Inside the judging room: Jury president Malcolm Poynton on the lessons from Cannes' Mobile Lions

After a fascinating week, during which the Mobile jury analysed and debated on over 1,200 entries, it became clear that we were witnessing the emergence of two dominant trends in the mobile category. One, its use as a channel to entertain and engage with people. Two, and this is what was hugely exciting, the broader opportunity of enablement, of doing things that no other medium can do in people’s lives.

Mobile enablement

We saw this sense of enablement with entries such as the Gold Lion-winning ‘WhatsGerman’ app, a non-commercial service designed to teach refugees the basics of the German language via WhatsApp. We saw it with Samsung’s ‘Blindcap’, which assists blind swimmers with the creation of a Bluetooth link to Samsung’s Gear S2 that alerts the swimmer to the exact moment that they need to turn at the end of the pool. In a more conventional way, Adidas’ simple but powerful Valentine’s Day campaign, which celebrated diversity and took on homophobic comments on Instagram, also impressed the jury.

Mobile entertainment

There were plenty of winners that reflected the role of mobile in delivering heightened entertainment experiences. Domenico Massareto, another member of the Mobile Jury, picked out the partnership between Johnsonville and Uber, ‘The Sausage Nonnas’, as a great example. He said: “It’s not a campaign that’s thinking of a mobile product or device, but of a world that is mobile and connected, creating a campaign for the connected world. And there were some lovely details, such as the ‘Hugcam’, that have become part of culture.”

Uber might have offered access to boats and helicopters in Cannes but in Chicago it provided home-cooked sausages and used mobile to become part of a brand conversation that people appreciated.

Manboobs for Breast Cancer Awareness in Argentina also stood out for the hugely entertaining way it delivered not just the message but also a demonstration for breast examination. The lightness of touch proved so much more powerful and memorable for this educational campaign.

VR “blowing the doors off”

Another exciting trend was the emergence of virtual reality as a force in many of the entries. VR is blowing the doors off in mobile because the screen is endless and it’s creating whole worlds bigger than any TV set we could ever imagine. This was illustrated by the success of the Grand Prix winner from The New York Times, whose VR app delivers a whole range of VR news story content to readers and commercial partners. As my mobile jury colleague, Zelia Sakhi, said in Cannes it won “not only because of the execution itself but equally the context it was created in. The New York Times was ambitious to redefine the way they produce content and made mobile a long-term commitment.” We saw in the NYTimes VR App the power of mobile to not just transform a business and it’s relationship with consumers but to transform journalism.

Connecting people with experiences

Tourism Australia’s ‘GIGA Selfie’ activity in Japan won a Bronze Lion. It took the zeitgeist idea of the selfie to new levels with high quality photography, the mobile web, and social sharing. It helps people think about mobile beyond the screen in their hand, towards connecting them with something more exciting.”

Another highlight was the ‘#comeonin’ work for Sydney Opera House. This was location activated, had a heavy influencer dimension, created real-time content, and when shared back out to the influencers’ followers provided fantastic, rich, content for people to experience. That can’t happen in any other medium and points forward towards people and brands really unlocking the power of what mobile can achieve.

Geographical differences

In terms of the volume of the mobile work that was awarded, we saw a lot from North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Latin America was strong too but it was perhaps surprising that we didn’t see more from India and Africa. We were also a little surprised to not see more messaging work from China given that people there use mobile in a different way in terms of commerce and messaging.

I expect in the years ahead that we will witness equally transformative steps forward in mobile. As a frame for entertainment, we’ll see better examples emerge and we’re barely scratching the surface in terms of brands enabling people. This is because mobile gives brands a great opportunity to demonstrate real purpose to customers and to society.

What struck me after the judging was complete was how far we’ve come in five short years since the mobile category was introduced. The first Grand Prix in Mobile, in 2012, was awarded for the forward-sharing of a Coca-Cola coupon. We’ve been on a journey of incredible transformation – last year saw Google’s Cardboard win the Grand Prix. This year saw an app bring Cardboard to life in a meaningful and previously unthought of way that could change the future of newspapers, news reporting and ultimately our view of the world.

That’s a pretty awesome thing.

Malcolm Poynton was president of the mobile jury at Cannes Lions 2016 and is global chief creative officer at Cheil Worldwide

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