Cannes Special: Editorial – The new ads

Our Cannes Special Edition rounds up the latest marketing trends, new leaps in technology and some of the year's best advertising ideas.

Last summer in Cannes I fell in love with a vending machine. It was in the basement of the Palais, a bright spot in an otherwise bunker-like edifice that for one week in June houses the best ad creative from around the world. Which, in effect, the vending machine was as well.
Here’s why it won over hearts: when you smiled, it dispensed free ice cream treats. It’s hot in Cannes, everything is expensive (except the rosé) and who – other than lactose-intolerants – doesn’t love free ice cream?
The happy-inducing installation was the coolest new toy from Boston-based agency SapientNitro, developed for Unilever, and is part of a trend in advertising that deploys tech in nifty new ways to capture attention, like augmented reality and motion-controlled ads.
It’s this kind of innovation that drives the international advertising and marketing industry to Cannes each year, to see what the latest zany tech marvels are and how they can be used to engage consumers. The best global ad ideas now range from social media programs and apps to other more physical manifestations, like vending machines that can detect smiles.
As the business of advertising has become more complex, what began as a commercial film awards show in 1954 has added all manner of communications over the years, such as Cyber, Design and Titanium awards – for the work that shows the way forward. Since the focus has shifted to more subtle and innovative ways to connect with consumers, the Cannes International Advertising Festival rechristened itself as a Festival of Creativity this year.
Like any other area of business, creativity needs training. To keep ahead of the game, marketers and agency execs bone up on best practices and soak up professional development, learning about new trends from Cannes keynoters like Foursquare and Google. The weeklong festival culminates in Lions – the Oscars of the adworld – being doled out.
While the Oscar comparison is often used (and both hand out gold statuettes), Cannes is arguably akin to the Olympics in terms of delegates rooting for their country’s contingent. And Canada’s creativity has made a good showing. Over the last decade we’ve typically been in the top 10 most-awarded countries and won several Grand Prixs, two of which went to “Evolution,” the Dove Real Beauty viral film (see our Cannes history timeline). Since “Evolution” espoused self-esteem for women, it also helped build Canada’s reputation for excelling in the realm of social cause marketing.
As we prep for the annual trek to Cannes, strategy rounded up some of the best advertising ideas to see how Canada’s creativity quotient stacked up this year. This issue also explores the latest trends in marketing, and checks in on Canadian ad agencies that have parlayed creativity into growing their businesses abroad.
Increasingly, brand building is becoming a much more physical exercise than crafting ads. Simon Houpt’s feature checks in on the range of activities that can entail, spanning design, architecture and programming.
Constant reinvention of the advertisers’ remit is now the norm. We’re closer to the futuristic adscape of Minority Report these days than Mad Men, and while the glamour of that Madison Ave. era (and perpetual scotch and smokes) may have ended with the ’60s, advertising’s influence potential and powers of persuasion are more intriguing than ever.  Plus, there’s that free ice cream!

Cheers, mm
Mary Maddever, exec editor, strategy, Media in Canada and stimulant