A Fad or the Future?

Let tech support, not dictate, creativity. Make sure teams experiment with new platforms, particularly in gaming, so they’re clear about their potential for creative ideas.

The best way to understand new tech and platforms is to immerse yourself to see where your brand fits best. Creative Effectiveness Lions juror Jean-Paul Berge, Chairman & CEO at BBDO Asia, reminds us:

“Technology is not the idea; technology is either the catalyst or the enabler of an idea."

The explosion of pandemic tech

The pandemic expedited the adoption of new technologies and boosted further growth on entertainment-led platforms like TikTok and Twitch. And gaming has never been bigger: WARC Data estimates that there are now 3.4 billion gamers across the world. That's nearly half the world’s population. Jurors across all Lions categories agreed that gaming is exploding, offering myriad creative opportunities for brands. Lizzie Nolan, Media Lions juror and Havas EVP, says: “Gaming is no longer nerds in basements, it’s a broad church of people playing bingo on their phones all the way to e-sports.” Hours spent on Twitch more than doubled over the past 12 months, and only 31% of its daily visitors are Gen Z.

On the less blockbuster-y side of the spectrum, QR codes were quickly embraced by western countries this year. “People were reluctant or slower to adopt the QR code,” says Stephanie Thomas, Business Director at Haygarth.

“Now, because of restaurants requiring you to use them, it’s so familiar.” Media Grand Prix winner ‘Boards of Change’ , from FCB Chicago and the City of Chicago, used QR codes for voter registration, while HSBC and PHD UK’s Gold Lion-winning work, ‘No Fixed Address’, used QR codes on bus stop ads to prompt donations.

Consumer confidence with tech - throughout generations young and old - has jumped a quantum leap in the last year. As we’ve seen from the winning work it encourages greater experimentation and more complex recipes of tech-enabled creativity. To understand what is required, our partners Braze have broken down how to fuel the best creative experiences with the right tech strategy.

Augmented connectivity

The boom in gaming has blurred the boundaries between the real and virtual worlds. “I call it augmented connectedness because many real-life challenges and problems are captured in the world of virtual gaming,” says Kyoko Matsushita, Global CEO, Essence, and Media Lions juror. Burger King’s ‘Stevenage Challenge’, through DAVID Madrid and DAVID Miami, won three Grands Prix by using real-life sponsorship to create a virtual impact. In turn, it delivered value back to fans IRL, via digital couponing. As the internet evolves into the metaverse, more brands will switch between real and virtual worlds. As more things digitise – as we’re seeing already with NFTs – brands will have even more opportunities to explore.

“I don’t know how close we are to Ready Player One,”

says Debbi Vandeven, Social & Influencer Jury President and Global Chief Creative Officer, VMLY&R.

“It almost scares me. But I believe that brands are going to have to take it seriously. It’ll be big.”

However, heed this word of caution: it could do more harm than good to try something out just for the sake of it.

“Experimentation on the gaming platform is great but the bar is just so high. The digital craft is incredible and the creative is first-class. So what you do has to be relevant and remarkable. Otherwise gaming will just become landfill.”


Managing Director | Stink Studios

Jury President | Digital Craft

Stevenage Challenge | Burger King

DAVID Miami and DAVID Madrid

Winner of 11 Lions including the Grand Prix in Brand Experience & Activation, Direct and Social & Influencer

Is great content really key? Mark Shan, Experience Creative Lead at Accenture Interactive, explores TikTok’s content ecosystem and how brands are using a real-world approach on the platform for leveraging consumer journeys.

Watch the full session On Demand.

Experiment and be intuitive

The teams behind the winning work knew the social and gaming platforms they were using inside out. To connect with audiences on specific platforms, Direct Jury President Reed Collins recommends: “You need to understand the platform and be intuitive to it.” Margaret Johnson, Partner and Chief Creative Officer, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, echoed this in her talk with Rachel Ferdinando, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Frito-Lay, North America. She talked about their Innovation Lab, which powered Grand Prix-winning work for Cheetos: “You want to play to Gen Z’s interests. It’s more interesting, as a creative, to come up with ideas that are bespoke to specific platforms, like Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram. It makes your idea stronger when it’s more specific”. Wendy’s Gold-winning ‘Super Wendy’s World’ work required the team at VMLY&R Kansas City to build Wendy look-a-like characters across multiple games and figure out how to convey her fresh beef/anti-freezer message while playing each one. That’s impossible without hours of practice. It’s crucial to get on new platforms and try things out. “Everyone says ‘Great content is key’ but what’s considered great content on TikTok? Nobody knows,” says Mark Shan, Experience Creative Lead at Accenture Interactive Greater China. His team kept experimenting until they figured it out. “Just jump in the water. Paddle crazy like a duck. Then figure out how to swim,” he advises. When DDB Germany pitched the ‘Uncensored Library’ idea to Reporters Without Borders, the team didn’t know how to play Minecraft. By the time the work was ready, team members knew the game so well, they could hack it. “A week before the launch we found out that Arabic script could not be read in Minecraft books,” recalls Tobias Natterer, senior copywriter DDB Germany. “We found out there are record players, so we brought audiobooks in.” That’s a lesson in how to stand out.

The digital side of our lives is expanding; now brands need to build meaningful connections in the virtual world as well as the real one. This shift was seen clearly in the Mobile Lions this year, which grew by 4% compared with 2019.

Social, where back-and-forth conversations are possible between brands and their customers, has made up almost half the Mobile Lions wins over the past three festivals. And this year, Mobile’s Games category also expanded.

Gaming was a new category within the Direct Lions this year, reflecting its increasing popularity in the real world, as well as in creative work across the Cannes Lions. Fifty pieces of work in Direct came from Gaming, including the Grand Prix-winner 'Stevenage Challenge' from Burger King and DAVID Madrid. In the Social and Influencer Lions, 38% of the winning work successfully connected brands to culture, often by hi-jacking the popularity of a viral meme, trending show or gaming platform. Gaming is going nowhere; if your brand hasn’t found its place in that world yet, it’s time to start looking.

To bump up your work on a platform from basic to mind-blowing, take the time to experiment. Familiarise yourself with the technology until you become a part of the community you’re looking to connect with. It’s clear that when marketers know tech inside out, they can execute smart and innovative work. In fact, more than half the winning Media Lions came through the Technology category. While, in the Innovation Lions, the win rate for work entered in the Product Innovation category is twice the festival average.

To discover more insights and content on this theme, watch this selection of films On Demand on Cannes Lions Live.