If there was one resounding message from this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, it was that technology alone is no longer enough to impress us. As Sir John Hegarty, founder of BBH, said: “We’ve got to remember that technology enables opportunity, but it’s creativity that enables value.”
The former certainly shouldn’t be used at the expense of the latter therefore, but where the two work hand-in-hand, is what was awarded in a big way during last week’s event. It wasn’t just about innovation and what’s new, but a celebration of technology being used in a way that connects with consumers and helps to tell better stories than ever before.
The New York Times, for instance, won the Grand Prix in the Entertainment and Mobile categories for The Displaced, a virtual reality film shot by Vrse.Works, and for the NYT VR app that goes with it, both of which put viewers directly inside the global refugee crisis. Over one million subscribers received complimentary Google Cardboards with their Sunday paper last year, enabling them to experience the devastation through the eyes of three children in South Sudan, Ukraine, and Syria.
The Displaced, the New York Times’ virtual reality film (Image: New York Times)
The mobile category’s jury president, Malcolm Poynton, global chief creative officer of Cheil Worldwide, said: “It went beyond the initial wow factor to unlock levels of empathy and excitement no other medium could.” It was also referred to as a demonstration of how a new discipline can enable a 165-year-old new brand to thrive.
Added Poynton: “Along the way, it just may save a $176 billion industry. That sounds like a pretty big thing, and we think it is. We think it’s potentially a Wright Brothers moment for mobile in how it can really help a brand thrive in its most challenging times.”
Wearable technology also had its place: Google Project Jacquard picked up the Grand Prix in the Product Design category for the launch of its interactive textile technology. Levi’s was introduced as founding partner last year, which has since led to the introduction of a smart jean jacket for urban cyclists.
Users can tap, swipe or hold on the left cuff of the sleeve to fulfill simple tasks like changing music tracks, blocking or answering calls or accessing navigation information (delivered by voice) – all functions that can be sustained while riding in place of having to pull a phone out to do them.
The Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket featuring Google Jacquard technology (Image: Google)
Jury president Amina Horozic, lead industrial designer at fuseproject, referred to it as an innovation that allows us to dream. “It was something that we imagined could be a sustainable solution that would enable and empower us to build a better, safer life, while also challenging the status quo,” she said.
Two Grand Prix awards also went to a project called The Next Rembrandt for ING Bank by J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam. Picking up the top title in both the Cyber and Creative Data categories, this campaign brought one of the greatest masters of all time back to life to create one more masterpiece.
With data as the painter and technology as the brush, The Next Rembrandt is a 3D-printed creation made from analysing all 346 of the artist’s actual paintings. Facial recognition and machine learning software was employed to understand Rembrandt’s style and then used to generate appropriate facial features as well as to mimic brush strokes for the resulting piece of work.
Rather than using data and code as an output, it showed how they can be the starting point for creativity, said the jury. Creative Data jury president, Tash Whitmey, group chief executive officer of Havas helia, said: “It shows that where there is creativity in working with data, you can achieve almost anything.”
That idea of data also carried over to Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo project; the Grand Prix winner in the Innovation category. This saw AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence program, win the ancient game of Go against Lee Sedol, the world’s best professional human player. It was a landmark win for the very fact Go is so complex that traditional AI methods, which construct a search tree to calculate all possible positions, can’t scale to it.
DeepMind instead took inspiration from how the brain works and the neural networks that help humans make decisions, before being trained on 30 million human expert moves and learning by trial and error as to what would work. Jury President, Emad Tahtouh, director of applied technology at Finch, said: “AlphaGo is complicated and advanced, but also beautiful and simplistic in its approach.”
It’s also a telling sign of what could be ahead for technology and creativity when they’re combined.
Cannes Lions also named Samsung marketer of the year, and granted other Grand Prix awards to the likes of Netflix, REI, Under Armour, Panasonic, Burger King, John Lewis and Harvey Nichols.
This article was written by Rachel Arthur from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.