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Dan Dawson on Cannes

Dan Dawson, Chief Creative Technology Officer, Grand Visual   |   05th July 2016

Another year of sunshine, creativity and rosé at the biggest advertising festival on earth. Let’s just start by saying I love Cannes. As well as the obligatory networking, I like to use it to do some research, to stand back and take stock of the amazing work taking place the world over.

It is always with great anticipation that I sit down with my café au lait to review the shortlist in what I guess would traditionally be our ‘home’ category – E03 ‘Use of Digital Outdoor’. It’s a category rich in creative and technical innovation, delivered on one of the fastest growing mediums in the world. A medium that has spent billions of dollars reinventing itself from a traditional media offering to a digital one that now demands its own sub category at Cannes.

So there was I, sipping my [now cold] morning coffee, pouring over the shortlisted entrants in Outdoor Lions, watching the campaign films and trying to savour the moment. And then it hit me. The disappointment. The furrowed brow.

It’s not just because our Google Programmatic and Child Rescue Alert campaigns didn’t make the cut. There were a number of campaigns using data as the catalyst for storytelling. McDonald’s use of real-time snowfall data synchronised to the ratio of cream which targeted skiers in Canada, Bond’s billboard The Boys which adapted to temperature cues in a humorous campaign for the underwear brand. However, each of these campaigns was a special build, adapted billboard or a one-off stunt in one location – all great ideas, but nothing that ran on existing infrastructure at scale.

And then there was Toyota’s Land Cruiser Emergency Network. I’m not suggesting it’s not a good concept, for a worthwhile cause, but best ‘Use of Digital Outdoor’ it surely is not. It is disappointing that a campaign can be entered into a category that it does not meet the submission criteria for, but even more disappointing when the judges fail to recognise the same criteria and go on to shortlist such work. Digital Outdoor has in fact been a category plagued by campaigns that do not fit category criteria since its introduction in 2009. Organisers will need to tighten up on category rules and ensure that judges are on board with agreed definitions of what Digital Outdoor is going forward.

That aside, the rest of the shortlisted work was of a very high standard with some interesting use of technology including voice activation for ESPN, contactless payments for the Melanoma Institute, and thermal-imaging for GlaxoSmithKline’s Theraflu in Poland. Bronzes for Saatchis Poland and Forsman and Bodenfors Gothenburg were worthy winners as was Clemenger BBDO Melbourne taking home a silver lion for its weather activated giant digital billboard. Each campaign demonstrated good use of technology and creativity working in synergy in the DOOH space to provide useful and contextualised information that is tailored to the audience mindset.

Also under Outdoor Lions are categories for all digital ‘out-of-home’ work including all digital screens and ambient use of digital. My favourite winner here was in C03 – from Jung von Matt, The Great Escape – which also took home awards for best use of screens at Media Lions. The execution is an entertaining and rewarding interaction with a live billboard that both surprised and delighted passers-by.

Overall, the UK had a fairly poor showing in the ‘Screens, Digital Billboards or Digital Outdoor’ categories across Media, Outdoor and Cyber Lions this year. This seems odd given our status in the market as an innovator and is not reflective of the rich work that has been done here in the UK in the last 12 months.

So as I consider the state of the DOOH space creatively it seems that the problem is not with the creative that’s being delivered to DOOH – the last 12 months has seen some excellent work globally. I think the problem is that it’s either not been submitted to Lions, or it’s being wrongly judged against submissions that are not meeting category criteria correctly. The awarding body’s understanding and consensus of what ‘digital outdoor’ is, needs to be fleshed out and better understood for 2017.

"As an industry, I believe, we have forgotten the power of repetition. Effective communication isn't small. It isn't cheap. It isn't once."
"Advertising isn’t supposed to be private. It’s supposed to be overheard, shared, stumbled across and discovered."
"And then there’s advertising’s past. The intrusive, inflexibile and mute billboards. They feel like throwbacks to the old way of doing things. A flat image with an unyielding rule that the consumer can take in no more than eight words (unless they’re Economist readers). How boring. How old school. Until you remember 2015's ‘Shot on iPhone 6’ campaign. Simple, traditional and utterly un-missable pieces of art in the urban landscape."
"Out of Home is the oldest medium of all There’s still huge power in the public message – the power of the public comment. It’s a big thing – it’s why people get married in front of an audience of 150; it gives a public sense of commitment."
"We've chosen to use digital to make everything more efficient...but we've forgotten how to explore and discover. It's a loss of serendipity and we've lost a lot of the humanity. We're becoming very reliant upon digital and the internet to make us incredibly efficient and we're losing out."
"The beauty of OOH is that it can double as a TV screen, a social feed, a camera, a vending machine, a download site, or a purchase point."
"OOH is constantly evolving, and its ability to integrate so brilliantly with new technology is one of its main strengths."
"Media changes, driven by digitisation, have left consumers facing a tyranny of choice—yet OOH is a channel that can still deliver huge audiences, and can increasingly do so in creative and engaging ways."
"The Out of Home sector has been tremendously resilient throughout the recessionary years, showing consistent growth driven by its fundamental benefits. In an ever-fragmenting media landscape, you can still reach pretty much the entire population, all at the same time."
"Out of Home is booming right now: OOH is the most ubiquitous media – you can’t turn the page, change the channel or switch it off, and Out of Home continues to integrate itself brilliantly with other new and innovative technologies."
"Posters decorate the world "
"Speed of change is all around us and no more so than in the rate at which advertising investment in traditional posters is being transitioned to include a far more flexible Out of Home canvas; the digital poster."
"I love OOH because the diversity of opportunities makes it a realistic option for almost any client. Add to this the ever growing possibilities for new innovation and it’s a media channel that is truly exciting to both agencies and clients alike."
"As DOOH becomes more “digital,” it becomes more agile, richer, and better able to play its part in a big idea. As a plugged in medium, DOOH can be the active element in a multi-layered campaign. It can create buzz, break news, invite interaction, and help to drive content and discussions online. Great DOOH campaigns are ones that sit comfortably within the wider brand strategy and capture the imagination."
"By its very nature, Out of Home’s remoteness from the consumer living room, from the office, and from the home computer, has made it a natural bedfellow of mobile marketing."
"OOH inhabits a wonderful space in which we benefit from a rich heritage of memorable, iconic campaigns and a truly exciting future unfolding before us. A broadcast medium that just keeps getting better."
"DOOH is a really interesting storytelling medium, beyond advertising. It allows you to touch and feel and interact in a way no other medium does. That's the real beauty of it, and usually overlooked"
"Show me any brief, for any client and any campaign and I guarantee that OOH will be able to have a justifiable role to play as part of the media solution. That role maybe big or small; local or national, classic, digital or both, large format, small format or anything in between... but it will be justifiable and worthwhile. There isn’t any other medium that can replicate that claim, or indeed come anywhere near doing so."
"London’s very large public transport network carries a great deal of OOH advertising. As a result, London alone has 170,000 advertising sites, more than 40 per cent of the national total. This makes London the most valuable city for OOH advertising in Europe and among the most important in the world."
"Digital OOH networks are multi-sensory and with the development of touch technology things are moving fast. Stimulating the senses more creatively generates social shares, great PR and awards."
"Central London will undergo a transformation and cities like Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds will get even brighter and more connected"
"It makes sense for the most welcomed and least intrusive media to deliver presence for brands interacting through the media"
"OOH remains the flexible canvas for which a guaranteed audience is never too far away"
"OOH may be the oldest medium, yet it has shown remarkable resilience in reinventing itself"
"Smarter brands are contextualising their ad messaging, reaching a target audience when it matters most and can change behaviour"
"Poster sites really are the last true broadcast medium capable of near universal reach"
"Immediacy, targeting and excitement are what DOOH can offer that other media can't - its just very very cool.The opportunities are endless"
"The combination of classic and DOOH should be an intoxicating mix for any marketing director"
"Out of Home is an accountable, measurable and effective media for advertisers"
"Reaching people in the right place, at the right time is still Out of Home’s biggest strength"
"Posters are the purest and most effective form of communication"
"I would advise marketers using OOH not to see a poster as a Wikipedia entry, think of it as a piece of art"
"OOH engages hard to reach audiences on the move with inspiring and innovative communications"
"Using data to plan OOH enhances campaign performance by up to 200%"
"London is the most valuable city for OOH advertising... and among the most important in the world "
"Super premium digital Out of Home is one of the quickest ways to get into the conversation and make your brand famous"
"For a brand to live, it needs to appeal not only to the people who buy it, but also to the people who know about it "
"Media isn’t about the number of impressions you make. Media is about the power of the impression you make."
"In advertising, we have the power to change minds, change beliefs and change the world"
"DOOH offers deeper engagement than other media, more of a story and feedback"