Juhi Kalia
Jun 23, 2014

Cannes reactions: Help, I feel nothing

An argument that is not antitechnology but prohuman.

The author 'sits' for a low-tech but lovingly created portrait
The author 'sits' for a low-tech but lovingly created portrait

See all of Campaign Asia-Pacific's Cannes coverage here, and visit Campaign@Cannes for round-the-clock festival coverage by our entire international team.

As I sat through the 'I am Google and I am taking over the world' presentation, I felt strangely unmoved. In spite of the heartwarming stories about how Google glasses and driverless cars will make our lives better, my heart was not warmed. Maybe it’s because I have case-study fatigue, or maybe it’s because I have a very healthy fear of driver-less cars going rogue and mowing down pedestrians who are too busy taking pictures with their glasses.

I felt this year there was just not enough stuff that moved me. Human observations, charming stories, pure, visceral, authentic and unaffected ideas that weren’t distracted by their own fancy technology. There were many amusing flirtations, but I felt almost no true brand love.

You know that ennui when you are sitting through yet another movie scene with massive buildings crashing down and it's the end of the world again and you're trying to give a crap? Trying real hard to give a crap and yet you feel nothing?

That’s what it was like this year.

Maybe I'm getting harder to please. Maybe I'm losing my sense of wonder. Or maybe I'm just calling it like it is.

I recently started reading You are not a gadget, a brilliant and mind expanding book by Jaron Lanier, one of the most celebrated technology writers in the world today. In it he says "You have to find a way to be yourself before you can share yourself." And that technology is deemphasizing personhood.

Brands too have to find a way to hold onto their personhood in the sea of constantly evolving technology. They have to get in touch with who they are, what they stand for and the emotion they want to evoke. They have to try harder to find the time and space to think and feel before jumping on the newest tech trend and losing what is crucial to their existence.

This is not a case against technology. It is just a case for brands to be more prohuman. It’s so easy to get platform fever and lose sight of what’s important. What we set out to do.

To make people cry, laugh, fall in love, miss their moms, feel excited, alive and connected. And when technology helps us do that better and in more incredible ways than ever before, that’s the holy grail.

There were some fantastic pieces like the Sweetie computer created pedophile trapper, the Peruvian Happy ID pictures and the Swipe the Poster like a credit card outdoor where I was delighted by the storytelling and the human element of the idea, which was augmented beautifully by technology and made possible because of it.

I want to feel again. I want to be moved for real. Like how a beautiful song gets you. Or how sometimes a scene in a film gets you. I want to feel a catch in my throat when I watch a screening. I want to clap like I mean it. I want to see more ideas that make me feel like shit about myself. Not because I didn’t use the frown recognition, colour scanning open source real time augmented reality thingamajig, but because I didn’t profoundly affect people the way they did.

Don’t you?

Juhi Kalia is ECD, global teams, at JWT Singapore

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