Cannes Lions 2016: Go Virtual or Go Home

by: Navjot Singh on 05 July 2016

Joydeep Bhattacharya, Managing Director, General Manager Europe at Fjord, Design and Innovation from Accenture Interactive Explains Why VR Is Not Just Tangible but Something That Should Be Taken Seriously By Creatives

"Gone are the days when a company’s sole success was measured on high profit margins and ROI. Today’s savvy consumer expects a brand to serve a higher purpose - to convey a message that extends beyond the objective of making a hard sale, and to engage in an authentic conversation with the public."

Add to the ubiquitous bottles of rosé, the promenade, beaches, luxury yachts and extravagant parties at Cannes’ annual Lions festival and you’re privy to observing some of the latest trends in the world of creativity, design and technology.

This year’s week-long celebration of creativity was no exception, introducing previously unimaginable campaign ideas made possible by the latest in gadgets, digital innovation and technology. Amidst stimulating presentations, award ceremonies and the flurry of ‘techie banter’, I noticed some overarching themes that were systematically woven into the fabric of the award-winning work on display.

VR Gets real

Stealing the show, having come on leaps and bounds since last year and delivering more immersive experiences than ever, was Virtual Reality (VR). In our trends report for 2016, Fjord predicted that this was the year that VR would start to go mainstream and we weren’t far off the mark. You had the likes of Google presenting their Tilt Brush, which allows you to paint in a 3D space. You had Samsung take users on a wild rollercoaster ride brought to life through its Gear VR headset. With deeper degrees of life-like immersion and 360-degree viewing, the limits are endless to what you can create. Then there were the usual suspects like Facebook (Oculus) and YouTube all proving that VR is providing the tools for creatives to build momentous stories and experiences unlike any we’ve seen before. It might be early days yet, but VR is headed in one direction - and it’s definitely mainstream.

Purpose Trumps Profit

Gone are the days when a company’s sole success was measured on high profit margins and ROI. Today’s savvy consumer expects a brand to serve a higher purpose - to convey a message that extends beyond the objective of making a hard sale, and to engage in an authentic conversation with the public. This was abound at Cannes, as campaigns and seminars alike centred on the importance of purpose. One award winner, Florida based Saltwater Brewery have elevated the notion of purpose, by creating 100% biodegradable or ‘edible’ six-pack rings. The idea stemmed from the fact that most plastic beer pack rings end up in the ocean and are being ingested by marine life. Their purpose is not only environmentally driven, but could become cost competitive if implemented by most breweries. 

People Not Consumers

While not a new notion for us at Fjord, many creatives are now seeing the word ‘consumer’ as one that belongs in the past and a term that no longer resonates with people, who are tired of that label. What made an impression on me was the panel discussion hosted by the Wharton Future of Advertising Program called ‘Raves and Mades: New Creativity Standards for the Future’, which above all emphasised the point that today we deal with ‘empowered and sceptical people, not consumers, with lives, aspirations, challenges and communities.’ Understanding ‘consumers’ as people will ultimately deliver a more emotionally resonant brand intimacy. 

Innovate Or Go Home

While 30-second spots will always have a place in the modern marketer’s arsenal, there is a clear shift underway from “campaigns” to technology-enabled, innovative inventions that improve the lives of humans. Taking home a Gold in the category of Innovation was Dot, the first braille smartwatch for visually-impaired people. With digital and technological advancements in communication moving at unparalleled speeds, what really impressed me was Dot’s realisation that the visually impaired were being left behind, unable to post a link on Facebook or send a simple text message. So they decided to create an open system, allowing anyone to write programmes for it. At present, functions include Google Maps as well as text messaging and phone call identification. We haven’t seen such a light-weight, affordable innovation for the visually impaired in over 20 years. It’s set to go to market later in 2016 and orders are already rolling in.

Predominant trends can often be tough to nail, particularly in a place overrun by promotions for new products and services, all vying for the top spot and the coveted Lion. But at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival, VR, purpose, people and innovation stood out as strong contenders. So with that in mind we look forward to the 2017 Lions to see who lives up to their promise and delivers.