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My First Time at Cannes Lions 2018

My First Time at Cannes Lions 2018

Nian He

Nian He

June 26, 2018

Young Lion, Nian He, shares what she learned during her inaugural trip to the industry's most prestigious festival.

"The ideas always found the perfect balance between technology and humanity..."

The curtain has fallen on the 2018 Cannes Lions Creativity Festival. This past week was full not only with grand award shows, but also amazing works, and feeling  just a little angry when thinking, “Why didn’t I come up with those ideas?”

But I also went to many talks about tech breakthroughs and consumer trends. I listened to creative insights from the biggest industry heroes, gained better understanding about the thinking behind successful campaigns, and got valuable tips from special “Inside The Jury Room” sessions. Throughout the entire festival, the three things that I was struck by the deepest were: emotion, commitment, and courage.

The rapid development in tech grants us more new tools than ever, which, of course, improve and even redefine our creativity. But we’re still wowed by how VR takes us into a reality that we couldn’t physically experience; it’s now even possible for VR devices to detect your reactions and provide real-time feedback within the content. But no matter how omnipresent, or omnipotent, technology becomes, emotion and human connection sit at the center of great ideas.

Even in the most tech-related categories like mobile, or creative data, when the juries were discussing the campaigns for which they awarded Gold or Grand Prix, what they kept emphasizing was how the ideas always found the perfect balance between technology and humanity—creating a great emotional impact that resonates with an audience.

A great example: Project Revoice, created for the ALS Association by BWM Dentsu Sydney, is an initiative that helps those who lost their voices to ALS—including the founder of the Ice Bucket—challenge find another way to have a voice. The technological process to recreate someone’s unique voice is already magical, but what in the end profoundly touched people’s hearts was applying this innovation to help ALS patients. As David Droga said in his illuminating opening session, if our ideas can’t make people feel anything, there is no point to executing them.

"As creatives, we need to always be aware of what is going on and what people most care about at any given moment."

Having emotion could also make people laugh with light-hearted humor. One juror from the Brand Experience and Activation panel stressed the importance of laughter in an increasingly intense world. He said that Donald Trump’s “Twitter Library“, which is available on The Daily Show Presents website and may be coming to a city near you, is a great example of this.

To make genuine connections with people, brands need to have a purpose. So much is happening today: our culture is shifting our society is polarizing and our planet is facing dire crises. As creatives, we need to always be aware of what is going on and what people most care about at any given moment. More importantly, we should help our clients find their own roles and point of view. One of the Outdoor juror, had a funny comment about this: “If you don’t pick a side, you are gonna find yourself in the middle of the road—and you’ll be run over.”

When everyone is taking a stance, simply jumping into the conversation about a hot topic isn’t enough. A brand needs to actively employ its power to push for change. The PR juries this year pointed out that they saw many entries that advocated awareness for gender equality issues, yet not enough cases that actually took action or sparked real change. That’s probably why ideas like Nike’s “Swoosh Vote” and Nissan’s “SheDrives” stood out.

At times, a brand should put aside its self-interests. The Grocers Black Supermarket and Carrefour fight for biodiversity; the German Supermarket and Edeka focus on inclusion. One of the reasons people are wary of advertising is its selfishness—setting out to take more than what it gives. For a brand to have such a deep commitment to a public interest is a noble act of generosity, which may be one way for brands to win back love and respect.

These are not easy decisions for a brand. It takes great courage. But when a brand manages to take such a brave leap, it deserves to be awarded. Many jurors mentioned that they felt like they were, in fact, awarding the courage of the brand that promoted such a bold idea and the persistence of the creatives who made it come to life.

I used to admire how fearless those brands and creatives were, yet after listening to many of the stories behind the campaigns, I realized that they weren’t actually fearless. Burger King’s Global Marketing Director and creatives admitted they were afraid about how the idea would turn out. The creative head of the massively successful “Sick Kids VS” also said that he almost freaked out when he found out the campaign triggered controversies around the country. The point is not to be without fear—but to dare to take a risk even when scared. This requires a strong, trusting relationship between the brand and creatives, as well as thorough preparations for whatever might happen when putting an idea into the market.

The past five days have been intense, but also inspiring. I tried to take in as much as I could, and now I cannot wait to apply what I learned from the festival to my future work.

"The ideas always found the perfect balance between technology and humanity..."

The curtain has fallen on the 2018 Cannes Lions Creativity Festival. This past week was full not only with grand award shows, but also amazing works, and feeling  just a little angry when thinking, “Why didn’t I come up with those ideas?”

But I also went to many talks about tech breakthroughs and consumer trends. I listened to creative insights from the biggest industry heroes, gained better understanding about the thinking behind successful campaigns, and got valuable tips from special “Inside The Jury Room” sessions. Throughout the entire festival, the three things that I was struck by the deepest were: emotion, commitment, and courage.

The rapid development in tech grants us more new tools than ever, which, of course, improve and even redefine our creativity. But we’re still wowed by how VR takes us into a reality that we couldn’t physically experience; it’s now even possible for VR devices to detect your reactions and provide real-time feedback within the content. But no matter how omnipresent, or omnipotent, technology becomes, emotion and human connection sit at the center of great ideas.

Even in the most tech-related categories like mobile, or creative data, when the juries were discussing the campaigns for which they awarded Gold or Grand Prix, what they kept emphasizing was how the ideas always found the perfect balance between technology and humanity—creating a great emotional impact that resonates with an audience.

A great example: Project Revoice, created for the ALS Association by BWM Dentsu Sydney, is an initiative that helps those who lost their voices to ALS—including the founder of the Ice Bucket—challenge find another way to have a voice. The technological process to recreate someone’s unique voice is already magical, but what in the end profoundly touched people’s hearts was applying this innovation to help ALS patients. As David Droga said in his illuminating opening session, if our ideas can’t make people feel anything, there is no point to executing them.

"As creatives, we need to always be aware of what is going on and what people most care about at any given moment."

Having emotion could also make people laugh with light-hearted humor. One juror from the Brand Experience and Activation panel stressed the importance of laughter in an increasingly intense world. He said that Donald Trump’s “Twitter Library“, which is available on The Daily Show Presents website and may be coming to a city near you, is a great example of this.

To make genuine connections with people, brands need to have a purpose. So much is happening today: our culture is shifting our society is polarizing and our planet is facing dire crises. As creatives, we need to always be aware of what is going on and what people most care about at any given moment. More importantly, we should help our clients find their own roles and point of view. One of the Outdoor juror, had a funny comment about this: “If you don’t pick a side, you are gonna find yourself in the middle of the road—and you’ll be run over.”

When everyone is taking a stance, simply jumping into the conversation about a hot topic isn’t enough. A brand needs to actively employ its power to push for change. The PR juries this year pointed out that they saw many entries that advocated awareness for gender equality issues, yet not enough cases that actually took action or sparked real change. That’s probably why ideas like Nike’s “Swoosh Vote” and Nissan’s “SheDrives” stood out.

At times, a brand should put aside its self-interests. The Grocers Black Supermarket and Carrefour fight for biodiversity; the German Supermarket and Edeka focus on inclusion. One of the reasons people are wary of advertising is its selfishness—setting out to take more than what it gives. For a brand to have such a deep commitment to a public interest is a noble act of generosity, which may be one way for brands to win back love and respect.

These are not easy decisions for a brand. It takes great courage. But when a brand manages to take such a brave leap, it deserves to be awarded. Many jurors mentioned that they felt like they were, in fact, awarding the courage of the brand that promoted such a bold idea and the persistence of the creatives who made it come to life.

I used to admire how fearless those brands and creatives were, yet after listening to many of the stories behind the campaigns, I realized that they weren’t actually fearless. Burger King’s Global Marketing Director and creatives admitted they were afraid about how the idea would turn out. The creative head of the massively successful “Sick Kids VS” also said that he almost freaked out when he found out the campaign triggered controversies around the country. The point is not to be without fear—but to dare to take a risk even when scared. This requires a strong, trusting relationship between the brand and creatives, as well as thorough preparations for whatever might happen when putting an idea into the market.

The past five days have been intense, but also inspiring. I tried to take in as much as I could, and now I cannot wait to apply what I learned from the festival to my future work.

Nian He is a creative at Havas Germany, and a die-hard fan of spicy hot pot.

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