A Perspective From The Cannes Lions Festival Office
Rob Dembitz, Head of Innovation Cannes Lions
Issue 36 | September 2015
Three years ago at Cannes Lions I was introduced to a San Francisco-based Venture Capitalist attending the Festival for the very first time.
"Why are you here" I asked?
It turned out he was on his way to a tech conference and researching options for a side trip when he came across Cannes Lions. He'd never heard of it before but thought it sounded interesting enough to warrant a look.
When I bumped into him again three days later and asked what he thought, he said, "This is so awesome, I don't want to tell anyone about it. No one knows about this back home."
"Why not?" I wondered. "Should they?"
By then, new groups had begun descending on Cannes - AdTech, research agencies, and data specialists, who, while small in number, were starting to make more and more noise. That noise was being mirrored on the main stage too - data was coming up in seminar after seminar, evolving into big data then smart data, mirroring industry developments.
And we'd noticed new job titles appearing among delegates and in agencies too roles like Chief Data Officer and Head of Innovation in creative agencies were particularly interesting to observe.
By the time OgilvyOne's "Magic of Flying" for British Airways and Dentsu's "Sound of Honda" won Grands Prix in 2014, it was clear that data was driving many of the insights behind great ideas and technology was enabling all new kinds of executions.
It was time to act and Lions Innovation was born; a two day "festival within a Festival" that would shine a light on how data and tech were taking creativity to the next level and that would bring the core Cannes Lions community together with the new players from those worlds. Among those new players were start-ups, who had little awareness of us. We needed to show them that Cannes Lions, and in particular Lions Innovation, was the best place to engage with the brands and agencies that could help them grow. So we worked with Unilever via their Foundry initiative to bring 50 of those start-ups to the Festival for an opportunity to pitch, speed-date and network.
We also created a Start-up Academy in partnership with R/ GA, which would expose a further ten start-ups to heavy- hitting delegates like Michael Roth (CEO of IPG), Mark D'Arcy (CCO of Facebook), Alicia Enciso (CMO of Nestle USA) and Sean Rad (Founder of Tinder).
They were mentored by Chief Innovation Officers, had a tour of the work from one Patrick Collister and ended their week with a live pitch to Cannes Lions delegates. On the back of this, they secured deals, built new relationships and became plaudits of the Festival. LISNR, one of the start- ups, even won gold in the Mobile Lions.
At Lions Innovation itself, some 6,000 people were scanned in over the two days and 80% of standalone delegates were first-timers to Cannes Lions.
It was standing room only across our three stages. The Inspiration Stage showcased big ideas, with a wealth of expertise on show.
MIT Professors, CTOs, CCO, Data Scientists, Venture Capitalist and the occasional dancing Robot put forward ground breaking ideas about the use of tech in branded communications.
On the Discovery Stage, six different technological topics were unpicked, such as Beacons, AI and Wearables. The Virtual Reality session, for example, included Oscar winning Framestore, a start-up called Jaunt and SapientNitro; each session exploring a different approach as to how this type of tech can be used to drive creativity.
And finally, the Experience Stage delved into themes that came out of our research, such as the culture around innovation, neuroscience and the creative potential of programmatic.
On the awards front, Lions Innovation also saw the launch of the new Creative Data Lion. Though the jury took the decision not to award a Grand Prix, the overwhelming feedback has been excitement at the new ideas that were unearthed, such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics' gold Lion-winning work, "Run That Town", which Jury President David Sable described as "the most shit-boring stuff you can ever imagine in your life, turned into something so compellingly interesting".
At the awards show the winners of the Innovation Lions were also announced and quietly-achieving start-up What3Words were thrust into the spotlight, pitching their product to a packed auditorium as well as claiming this year's Grand Prix.
That is the magic of Cannes Lions. It's a mirror of what is going on in the creative industry, but so much more. Data and tech now play a key role, and start-ups sit right at the heart of this. It was a great honour to meet so many of them and I hope you will take that opportunity next year too.