Lizzie Nolan, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Strategy & Insights, at Havas shares insights from the virtual judging room at Cannes Lions.
Why did the Media Lions Grand Prix winners stand out for you, and why did they deserve that extra accolade?
Both had incredibly strong context. There was a very clear theme in a lot of brands being purpose-driven understandably, but also becoming more meaningful in their ambitions.
With Telenor Pakistan, a staggering 60 million Pakistanis lack an official identity so, and are therefore before devoid of human rights, purely because of the complexity of the registration process. It leveraged the power of technology to make Pakistan a safe place for children. I really liked the genuine tension and insight, coupled with the opportunity to make a change. As with all the best ideas, they had to focus on a specific area, but it's an idea that's truly scalable, not only for Pakistan but also other developing countries.
For ‘Boards of Change’ by the City of Chicago, there was very clear objective: changing the culture around voting and increasing the number of registrations. What I really loved about was the creativity of the idea. One of the themes that really stood out this year was around the impact of when the medium becomes the message. It was incredibly well thought-through and transformed something that could have been regarded quite negatively into something really positive.
I also loved the simple element of being able to use a QR code with your phone to actually register to vote. It is similar to the Telenor Pakistan entry – overcoming a process that is little bit archaic, and using technology for good. Innovation is always born out of some kind of adversity or challenge, and I think that those were two really good examples.
Which other entries caught your eye, and which did you advocate for in the judging?
Michelob Ultra ‘Courtside’ I thought was brilliant. I love the cultural insight around the importance of live connectivity, and the cultural importance of the NBA in how it brings communities together.
I thought ‘Cold Tracker’ by AB InBev would be a real contender, certainly for Gold and potentially a Grand Prix. It was incredibly smart in how it used real-time data and a geo-located media to motivate outlet owners to keep beer cold and show consumers where to find it, because it both supported the brand promise and the importance of cold beer for Castle Light, and also the small businesses they really relied on.
Also ‘Sloways’ by NMRA. I've done a lot of campaigning in Australasia in my time, so I could really relate to this one personally. I loved the fact that it provided caravanners with rewarding journeys, but also – more crucially – supported these regional towns, and the inventive use of out of home. It was quite traditional but really inventive at the same time.
One which really hit all the judges was ‘Just a Wall’ for child protection in France. Again, it made the medium the message, creating bus shelters with walls that were only centimetres thick to represent what separated children from the neighbours who could have saved their lives. And it only a small execution with three bus shelters, but it was such a poignant use of the medium that it led to such amazing results.
That’s quite a broad range of campaigns. Were there any trends or commonalities you spotted across the entries?
Increasingly, the lines between creativity and media are blurring – which I don't think is a bad thing at all. There are a lot of instances where you can create a message through a demonstration of the power of the medium, and it can be so much more impactful and so much more relatable.
A second trend was the use of data and tech for ethical reasons. We have more opportunities around data and technology, and I really loved those cases that really used it for good. With purpose-driven cases, it’s important that it was balanced with elements that really drove business value for the brand as well. It's great to get behind a cause, it's great to champion something, but if you're a brand with a commercial target, then you need to prove that whatever cause you're championing actually also does something for business results.
Gaming was also very strong this year. We discussed that there should probably be a separate category next year for gaming, and also for gamification entries. Brands using gamification as an execution is a really interesting one, because you get you such amazing engagement from consumers. Gaming is massive now – it's no longer nerds in basements, it’s a broad church of people playing bingo on their phones all the way to esports.
Did anything surprise or disappoint you as you were going through the entries?
I'm a big fan of a hook. When you find yourself read these cases and you automatically start to champion them, and you think this is brilliant, and then it gets to the results and you're so disappointed. You cannot underestimate the importance of results. As I said before, a lot of entries champion a cause. That's great, but you need to prove what impact you've made in championing that cause, and also the impact that you've made for the brand and the business. This is where some of the cases were really let down. It’s almost a waste of an insight.
The diversity of entries was a lovely surprise. I spent ten years in Asia, where Cannes Lions was relatively underrepresented, apart from Australia and New Zealand, which have always fared pretty well. So really lovely to see so many markets having the confidence and the skill, because I do think Western countries are probably a bit of an unfair advantage.
Finally, having digested all of those entries, is there anything in particular that you think you can bring into your professional world?
There were some brilliant innovations in technology, and so I personally learned so much from that perspective. There is a real difference in using technology for fun or entertainment versus humanising it and using it for more ethical reasons. We are now in a place of immense opportunity to think about how we use data and technology for good. Five years ago, there were cases where the use of technology was really innovative but in a scary way, in terms of hacking your data or hacking your mobile phone. It may have been interesting or funny, but let's really think about what we’ve got here in technology and how we might use it differently for good.