The mobile Cannes question – why did we win only one?

The mobile Cannes question – why did we win only one?
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It’s a great time to be an Australian creative. Based on the all-conquering performance of Metro’s Dumb Ways to Die, and before it, Tourism Queensland’s Best Job in the World, the two most awarded campaigns in the history of the Cannes Lions, Australia could well be the epicentre of creativity of the advertising world.

However, besides a solitary Gold Media Lion for McDonald’s Track My Macca’s campaign, Australian agencies failed to garner any other awards in mobile related categories at Cannes this year.

For a country with such highly awarded agencies regularly churning out high impact campaigns, this is a major anomaly that merits further investigation.

From a macroeconomic and local market perspective, you’d be hard pressed to find a more conducive and fertile environment for award winning mobile campaigns.

Australia is among the world’s most digitally savvy nations, boasting one of the highest rates of smart device ownership in the world, trailing only Singapore, Hong Kong and Sweden.

Over 45% of Australians use a smartphone as their primary technology device, 24% own tablets and as outlined in the 2nd Annual FYI Report the average household owns eight items of technology or more. All this points to a strong mobile culture that mandates a mobile focus for any communications campaign. In fact, Australian media buyers spent 16.8% of paid search budgets on mobile, 2nd in the world only to Singapore.

So if the local environment is conducive to mobile, both from an advertiser and consumer perspective, what then is holding back mobile from getting its share of creative kudos? The answer, I suggest, lies in the ubiquity of mobile devices and the highly functional role that mobile plays in everyday Australian life.

Because of the integral and indispensable role of mobile devices in the life of Australians, function rather than flash seems to be the focus du jour. Utility focused apps dominate the local landscape. Australia’s most downloaded apps include the Woolworths smartphone shopping app (1 in 5 grocery shoppers have downloaded it) and the ABC iview app (More than 8m program plays a month). These are hardly the sexiest apps in the world, certainly not the kind that would get any form of recognition at Cannes.

The maturity of the mobile market and consumer demand mandates the prioritisation of apps that create small but valuable improvements in consumers’ everyday lives – enhancing, rather than revolutionising the brand experience. Consumers are looking for substance over sizzle.

Next, this strong, almost utilitarian focus on apps and mobile lends itself to a renewed focus on the field of User Experience (UX), another clue why tangible, incremental improvements, rather than flashy campaigns, are highly valued in the local landscape.

Almost three-quarters of Australian businesses believe that UX is key to improving sales and conversions (74%) and increasing customer satisfaction (72%). Needless to say, UX is focused on nuances and details, not award winning, grand gestures of creativity designed to make waves at award shows.

Finally, with the ubiquity of mobiles in Australia, it is only natural that mobile commerce, rather than creative campaigns is the next ‘big thing’ for Australian marketers and agencies. We are filling up our virtual shopping carts at unprecedented speeds, with Australian e-commerce jumping from $57 billion to $216.4 billion between 2007 and 2012.  According to a recent report from eMarketer, the average Australian consumer will spend $3,802 on e-commerce over the course of 2013, second only to the UK. Hence it is only logical that m-commerce and mobile transaction platforms are a major focus for Australian marketers, and in turn their agencies, often at the expense of large scale, creative mobile campaigns.

So there you have it, some clues why Australia’s position as a digitally savvy and mobile focused nation hasn’t naturally translated to award winning mobile campaigns. However, it shouldn’t be an excuse to become creatively complacent. Let’s all make sure that we put some ‘fun’ into function when coming up with our next big campaign.

Andrew Yeoh is Associate Planning Director at Visual Jazz Isobar

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