News & Views

Cannes Lions / Mobile and Innovation Lions

by Contagious Team

The Mobile and Innovation Lions saw fast-emerging media place emphasis on very different kinds of ideas

On Tuesday, two emerging categories at the Cannes Lions, Mobile and Innovation, looked at different parts of the fastest moving and most hopeful part of the communications landscape.

The divide between building advertising campaign solutions and using services to evolve a brand's business was on sharp display in the two-year-old Mobile Lions category, where the Grand Prix went to Smart CommunicationsSmart Public Affairs program, from DDB DM9 JaymeSyfu, Makati City of the Philippines. The program seeks to increase literacy in the Philippines and saw Smart Communications, a telecoms provider, partner with textbook publishers to deliver books and lessons to rural schools. The crux of the mobile idea was that it isn't high-tech at all: books are encoded into SMS messages which are distributed via SIM cards, and can be read from any feature phone.

'It's not the most technologically advanced entry, in fact, it's a little bit backwards, said jury chair Rei Inamoto, chief creative officer at AKQA. 'But that's what I like the most about it. For me, the definition of mobile is three things: portable, connected, pervasive.'

In part, the win for Smart Communications was in not letting the technology get in the way of a great idea. 'It's the best way to show that you can have a great mobile idea without pushing the technology side of it, said Xavier Laoureux, head of TBWA\Digital Arts Network in Belgium. 'It's an idea serving a business problem, but not using technology as an end. It was really, for us, the right Grand Prix.'

'I thought it was great, for many reasons, above all it was showing we don't have to be hyper modern and "Look at this, here's the next robot from whatever future,"' said Magnus Jacobsson, creative director at DDB, Stockhom. 'Everything doesn't have to be clean in that sense, even though it's mobile. It doesn't have to be that way, but we can do something smart.'

Purpose and meaningful social communication continued to be a strong part of the festival's early days. Of the nine Gold Lions awarded, and including the Grand Prix, five were for charities or involved a brand's corporate social responsibility forces in bringing a solution to bear. Additional feel-good Golds went to 
Singtel's Old Phones Give New Life campaign, which paired Singaporean oldsters with donated smartphones which could help monitor their health and happiness, the United Nations Association of Germany's Free the Forced campaign around forced marriage, Belgium's Organ Donation Foundation's Reborn app, which used forgotten apps from festivals and experiences to make a point about organ donation, and a Chinese missing children face detection app from the 'Baby Back Home' Volunteers Association from JWT Beijing.

At their core, the jury was looking at insights behind a mobile execution. 'Clients are always like "Apps, apps are the solution." I don't think we saw that many apps, and I'm happy about that. We tried to judge on insights, so it wasn't just a creative idea,' said Matias Palm-Jensen, chief innovation officer at McCann Erickson, EMEA. 'Texting and driving is a problem, and that's an insight that everyone knows. We saw that all over the place. We saw a lot of drinking problem trend.' Palm-Jensen's main point was one trend he didn't see: a mobile effort driven by paid media, leading the jury to conclude no one has yet to figure out how to monetize mobile. 'The big trend, and one that I'm a little bit worried about, is that we didn't see any paid media.'

Additional golds went to Mattel's Scrabble Wifi, which challenged public wifi users to solve a Scrabble puzzle and earn minutes of connectivity based on their word score, and PARTY's Google Chrome ExperimentWorld Wide Maze, which used a feature in the browser to connect a smartphone to the browser and then use the phone as a controller and move a marble through a maze based on the site. 'It's very on-brand. Google is about allowing you to navigate the world wide web, Inamoto said.

Only two notable Gold winners took on the challenge of using mobile to develop services that can extend or change a business, Doremir's Scorecleaner, which translates audio into a musical score, and RBSGet Cash banking app. The lack of integral-yet-not-always-sexy brand services seemed to be a distinct direction that the jury took, with apps like Delta's Fly Delta effort from AKQA only earning a bronze despite thousands of daily users and many iterations.

In the Innovation Lions, The Barbarian Group's Cinder software framework, an open-source C++ development tool for creative coding, took Grand Prix, one of only four Lions awarded. The first-year category was open to any innovative project, client-based or not, and shortlisted entries had to present their innovation and take questions from the jury in advance of the judging deadline. 

Additional innovation Lions went to YOTA Moscow's New Type of Phone, which is a smart phone with an e-reader on the other side, Thunderclapa Twitter-meets-Kickstarter method of social cause messaging, from De-De, the Droga5 software product-devoted spinoff, and the Mastercard Display Card from Getin Noble Bank in Warsaw, which displays account information including balance in an interactive card format

'This has opened up a whole new world for the festival,' said David Droga, founder of Droga5 and jury president. 'These winners are innovations that haven't seen their best days, and contribute something now, and are going to continue to gain momentum. These are things that are more than just for a campaign, that are going to elevate the industry and that other people can use these technologies. I think that's what determines the winners. You'll see these out there in society. They serve a purpose. That's what real innovation is for us.'

The jury pointed to Cinder's role as a software framework in creating many other Lion entries as a main part of its desirability. The latitude for the ideas awarded to grow was another key point in the jury's comments. 'This protects our industry. This gives us some elbow room,' Droga said. 'I would bet money this will become the most important category for our industry, because it gives us some air coverage, and makes us realize we're more capable than we realized.'

'It's not just campaign-based ideas or ideas that work well in the campaign,' said Mike Parker, global chief digital officer at McCann WorldGroup. 'We talked about the idea that these are lasting things, that have lasting value, they're things people can build on and evolve. Some of the entries were startups or companies that were entering their product. This is the only category that doesn't need a client brief or a client.'

The panel format gave the jury members a chance to interrogate the ideas, and see how robust they were in terms of being evolved from prototypes to full-fledged products. 'This was really refreshing, compared to other juries I've served on,' said Aaron Koblin, leader of the data arts team in Google's Creative Lab

Click here for the full list of winners.