Spotify transformed what could have been a very dull ‘Annual report’ into an engaging brand story
  • Good, old-fashioned, kick-ass copywriting always makes us smile, and this campaign nailed it. Spotify proved they know their audience, its likes and dislikes, and how to build on the brand relationship

 

All in all, 2017 has been an incredible year for creativity. With shifts in political, economic and social climates across the globe, brands now face new and unique challenges – and the design solutions have to be even more creative.

With another year now in the Cannes (sorry, we couldn’t resist), the trends and takeaways for us are clear.

  • As we shift away from traditional advertising and attention becomes the new currency, brands need to engage their audiences personally in brand experiences, offering something valuable in return for their time.
  • As exciting as digital and technological innovations are, organic real-life interactions, and moving sensory engagements still connect best with audiences across the globe.
  • The way the story is told has become as powerful as the story itself. The medium is the message, and vice versa.

 

By all accounts, it’s been a great year for brand experience, as traditional agencies realise its power and leverage this potential more than ever. If you’re getting as inspired as we are, get in touch with us to talk about how we can create incredible moments of connection with your audience.

Who knows? Maybe your collaboration with us will take out a Lion or two next year.