Juhi Kalia
Jun 25, 2015

Six and a half things you missed if you're not at Cannes

It's only halfway through the week, so this list will grow, but J. Walter Thompson's Juhi Kalia has some random reflections from the festival so far.

Juhi Kalia
Juhi Kalia

1. The outsiders and outliers inspire

When people from outside our industry (and it’s getting harder and harder to define who that is) speak, they bring such a refreshing perspective, a counterpoint to the sameness you hear in many of the usual sessions. No adspeak and no homilies, just lives interestingly lived and a provocative force of personality. Whether it was Marilyn Manson, Jamie Oliver or Itiel Dror (a cognitive neuroscientist with a Bond-villain accent who talked about 'eachness' and building memory structures in the brain), these made for some of the most inspiring sessions.

2. The women are taking over

It was the first year for the Glass Lions, but more heartening than that, for me, was the fact we had five women jury presidents. And they presided in categories that are exciting and forward-facing, like Mobile, Cyber and Direct. At this rate, maybe we won't need the Glass Lions in a few years.

3. Someone else may soon be taking over, too

And guess who else is? Here's a hint: I'm looking forward to the first ever Cannes session conducted by a robot called Pepper. Dentsu Lab's talk had some fantastic real-world examples of artificial intelligence. There was Poibot, a bot that analyses all your past tweets for quirks of language use and then learns to speak just like you and tweets instead of you. There was Petitico, the talking car and a machine-learning algorithm that mines thousands of moves from history to not only recreate them but to evolve them. The idea of 'singularity' (when AI will overtake human intelligence) doesn't seem so far-fetched anymore. The heartening news though, of all professions, ours is least at risk. Creativity will outlive singularity. Phew!

4. Insights are back

Clever, simple, charming insights: Kids hate putting on sunscreen but love playing ('Nivea doll' from FCB brazil); every gun has a story, let's not repeat it ('The Gun Shop' from Grey NY); No one, not even a soccer hooligan wants to fight in front of his mom ('Security moms' from Ogilvy Brazil). So much of the winning work has been about the sweetest little realisation of something basic, human and true.

5. Oh the cheek!

It was great to see the industry getting its bite back. So many ideas that took the piss, cocked a snook and won big against all odds. My favourite was 'Interception': How Volvo stole the attention and the social conversation away from all the Super Bowl big spenders. Cocky David versus rich Goliath.

Also memorable, was 'Handsoff' (how Marc Dorcel gave people access to his entire library of porn films, but only if they kept their hands on the keyboard), 'Blind trip' from Ecuador, the super silly 'Inactivity tracker' for Joe Boxers and (if I may) J. Walter Thompson's responsive and hilarious use of social media, 'Miserable in Puerto Rico'.

6. Not communicating but contributing

A lot of the winners had one thing in common. They were actual, tangible creative solutions to life's problems. Not imagined issues, but stuff that matters to people. Ingenious ways to get around big issues. Resolving problems instead of just talking about them. Check out the tweeting potholes, 'Nazis against Nazis' (Superbly clever!), SOS SMS for Red Cross and Samsung's brilliant 'Safety truck'. As Matt Eastwood, the jury president for Promo & Activation said, 'It's work that holds society up to a higher standard...'

Six done. Now here's the half

Just an observation on how we sometimes get so precious about the right and relevant fit for the category. How many times has a planner or even a creative said, 'but there's no connection between the cause and the category'? 'Proud Whopper' from Burger King (David, Miami) proves otherwise. A social experiment where they marketed a regular Whopper in rainbow-coloured packaging. People realised it was not different when they unwrapped it. The message: 'We're all the same on the inside'. So what is the connection between a flame-broiled burger and LGBT rights? None. But I guess if you pick a fight that matters and you fight it with heart, it becomes yours.

Finally, in the spirit of participation, here are three quotes I heard in the last few days. Guess who said them using the hashtag #whosaiditincannes:

  • "I hate what I have become to escape what I hated being."
  • "Brands don't have purpose. People have purpose."
  • "Are we afraid of zombies or are we afraid of becoming zombies?"

Singapore-based Juhi Kalia is J. Walter Thompson’s Global Brands ECD, Lux and Friso


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