A last-minute trip to the nearby shopping district, getting the foreign exchange sorted, and packing everything were all that I had in mind before I left for Cannes. But then I got a call to write a column on the world’s biggest festival of creativity. The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, popularly known as Cannes Lions, in the last three years has gone through a transformation in storytelling. Every year we have seen new ideas and new styles of telling those ideas.
Let’s start with 2012, a year when the advertising fraternity showed versatility in storytelling. With consumer spending taking a hit due to the recession in 2008-09, the next few years saw consumers being very cautious in spending their money even when it came to buying grocery or daily needs. It was then that American Express launched, ‘Small Business Saturday’, a shopping holiday in the US on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. The idea was to give the much needed boost to small and local businesses. It was then turned into a regular fixture in the pre-Christmas shopping season in the US. In its second year it turned out to be hugely successful with as many as 5000 small businesses participating in it and 103 million Americans shopping on the day. It soon became a phenomenon on social media generating 2.7 million ‘Likes’ on Facebook. Remember, those were the days of ‘Likes’.
Even US president Barack Obama tweeted his support. And soon the US Senate passed a motion declaring Small Business Saturday an official day.
If on one hand AmEx’s work was proof of what meticulous and clever planning can do, on the other, 20-year-old Hong Kong student Jonathan Mak Long’s The #CokeHands campaign that won a Grand Prix was an example of powerful creative ideas. Released in Shanghai, the creative featured an illustration in which the Coke ribbon device is transformed into two hands, one passing the other a Coke giving the impression that the hands together are holding a bottle.
And who can forget United Colors of Benetton’s Unhate campaign featuring Pope Benedict XVI kissing a senior Egyptian imam on the lips that not only won accolades at the festival, but created a furore as people called it sensational, jaw-dropping and provocative.
Then came 2013 – the golden year of emotion. Toshiba and Intel’s joint creative work called ‘The Beautiful Inside’ told a very emotional story of Alex who wakes up every day as a different person. While he is the same person on the inside, his outside appearance changes every day. But then he meets Leah and falls in love. That is the moment when everything changes for him as he is aware that he will see her again, but she will never see him. A tear jerker, this campaign left everyone pondering upon the importance of inner beauty than external appearance.
The same year a campaign called ‘Dumb ways to die’ went home as the winner of the most memorable and awarded work, winning as many as 28 Lions, including five Grand Prix. Created by McCann Australia for Metro Trains to promote rail safety, the ad comprised a catchy tune and a collection of animated characters as part of an online music video. Within 24 hours of its launch on 16 November 2012, the song entered the top 10 chart of iTunes. The video has now amassed close to 100 million views and 4.8 million ‘Shares’.
Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ online video was another memorable work that year that won a Titanium Grand Prix. The film featured a police sketch artist drawing portraits of women based on how they portray themselves. He then drew the same person from another person description. One of the best years for creativity it was a year dedicated to the power of inner beauty.
The next year, 2014, saw the coming together of technology and some of the best creative ideas. For car racing followers, Dentsu, Honda Motor and Rhizomatiks’ light and sound project Sound of Honda—Ayrton Senna’s Fastest F1 Lap (1989) is more than a visual treat, it is the moment when history is relived through the sound of a racing car.
Through the help of light and sound the companies resurrected engine sound from Ayrton Senna’s 24 year-old victory lap. This was one idea which saw technology and creativity joining hands to create something spectacular.
That year a ten-year-old-girl called Sweetie from Philippines took the world by storm. In an effort to tighten the noose on pedophiles, a virtual girl was created by the Dutch advertising agency Lemz and the charity Terre Des Hommes Netherlands. About 1,000 men from across the world were caught in the act. The charity and the agency sent the details including that of 110 British men to Interpol. It won a gold Cyber Lion at Cannes.
Volvo Epic Split featuring Hollywood star Jean-Claude Van Damme doing an implausible split between two moving trucks, still remains fresh in my memory. The ad was a classic example of marrying celebrity and the ‘wow’ factor to drive the brand message home.
And as I leave for Cannes I cannot stop thinking about some of the work submitted this year that have left an impression on my mind. Like many of us, I am equally curious to find out if these campaigns will take back a Lion or two home. To begin with, after its very emotional ‘Thank you Mom’ campaign, Proctor & Gamble has returned this year with ‘Like a girl’ campaign for its feminine hygiene brand Always. In the ad, a group of adults and teens are asked to act what it means to do something ‘like a girl’. The ad has been viewed 80 million times in 150 countries and shared by 1.5 million people until January this year.
Women’s magazine Cosmopolitan featuring a shocking cover picture that appears to show a woman being suffocated to raise awareness of honour-based killings is one of the print campaigns that has left a hard hitting impact on my heart and mind. Created by Leo Burnett, the campaign highlights the work by charity Karma Nirvana.
And I can go on writing about more campaigns. But I reluctantly put a full stop here by mentioning one last creative work that has captured my imagination this year. Guinness Beer’s ‘Made of Black’ campaign that links the colour of its beer, which is very dark and almost black, to the colourful spirit of Africans. The two-minute ad film features local artists and performers in a medley of dance and art propelled by singer Kanye West’s ‘Black Skinhead’ song.
With this I am geared for a week full of surprises. As for all the creative work that has been entered I say, ‘May the odds be ever in your favour’.
The writer is chief creative officer, India, SapientNitro