Dan on Cannes 2016


Another year of sunshine, creativity and rosé at the biggest advertising festival on earth. Let’s just start by saying I love Cannes. As well as the obligatory networking, I like to use it to do some research, to stand back and take stock of the amazing work taking place the world over.

It is always with great anticipation that I sit down with my café au lait to review the shortlist in what I guess would traditionally be our ‘home’ category – E03 ‘Use of Digital Outdoor’. It’s a category rich in creative and technical innovation, delivered on one of the fastest growing mediums in the world. A medium that has spent billions of dollars reinventing itself from a traditional media offering to a digital one that now demands its own sub category at Cannes.

So there was I, sipping my [now cold] morning coffee, pouring over the shortlisted entrants in Outdoor Lions, watching the campaign films and trying to savour the moment. And then it hit me. The disappointment. The furrowed brow.

It’s not just because our Google Programmatic and Child Rescue Alert campaigns didn’t make the cut. There were a number of campaigns using data as the catalyst for storytelling. McDonald’s use of real-time snowfall data synchronised to the ratio of cream which targeted skiers in Canada, Bond’s billboard The Boys which adapted to temperature cues in a humorous campaign for the underwear brand. However, each of these campaigns was a special build, adapted billboard or a one-off stunt in one location – all great ideas, but nothing that ran on existing infrastructure at scale.

And then there was Toyota’s Land Cruiser Emergency Network. I’m not suggesting it’s not a good concept, for a worthwhile cause, but best ‘Use of Digital Outdoor’ it surely is not. It is disappointing that a campaign can be entered into a category that it does not meet the submission criteria for, but even more disappointing when the judges fail to recognise the same criteria and go on to shortlist such work. Digital Outdoor has in fact been a category plagued by campaigns that do not fit category criteria since its introduction in 2009. Organisers will need to tighten up on category rules and ensure that judges are on board with agreed definitions of what Digital Outdoor is going forward.

That aside, the rest of the shortlisted work was of a very high standard with some interesting use of technology including voice activation for ESPN, contactless payments for the Melanoma Institute, and thermal-imaging for GlaxoSmithKline’s Theraflu in Poland. Bronzes for Saatchis Poland and Forsman and Bodenfors Gothenburg were worthy winners as was Clemenger BBDO Melbourne taking home a silver lion for its weather activated giant digital billboard. Each campaign demonstrated good use of technology and creativity working in synergy in the DOOH space to provide useful and contextualised information that is tailored to the audience mindset.

Also under Outdoor Lions are categories for all digital ‘out-of-home’ work including all digital screens and ambient use of digital. My favourite winner here was in C03 – from Jung von Matt, The Great Escape – which also took home awards for best use of screens at Media Lions. The execution is an entertaining and rewarding interaction with a live billboard that both surprised and delighted passers-by.

Overall, the UK had a fairly poor showing in the ‘Screens, Digital Billboards or Digital Outdoor’ categories across Media, Outdoor and Cyber Lions this year. This seems odd given our status in the market as an innovator and is not reflective of the rich work that has been done here in the UK in the last 12 months.

So as I consider the state of the DOOH space creatively it seems that the problem is not with the creative that’s being delivered to DOOH – the last 12 months has seen some excellent work globally. I think the problem is that it’s either not been submitted to Lions, or it’s being wrongly judged against submissions that are not meeting category criteria correctly. The awarding body’s understanding and consensus of what ‘digital outdoor’ is, needs to be fleshed out and better understood for 2017.