A Belated Cannes Wrap-up from the ‘B-Side’

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Safety alert: Don’t worry — this article will not mention blockchain or AI.

OK, I’ll admit it. I’ve always been skeptical of Cannes, at least in the past. Coming from a digital product and design background, I’ve struggled to make a connection with the “Oscars of Advertising,” although I’ve always admired the scale and celebration of world class creativity. However, a digital design agency like Edenspiekermann would have had little place at such a festival — at least in the past.

As a result of our increasingly digitized and technology driven lives, brand marketing and their digital products have converged; and the once separate industries of ‘advertising agencies’ and ‘digital shops’ have had to change to keep pace. Don’t get me wrong, for those in the traditional ad world “The Big Idea” is still king; however, doing it in a way that creates value for the user is more important now than ever. The challenge that was evident at Cannes this year: how to marry the two.

Enter the digital services companies, the consultants, the technology companies and the other boutique specialists who have extensive experience creating user-centric solutions, but not the creative-driven ads. Hence the reason that this plump author wrote this piece sweating in a cafe on the Croisette with our CEO, Anna Ibbotson.

A changing Cannes Lions for a changing industry
While traditional advertising is still very firmly the star of the show, the “fringe” disciplines which have been bubbling up in the marketing world for years — technology, design and user-centric experiences — are finally getting a seat at the table. Cannes is progressively and actively adding new categories such as Craft, a track dedicated to celebrating the execution of ideas; including awards for technology and design is a clear nod to the changing industry. Admittedly, the amount of entries and level of prominence for these categories this year were a little low, but the trend is clear — execution, data and technology are just as important to delivering a great idea in the digital age. To quote the influential, controversial Martin Sorrell during his on-stage interview: “Our trillion dollar industry is split in two halves. $500 billion in traditional advertising and the other $500 billion is the new stuff. It’s fragmented, but growing rapidly, keeping up with radical market change.”

Three takeaways from the Lions newbies

Over the course of a sweaty week, three things became clear to us:

1: People are struggling to figure out how creativity fits in the bigger picture
We noticed a sense of uncertainty about how to keep creativity at the center of communications. If the idea is still king in this era of digital consumption, then how does all of this combine with data and technology advancements? The tides are shifting and with that came plenty of discussion about the future of our industry and where it is headed. Lindsey Slaby of Sunday Dinner sums this up very aptly in her analysis of the future agency model.

2: “The Big Idea” needs to be paired with technology and user-centric thinking
While gut and intuition are still important, in the digital age, agencies also must listen to the user and provide real value to customers — regardless of whether it is a marketing campaign or a product. That’s not to say the creative idea isn’t important in the world of technology, quite the contrary. The magic happens when we start by understanding what the user need is before, then using our creativity to conceptualize the solution. With the rise of technology, never before have we had such a range of tools to deliver on-point creative. A great example of this was featured in the talk by Google’s Steve Vranakis and Robert Wong, who presented a series of work demonstrating how putting creativity in the center of people’s lives is the recipe for success.

3: Convergence, convergence, convergence

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Above: “The creative provider of today must combine traditional skills with those of a scientist.” — Nick Drake, T-Mobile

One thing was clear from all the work, the panels, the discussions and the overarching theme for creativity this year: design brings communication, technology brings emotion and content brings engagement and relevance to the user on their everyday journey through life. At Edenspiekermann, this is something we, as an agency specializing in digital transformation through products and services, deliver for our client partners.


Looking towards the future, the big question for those of us coming from the product design and technology space is how relevant Cannes is for our industries. In this author’s opinion, I believe the answer is very. While in the past there was a friendly tension between the traditional creative industry and design and digital focused companies, these lines are more blurred than ever before and both sides can learn a lot from the other. To deliver a brand experience that offers real value to the user, we must combine out-of-the-box thinking from the traditional creative industry with the craft and innovations from the design and technology sectors. The opportunity to take the lead in this space is still up for grabs, and it’s still an open question whether it will be the “traditional” creative industry, the consultants or the tech giants that come out on top. We’ll just have to wait and see who steps up, but a quote from Paul Polman, Unilever CEO and winner of the LionHeart Award rings very true: “Don’t just ask for a seat at the table, take the table.”

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Hello. We are Edenspiekermann, an independent, global design agency. We solve business problems with design.

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