Retail Roars at the Cannes Lions

For some, the annual “Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity” is a throwback to the “glory days” of advertising. Oceans of rosé are drunk, the freebies are plentiful, and scam ads are still concocted in the desperate hope of scoring a coveted Lion. (Mercifully though, most fake entries are spotted on the way through and the creators discredited.) Dig a little deeper though and you find some fascinating stuff going on at Cannes, which has just wound up on the French Riviera. And some of the more interesting developments are in the fields of retail and shopper marketing. This year, for example, there was a “festival within the festival” with Lions Innovation. One of the keynotes was on “How Robotics are Reinventing the Retail Experience”, with a case study on the robot sales assistants being tested in Lowes, the US home improvement chain. On the final awards show night too, retail and shopper marketing took center stage. These are five of the Lions winners; each remarkable in how they harness the power of retail in fresh new ways.

  1. “The Gun Shop” was created for the “States United To Prevent Gun Violence” in the US. The concept was to establish a pop-up store selling guns (both in real-life and online). Once a customer had engaged with the sales assistant, the true horrific story behind each weapon was revealed. This case is all about affecting shopper behavior (and ultimately consumer behavior), but by de-motivating rather than motivating purchase. I thought it was brilliant.
  2. “Monty’s Christmas” for UK department store chain John Lewis. The annual Christmas commercial for John Lewis is eagerly awaited by the British public. Last holiday season, “Monty the Penguin” was the central character, and he was featured brilliantly all the way from the heartwarming TV ad to a plush toy for sale on the department store shelf. This is a superbly integrated and original Christmas campaign that had both a strong cultural and sales effect.
  3. “Rabbit Race” for Media Markt, Germany’s biggest electronics retailer. How do you get away from the traditional Easter retail symbols of eggs and cuddly rabbits? By turning those rabbits into red-hot racers and staging a bigger live television event than the semi-finals of the soccer World Cup. This is a great promotional spin on a seasonal retail campaign, which raised traffic to stores by over 18%.
  4. “Make-Up Genius” for L’Oreal Paris. Digital both in-store and out-of-store is now an integral part of shopper marketing. This application allowed customers to accurately try on L’Oreal make-up in a “digital mirror” (their smartphone screens), in order to increase trial and generate sales.
  5. “Emoji Ordering” for Domino’s. The idea here is to enable customers to order from Domino’s via Twitter by simply using a pizza emoji. Whether it was a legitimate hit with customers or not, I am a big fan of how innovative Domino’s has become over the last few years with ordering via mobile.

So the Cannes Lions is no longer just about admen and their ads. We can now also raise our glasses of rosé to retail, and the clever ways in which marketers are inspiring customers and influencing shopper behavior.

Jon Bird was not involved with any of the companies or awards mentioned.