For the past twenty years, I’ve spent the final night of Cannes Lions watching fireworks on the beach at the closing ceremony. It’s grown into something of a ritual for me. A time to reflect on the delights and disappointments of the past week and to recommit myself to the pursuit of creative excellence in the year ahead. Despite the lack of an in-person experience at Cannes Lions this year, I’ve been just as inspired by the winning work and, even without the fireworks, I’ve found myself reflecting deeply on everything I’ve learned over the past week.
Future Predictions are always plentiful in the wake of Cannes Lions, but the trend that excites me most this year is the blurring of the line between client and agency, between product and marketing, between brand experience and customer experience.
I was struck by this when watching the groundbreaking “Swipe Night” entry for Tinder. While I love the work, I started to realize that awarding it is kind of like giving Facebook a Media Lion for their News Feed or a Digital Craft Lion for inventing the “Like” button. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is worth thinking about what this might mean for future entries and future winners. Could Tesla enter their latest electric vehicle into design or brand experience? Why not? “Swipe Night” isn’t an ad, it’s a new product feature - and that may be the smartest advertising of all. What better way to market a product than by improving the product itself? And it’s not just Swipe Night. Take a look at Mastercard’s “True Name”, another product innovation that has been turned into an earned-media-generating marketing platform for the brand. Indeed VMLY&R’s work for Starbucks, “I Am”, similarly elevates the customer experience to embody and amplify the ethos of the brand. All three of these Grand Prix winners are powerful examples of how product and service innovation is becoming the sharp end of the spear for savvy markers.
Of course, this blurring of the line between product and marketing isn’t new, but I think we are going to see it evolve to a new level. As more clients build in-house agencies, and more agencies collaborate with clients to drive product and service innovation, I think the line will blur even further. And this will force us all to rethink our definition of marketing and our role as agencies.
I am personally excited about what this could mean for the future of our industry. Fireworks or no fireworks, I am inspired to explore the possibilities that will emerge from this new trend and to build on all the great work we’ve seen over the past week.