Jane Stanley (lead image), CEO of Hearts & Science AUNZ, was a judge of this year’s Innovation Lions category (won by our very own Suncorp and Leos Sydney!) Here, Stanley talks of her Cannes experience…
This year I was selected as a jury member for the Innovation Lions, which celebrates ground-breaking innovation, technology and problem solving. After judging over 150 entries online to establish the shortlist, I packed my bags and flew to the sunny south of France to review and debate the winners with eight fellow jurors from around the world. Which I have to admit after the past few years felt a little surreal.
I’ve judged at Cannes Lions previously, but I’ve always had my eye on Innovation Lions. For me this category not only showcases the best of innovation currently, but also gives you a really good gauge on the emerging trends that will make an impact into the future.
So, after three full days judging in a windowless room (yes judging sadly isn’t as glamourous as attending the festival), the entries provided some great insight for brands, agencies, and any future award winners from Australian shores. Below are my top takeaways:
Innovation doesn’t always have to come from technology-based solutions
I think in recent years, we as marketers and agencies have associated innovation with the rapid rate of technological development. However, even though there were many entries that used the power of advanced tech, in contrast there were many entries that didn’t have the words ‘Machine Learning’ or ‘Metaverse’ anywhere in sight.
Entries and award winners that fell into this bucket, included the ‘Killer Pack’ a campaign from India’s Maxx Flash aimed at fighting mosquito-borne diseases in India. The Pack is 100% biodegradable packaging that kills mosquito larvae when disposed of in garbage dumps and stagnant water and is designed to help fight diseases such as dengue and malaria in India.
This was a brilliant example of business and product creativity plus a worthy Silver Innovation Lion. And it serves as a good reminder to us all that innovation should have a broader definition beyond the latest tech platform development.
It’s time to re-energise the contribution of marketers and agencies
As we know, brand marketers and agencies don’t work well when they are put in a restrictive pot. For Brand Marketers, marketing should be at the centre of the organisation not viewed as the department on the side that just creates the 30 second TV ad when needed. For agencies, they should be free to deliver broad business and brand creativity rather than just deliver to that communication brief with a paid advertising lens.
The Dole partnership with start-up Ananas Anam, was a brilliant winning example of a marketing division and agency relationship developing innovation beyond the ad campaign. The agency had introduced Ananas Anam a vegan, sustainable leather alternative made from the fibre of pineapple leaves to Dole as part of their ESG strategy. Their partnership (using Dole’s large scale pineapple leaves waste) evolved into the development of Piñatex which is now being used by brands such as Nike and Paul Smith. All brands showing the happy pineapple symbol to show its sustainability credentials.
It was amazing to see agencies and brands move beyond the standard ad campaign to innovative business solutions that impact positive change for brands, people, and the environment around them. This resulted into a Bronze Innovation Lion for Dole.
Purpose driven innovation is now a must in today’s world
As an industry, we’ve been good at chasing the latest shiny technology or an exciting creative idea to prove our innovation credentials. However, sometimes this has resulted into activity that lacked any real substance or purpose despite being deemed as innovative. What was encouraging to see in the entries was the number of innovations that had a strong purpose. Not only did they connect to the brand purpose but also to the world around us in delivering impactful change.
The Innovation Lion Grand Prix Winner ‘Óne house to build many’ from Suncorp was an exceptional example of this. To design, test and prototype a home that is truly resilient of fire, flood and cyclone could be deemed as a good stunt or activation by its critics. However, the way Suncorp extended this into their claims/pricing approach, partnership strategy and communication strategy (and more) is simply exceptional. All delivering fantastic brand and commercial results for the organisation as well as helping Aussies fight climate change.
Technology has to be deeply connected to human experiences
Surprising in the shortlist there wasn’t many metaverse entries. I am sure that will change in the years to come. However, in the advanced technology space there was one entry that stood out. Michelob Ultra entry ‘’McEnroe vs. McEnroe,” the world’s first tennis match to feature a real person versus a virtual player showcased the cutting-edge of technology. In the match, the real McEnroe faced off against his ultimate opponent—his younger self. A virtual player powered by A.I. Aired on ESPN+, this not only showed some incredible innovation in fusing 6 different types of technology it also gave a strong glimpse of the future of sports entertainment and media partnerships. A worthy Gold Innovation Lion winner.
Innovation is often an over used word in marketing and advertising. At times, I think we can be unsure of the true definition of what innovation means. But I think this years Cannes proved to me we need to define it across all areas of organisations, not just within our digital transformation agenda or a creative brief. Whether that be pricing, product, partnership or even the approach to communications, innovation and creativity has to be a priority to compete and excel in the competitive brand world ahead. And on a final and important note, there is one question every brand and agency needs to ask itself. How is that innovation having an important culture conversation with people and communities to ensure any creativity has a more conscious approach in the world ahead.
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