Earlier this summer, I had the chance to gather with fellow industry experts from around the world for The Cannes Lions Awards. The International Festival of Creativity has been championing creative excellence since 1954 with the goal of providing the definitive benchmark for creativity that drives progress in the marketing and advertisement industry and beyond.
As a jury member for the competition, I came away with several themes including the role of data, celebrating industry pride and changing the way people think of "traditional" marketing.
Data driving purposeful campaigns
A key driver of this year’s Cannes awards was data. Many discussions centered around using data for the betterment of society and as a vehicle for solving longstanding consumer problems.
Marketers have long tried to move away from the perception that "data is creepy." A key strategy in doing so is using data for good. Many brands competing at Cannes did just that in both the specific creative data category and many other categories, whether they produced a new product that provided a direct remedy for a specific problem or were meaningfully tied to a challenge.
Vodacom, a mobile operator out of South Africa, teamed up with agency VMLY&R, on a campaign with navigation app Waze and real time and historical police crime data to connect and utilize data on recent hijackings on roadways in their country. Drivers were alerted of dangerous roadways and navigated away from them inside the Waze app. This earned them a bronze in the creative data field at Cannes Lions.
Marketers also used data to drive relatively simple solutions that can have a huge impact.
Elevating "invisible data" — data that is typically overlooked due to its medium— can enable organizations to create significant change for a range of societal issues. It’s of note that no cookies are involved in these forms of data collection.
A powerful example of elevating "invisible data" was brought to the competition by investment firm WeCapital in partnership with DDB México and centered around raising awareness about the challenges women in Mexico face when trying to take out loans that require a credit score. The campaign, "Data Tienda," earned the Grand Prix award and populated legacy pen-and-paper bookkeeping data from local bodegas into a database that then created a credit score, something 86% of Mexican women don't have. This credit score then allowed the bank to give them small business loans.
There were several notable campaigns using data to help identify and decrease bullying in gaming communities. For example, Samsung in China identified bullies using the in app chat data and then increased the price of in game purchases for the bullies, who were also notified, as part of the campaign titled “The Cost of Bullying.” Leo Burnett Bogota, in collaboration with AB InBev, created a campaign that incorporated real-time data to prevent cyberbullying in video game chats. The campaign, “Billy, The Bully Watcher,” highlights a machine learning algorithm that is able to identify harmful slang and notifies parents when their children were bullied in a game or were participants of bullying via WhatsApp.
Data, large or small, powers a myriad of helpful tools that can be shared by several jurisdictions. Flight trackers, for instance, were integral to the really fun campaign from Garena and AKQA São Paulo’s gaming entry “The Real Airdrop,” a shortlisted contender, where gamers could catch gifts in their game by pointing their devices to the sky when specific planes flew over.
In another important entry submitted by Croatia Insurance, Bruketa&Zinic&Grey and Go2Digital, facial recognition and AI-based mood recognition algorithms were used to measure anxiety of those who interacted with the ad, earning the campaign a spot on the shortlist. The AI Anxiety Meter campaign highlights the consequences of not taking care of mental health and directed sufferers to local mental health support.
Finding partnerships that matter
The value of real partnerships to ideate, innovate, and deliver new opportunities is colossal, not only for brands looking to sell their products, but for companies who find solutions through their synergies.
Several of the winning campaigns at Cannes Lions came from collaborative projects with a wide range of interests. Receiving the Silver Lion award, travel brand Black and Abroad, for instance, worked with creative-data advertising agency Performance Art to launch a data-driven domestic travel platform titled “The Black Elevation Map.” Using cultural data such as historical markers as well as black-owned businesses and social media activity, users are able to view both the volume and type of some of the amazing historical and current black cultural places, businesses and communities - helping to drive awareness and visitation.
Brands aren't just using data and partnerships to make impactful messages, they're also using these aspects to elevate communities, as illustrated above.
Colenso BBDO Auckland teamed up with MARS subsidiary Pedigree to promote dog adoptions, earning the team a place on the shortlist. Creating a shelter management system, termed MyHooman, the brands put compassion and fun at the center of their data-driven digital experience and created an experience similar to Tinder UI to match adopters to pets. Within the first few weeks, 590 animal profiles were viewed 33,922 times. The platform successfully helped match rescue dogs to new families and significantly cut down returns.
All of these groups brought something different to the table, and by using their strengths collectively, they used data to drive real change.
Many of the Cannes creative data entries showcased a reframing of data-driven marketing campaigns to solve consumers needs with an altruistic lens. The industry is moving from one that pushes meaningless consumption to one that champions collaboration and creative uses of data to solve pressing issues.