Cannes Can

Why should mobile marketers and brands sit up and pay attention to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Advertising in this, its 60th year? Quite simply, because mobile is playing a key role in delivering strategic objectives and creative solutions for brands that want to communicate and engage with an increasingly informed and connected audience.

More people are considering the potential of mobile, more people are using mobile globally – there are now over 6.8bn mobile subscriptions worldwide according to the ITU – and more brands are doing exciting, effective things within the space. We’ve all experienced the ‘Year of Mobile’, and the channel has rightly established itself as an integral part of marketing campaigns.

With the Cannes Lions’ roots firmly in traditional advertising, the Mobile Lions category was only introduced in its own right in 2012 – prior to that any mobile activity was integrated into other categories such as Cyber and Film – but it was quickly flooded, with a sizable 965 unique entries from across the globe. That’s over 100 more than the Branded Content and Entertainment category. This year, total mobile entries have risen by 10 per cent, reflecting the growing use of mobile in advertising campaigns worldwide.

In the Mobile Lions’ inaugural year, 54 campaigns walked away with a coveted trophy. Last year’s deserved Grand Prix Mobile Lion winner – Hilltop re-imagined for Coca-Cola by Google – showcased the abundant possibilities of the mobile channel, as it put the power literally into the palm of a consumer’s hand.

Following the lead of the iconic ‘70s ad with the catchy song, the campaign featured an impressive blend of tech to allow users to physically ‘Buy the world a Coke’ from their smartphone. An unsuspecting person anywhere in the globe could be bought a Coke by a stranger, miles and miles away, via a customised vending machine. The drink could even include a personalised message (instantly translated by Google Translate). In turn, the happy recipient could upload a video to say thanks. A range of the best interactions was featured online.

Google ran the rich media ad on its AdMob network, within iOS and Android apps. The passage of the Coke was portrayed via a dynamic video that made use of Google Maps, Street View and composite motion graphics. Impressive and seamless.

As this campaign suggests, far from an exercise in industry naval-gazing, what the Cannes Lions celebrates is innovation in advertising, whatever the channel. And brands are increasingly seeing the value in Cannes, too. Once the preserve of adland, one in five delegates now hails from brand- rather than agency-side.

Showcasing great, effective and creative campaigns is essential in mobile in particular, because it’s worth bearing in mind that the awareness levels and knowledge base of mobile advertising is still relatively poor, despite its rapid uptake worldwide.

As a channel, mobile is unique, and demands a tailored strategy. The key to getting it right is to simultaneously specialise and integrate. Many brands are already catching on to the concept of having a ‘mobile first’ strategy, because as an in-the-pocket device that travels with the consumer, mobile does an excellent job of bonding multi-channel campaigns together. The future lies in the power of connected devices, and seamless mobile integration is key to delivering the best and most effective user experiences.

Ones to watch
At Cannes, it’s traditionally the big ad agencies that command the most presence and recognition; they are more likely to work with the biggest budgets and the major brands. But with the advent of new categories such as Mobile, we’d tip the growing group of mobile advertising suppliers, agencies, designers and developers as the ones to watch.

So what should mobile brands take away from 2013’s Cannes Lions Festival? Firstly, they should enjoy experiencing the breadth and scope of campaigns from all corners of the globe. Secondly, keep an eye out for both connected devices and augmented humanity. The technology is there, but many brands are still in the exploration phase. And lastly, as a festival that fosters and celebrates creativity, allow the Cannes Lions to truly highlight mobile’s almost limitless creative possibilities.

James Connelly is co-founder and MD of Fetch, who will be hosting a Workshop at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on Friday 21 June.