MBPT Spotlight: At Cannes, Technology Is King, Creativity Is Secondary

The amazing creative work that comes out of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is staggering. Disruptive work emerges, making it clear that it’s not only the creative work that makes waves. Creatives embark on Cannes to show off the fruits of their labor from the past year. But it’s also all about tech.

Cannes, the epicenter of ingenuity in the advertising world, has been invaded by tech-hocking companies looking to show off their latest and greatest projects. From Saatchi’s wearable “Feel the Reel” pulse-reading wristband at the 24th Annual New Directors Showcase to Twitter’s “Dronie” (drone + selfie) concept, the festival is a hotbed for “techiness.”

Companies such as Facebook came with interesting experiential marketing ploys to get more eyeballs on their brand. I’m not sure what a slowly spinning “gravity room” has to do with anything, but perhaps it’s a diversion tactic to distract people from declining organic reach. Whatever your opinion is on social platform algorithms, it’s the coolest distractions that keep people interested.

The ad landscape has changed considerably in the 61 years that the festival has been running. The game changer at the first ever Cannes Lions in 1954 was the Marlboro Man—it was such a novel concept to introduce a character that was the epitome of manliness. Flash forward to 2014, and it’s not about pushing a lifestyle on consumers through print ads. The era of Madison Ave. is a faint memory.

The reality today is that you need more than a beautiful visual ad in the growing mobile world. The idea needs to be provocative, forward-thinking, and at times, uncomfortable. Brands and agencies grab the spotlight by dropping earth-shattering concepts and innovative products, much like Lemz. The Amsterdam agency created a 3D campaign “Becoming Sweetie” in order to end webcam child sex tourism. The video was powerful. The tech was even cooler. Using a creepily realistic computer-generated character named “Sweetie,” it was possible to pinpoint the identities of 1,000 sex predators.

The Nivea Sun Kids brand created a bracelet and a mobile app for parents to keep track of their kids in crowded areas. The same value that Nivea stands by—protection—is demonstrated in “The Protection Ad.” Lotion has little to do with keeping track of your kids, but Nivea was able to make the connection and win the Mobile Grand Prix in the process.

Aside from brands such as Nivea that are looking to improve the greater good, agencies are blending reality and digital experiences in other areas, much like MegaFon’s technology at the 2014 Sochi Games. The company posted giant selfies on the side of a building during the Games, but not your regular run-of-the-mill selfies. These were taken on mobile devices, then generated into 3D headshots. “MegaFaces” meshed architecture, photography and digital technology into one. This project is a great example of technology aiding the execution of a creative vision.

Tech is the vessel to solve the problem at hand. For example, the Samsung Smart Bike intends to make biking safer through futuristic laser beams and GPS integration. The bike was created at the Maestros Academy, which aims to maintain Italian craftsmanship in a digital world.

After the Silicon Valley execs left the French Riviera with pockets full of business cards, the next hurdle becomes figuring out how these viral marketing stunts relate to consumers. It is increasingly difficult to put ads in front of the people who care, due to the constantly changing landscape of mobile, digital and print.

Reaching the ideal audience becomes less about connecting with consumers by means of a fantastic print ad as much as placing content in front of the right people through data and social networks.

True innovation can shake the foundation of any industry. The advertising world feels the shift because of the way creative ideas are consumed. Print is not dead, but tech leads the pack.

Better keep up, or risk being left behind.

MRY is a creative and technology agency based in New York City.