Social Media Lessons from This Year’s Cannes Lions Winners

The 61st Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity just finished, and the announcement of this year’s Grand Prix winners has set the bar for next year’s hopefuls. Here are a few lessons that can be applied to the world of social media from the premier advertising awards show:

Campaign: Volvo Trucks, “The Epic Split feat. Van Damme”, Cyber Grand Prix and Film Grand Prix

Lesson: Let’s be honest for a second. Volvo trucks are not the most interesting product on the market by any stretch. That being said, throw in Jean-Claude Van Damme and some Enya for good measure, and all of a sudden “Volvo Dynamic Steering” just became a whole lot more compelling.

The lesson here? A demonstration of your product’s value doesn’t need to be boring. From blenders to odor-eliminating bathroom sprays, brands have the potential to achieve unprecedented reach in the world of social media. The trick is presenting your product and its value in a manner that people want to share with their friends.

Campaign: Chipotle, “The Scarecrow”, PR, Cyber Grand Prix

Lesson: This is content marketing at its finest. To discuss their commitment to locally-sourced and additive-free ingredients in their restaurants, Chipotle could have created a series of “talking heads” PR videos. Instead, they immerse viewers into a dystopian fantasy world and illustrate their company values through rich, visual storytelling.

Not every brand can afford to create a content marketing piece on the same level as a Pixar film, but the power of storytelling in social media is a trend that should not be ignored. As humans, we understand our lives in the context of stories, and tying your brand into stories that evoke emotion is a great way to generate conversation and sharing across the social web.

Campaign: British Airways, “Magic of Flying” Billboard, Direct Grand Prix

Lesson: Some of my favorite social media campaigns manage to scale the divide between the digital and physical realms, and this activation is a fantastic example of this phenomenon. (For a more in-depth look at the technology behind the campaign, go here.)

Be it through gamification or requests for user-generated content, brands have the opportunity to “break the wall” between the digital and physical and create social media campaigns that transcend simple actions on a screen.

Campaign: V/Line, “Guilt Trips”, Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix

Lesson: To me, this campaign is about reaching a target demographic in an unexpected manner. We can all relate to the parental guilt trip and understand its effectiveness as a persuasion tool. However, I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen it deployed to sell train tickets.

The takeaway on this one is two-fold: 1) Leveraging influential people in the lives of your target is a great way to compel an action and 2) There is power in using the unexpected to intersect with the lives of your consumers (think of the rise of “prankvertising” or Taco Bell’s recent forays into Snapchat).

Campaign: Pharrell Williams, “24 Hours of Happy”, Cyber Grand Prix

Lesson: If Pharrell can get you to interact with 24 hours of video, then I think it’s safe to say that long form content is not dead (if it’s presented in the right way). While Buzzfeed may be killing our attention span, the right user experience can still capture the attention of consumers and get them to interact with long form branded content.

24 Hours of Happy works because it functions like a game: Users can select various times in a 24 hour clock and be served up a different experience each time. The same underlying premise works for YouTube annotation programs as well as digital scavenger hunts. If you give your fans an outlet for discovery and a compelling reason to interact with your content, then they will reward you with their attention.

Campaign: Nivea, “The Protection Ad”, Mobile Grand Prix

Lesson: Nivea won big with this campaign because they were able to add value to the lives of their consumers. In same way, if you can add value to the lives of your consumers through your social media channels (be it through information, customer service, or a fun social experience), then they will interact with your brand.

These are just a few of the great campaigns that took home awards at Cannes this year, but I hope they inspire you to think about what’s possible through social media. Let me know your favorite campaign from this year’s festival in the comments!

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