June 16, 2017 / John Kelly

What can a Fish learn from the Lions?

Every year, the Cannes Lions- the International Festival of Creativity- brings together the most innovative creatives, marketers, and tech companies. I'll be sharing the best new ideas to come out of Cannes this year. Follow me as I experience the highlights of the Cannes Lions.

June 16
1:22 pm CEST
Ready for Takeoff

Ideas are already churning in my head before I've even arrived at Cannes. What new angles can we bring to the table? How can we make our obstacles our advantages? What can I bring back to my agency, and then, our clients? Every person at Cannes will have a different perspective on the issues we are all facing. I already have my own solution… about air travel with my Johnny Walker on the rocks.
June 18
7:21 pm CEST
And the Winner Is...

Social awareness. Nearly all the Lions winners tackled some social awareness problem in the healthcare environment. One of the two Grand Prix winners was an ingenious idea and a gorgeous campaign (Immunity Charm) from McCann New Delhi/Mumbai that addressed casual attitudes of record keeping by physicians and parents in regards to child vaccines. Another Grand Prix winner from Clemenger BBDO in Melbourne, addressed safety issues for the Transport Accident Commission in Victoria. "Meet Graham," was a hybrid human model of the type of physical structure necessary to survive an accident. It's pretty gross, but eye catching and effective.

Conspicuously absent were branded product campaign winners. There were a few that made the cut, but evidently, most couldn't compete with the awareness campaigns. This tells me two things: the first is that, as an industry, we have to try harder. We have to fight more diligently to get exceptional work through all the rigors we face in the healthcare environment. We have to push clients to do standout work. We have to be clever with solutions in the face of regulatory issues. And as agency representatives, we can't be content with average. We have to aspire to doing work that actually digs down deep and stirs the soul.

The other thing it tells me is that submitting work for awards show can't be a cookie cutter chore. The actual submission has to be inspired. In order to compete with a world-wide campaign that deals with infant mortality and all the emotion inherent in such a desperate topic, your product submission has to be story-like, oozing with emotion or insanely smart and implemented with the greatest of care.

A side note: Publicis, New York, took home the Lions award for "I'm moving to Canada." A sobering comment on refugees. Nice job guys. Congratulations.

All the winners can be seen on the Cannes Lions website: https://www.canneslions.com/#/

12:07 pm CEST
Advertising Heaven

Once a year, advertising disciples make the pilgrimage to the South of France for the annual Cannes Lions advertising festival. It's truly a Mecca. The town is about as picturesque as you could want for a travel destination, the blue waters of the Mediterranean lapping on the sandy beaches are guaranteed to lull you into a peaceful stupor, and the food will have you considering changing your citizenship. But it is the creative energy saturating the air that keeps everyone coming back each year.

There are shows, discussions, seminars, old friends, new friends and of course, the work. It's the best of the best. If you love advertising, if you love the process of creating something that moves people, the work here will inspire you to turn your own creative up to eleven. As health and wellness practitioners, we often lament the restrictions we are forced to abide by. But the work here clearly demonstrates that with insightful strategy, a good brief and some dedicated creatives, our work could one day end up in Cannes too.

June 19
9:12 am CEST
A Different Kind of Reality

I have never been a great advocate of virtual reality (VR) in practical pharma application. It always feels sexy, clients love the demonstrations but when it comes down to selling them on it, they say it's too expensive or not right for their needs. They are almost always right in their assessment.

A recent VR demonstration at Cannes by GMR, out of Wisconsin, changed my mind, with a slight caveat—VR application has to be the solution to a specific problem. It can't be VR just for the sake of being new and high-tech.

I put on the goggles for the demonstration and found myself on the ledge of a 30-story building. There was a small platform hanging over the edge of the building and Peter, my guide, asked me to step onto it. He said, "Now look down." When I did, I was amazed at the sense of height. I was completely aware it was a simulation, and yet, I could feel my heart beat a little faster. He said, "Now step off." Every instinct in my body told me not to take that step. I actually had to tell myself that it wasn't real in order to commit. When I did, the sense of falling made me lose my balance. Peter knew this was going to happen and was there to catch me (you can see him catching another victim in the second photo).

Another factor that helped change my mind was a VR application Lions winner. In Brazilian physicians' offices, doctors are using a pilot VR program with children about to get an injection. Instead of screaming and crying, they follow a virtual story of how they are going to be transformed into a super hero. The nurse is capable of following what the child is watching and all her actions coincide with the story. When it is time for the injection, the child is told they are about to receive the "fire fruit," which will transform them into the super hero. Instead of crying, the kids laugh and smile.

VR is definitely a tool that we can promote, but we have to be critical of its practicality in solving a unique problem. That's when VR truly comes to life.

June 20
2:42 pm CEST
Your creative genius versus millions of processors

Is the Matrix coming to the advertising world? Will high speed computers one day decide what is creative or not? Yes and no, according to Alex Jenkins and Christopher Follett who presented "The Cognitive Creativity Playbook" seminar at Cannes yesterday.

In their fascinating presentation of what the future may hold, they argued that humans make mistakes but computers can't interpret their data without human interaction. We need each other. Cognitive creativity is a phrase they coined to explain the intersection and utility of humans and computers in the creative environment.

Computers are already making creative judgements. They gave the example of a program that evaluates Hollywood scripts to determine their viability versus studio execs who give the green light to movies. They examined 50 mainstream scripts to see if the execs or the program chose correctly. And, indeed, the program actually had a slightly better track record of picking the money makers.

It's an excellent argument. We should be more open to the data available to us and not underestimate its utility. The genius would come in the way we interpret that data and use it to best advise us.

One reservation—if the studio execs were to rely on such a program, all the movies coming to the screen would be following the same parameters of the ones that came before. The program is only as good as the values programmed into it. Without vigilance against our own human weakness to accept convention and well-worn paths, we would default to cookie-cutter scenarios and everything would become formulaic.

I have no doubt that one day a computer will create with incredible efficiency. The Tianhe-2, the world's fastest super computer, has 3,120,000 computing nodes. But even with such computing power, it is only approaching 1% of the neural connections in your brain. So, until there is that billion processor super computer that can mimic human brain activity, let's utilize the data available to us and make our work more brilliant. For now, I would say our jobs are safe.

June 21
8:56 pm CEST
A final aperitif

For five days, I have been surrounded by genius, by innovation, by people who are passionate about the work that they do. It truly has been inspirational―our work should be here too. There is nothing stopping us. Everyone here is hungry for brilliant work. They feed on it. They travel from all over the world to come and see how their work measures up to the Lions winners.

Our agency does excellent work. We are just as passionate about it as any of the agencies here this week. To get our work to Cannes requires that final touch that we apply before we say we are done. That extra bit of love that makes you say, "Yes!" Kind of like a glass of Grand Marnier or a good port after a great meal. It turns exceptional into perfection.

Make no mistake, the competition is incredibly tough. It won't be easy. But if we want it badly enough, we can be on that stage accepting a Lions award too. And trust me, if we find ourselves there one day, walking onto that stage, raising that trophy up and shaking it in triumph…well, that would be perfection.

John Kelly / EVP, Creative Director