10 themes from Cannes 2016


Cannes passes like a whirlwind – so many people, meetings and presentations. Our head of media futures, Dan Calladine has tried to group the highlights into ten key themes, from Diversity to VR, and Art to AI.

Cannes Lions 2016


In the second year of the Glass Lions for diversity, this was a very big issue.  Madonna Badger gave one of the most talked-about presentations of the week with her #WomenNotObjects campaign, fighting against the negative images of women in ads, and Brooke Bond won a Grand Prix in the Glass Lion for category for the 6 Pack Band campaign in India, which created a transgender pop group.  Meanwhile we should be very proud of hosting an all-women panel (that wasn’t talking about diversity)

Virtual Reality

VR was the subject of many talks, including Google, Facebook, and Vice, and there were demos everywhere including most venues (the DAN Beach Hut had a VR windsurfer).  Samsung had their own ‘Maison Samsung’ space for people to try it out, and both the NYT and Lockheed Martin won Lions (Grand Prix in Mobile & Cyber Gold respectively) for their work.

Playing with Platforms

Cannes is always a place to see innovative use of new platforms, and this year was no different.  Paint brand Comex turned Google Streetview into a colour palate in Mexico by hijacking roads named after colours (‘Violet Street’) and painting houses different shades.  Verizon built a cell tower in Minecraft, and was able to offer real connectivity.  Donate The Bars capitalised on vertical videos uploaded to YouTube by putting ads for good causes on the resulting black spaces.  & in Cannes itself, Pinterest created a real world example of its boards, offering inspiration on where to eat and where to go.


Several winning campaigns showed brands creating movements for their users.  Outdoors brand REI asked its staff and customers to #OptOutside and discover the country instead of hitting the shops on Black Friday.  The Swedish Number recruited an army of Swedes willing to accept calls from curious foreigners and evangelise about their country.  Toyota enabled their drivers in Australia to act as a network of beacons to spread distress messages in remote areas.  & on the stage adidas told us about what it took to build a creator brand for its staff and customers.

Making things for a better world

Brands weren’t just starting movements – they were making things to make the world a better place.  Tata Trucks produced a range of condoms in India called dippers, named after the slogan ‘Use your dippers at night’ (dip your lights), to cut sexual disease among truck drivers.  DB Export produced Brewtroleum, a biofuel made from the by-products of brewing their beer.  & Possibly less helpfully, Lexus produced a Hoverboard…


Ideas based on location and proximity featured in lots of categories.  Samsung created caps for visually impaired swimmers that would warn them of obstacles.  Pimms’ ‘Grab a Seat’ streamed information about empty local pub gardens into digital posters in real time.  Cornetto made rings for couples; both would have to be in the same room for Netflix to play shows like Game of Thrones (to stop either of them cheating by watching on their own).  xAd tracked the most popular spots around Cannes, and the times people went there.

Ad Blocking

Not surprisingly ad blocking featured in many sessions, including those from the IAB, and in many private conversations with clients and media owners. 

One tech partner put an interesting theory to me, using a sporting analogy:

“We’re approaching the Quarter Finals stage, and as we get further on there are going to be even fewer major players around.  This means that advertising best practice is going to be easier to achieve, as there will be fewer rogue players”


Another major theme from Lions winners was the use of classic art.  ING created Rembrandt’s lost work, with the help of data analysis of existing works.  Dali was re-imagined in VR.  Van Gogh’s The Bedroom was made into a real life Airbnb apartment that you could stay in.  & Samsung re-imagined Shakespeare as an app to introduce the beauty of the language to a younger generation

Brilliant Simplicity

Among the timeless and brilliant ideas winning this year were the McWhopper – Burger King’s offer to McDonalds to create a collaborative burger to sell for World Peace Day, LegoLand Dollars - and Life Saving Stickers, stickers with life-sized pictures of kids to put onto wheelie bins to get drivers to slow down


Airbnb was not only winning awards – including #noborders which showed how they became one of the first US companies to enter Cuba after the trading links were re-established, and Meet Halfway, a partnership with Paypal where friends could arrange to meet up in convenient mid-points– but also as the place where lots of visitors stayed.  Airbnb effectlvely became one of the unofficial accommodation partners

Plus - Teasers for Next Year

Last year was the first year for VR; this year it was everywhere.  Next year we’d expect to see lots of…

  • Live VideoTarget’s Gwen Stefani live ad notwithstanding it wasn’t really in evidence, but as one media partner put it to us ‘We’d expect someone to create the ‘House of Cards’ of Facebook Live in the next 6 months.
  • AI – Google won an Innovation Lion with Deepmind’s victories at Go, but this was probably the last year without ubiquitous chatbots and AI. As Wired’s David Rowan said at Isobar’s Innovation session ‘Chatbots can probably replace about 80% of apps’
  • Google Deepmind
  • Facebook Messenger
Cannes Lions 2016
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