It's time to shift to creative commerce at Cannes

By Beth Ann Kaminkow, Global chief executive officer



The Drum Network article

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December 17, 2021 | 6 min read

The Creative Commerce Lions made their debut at Cannes last month. For brands and agencies, this is a powerful acknowledgement of the disruptive creative power in commerce channels, which include digital but extend way beyond it. This shows commerce’s position today at the very center of brand and customer experience.

VMLY&R Commerce on the transformational role of commerce and what it's inclusion at Cannes means for the industry.

VMLY&R Commerce on the transformational role of commerce and what it's inclusion at Cannes means for the industry.

For any skeptics out there: the news is way bigger than a mere syntactic tweak.

It’s a pivotal moment. The Cannes International Festival of Creativity is broadening the canvas of creativity for business and talent for years to come.

Here’s why.

We are witnessing the rapid emergence of new areas of commerce and new means to conduct it. Think Instagram Live Shopping and the Twitter community fundamentally shifting how people experience commerce. Think Tesco’s just-launched checkout-free store, following Amazon Go.

Just look at Nike, who are taking advantage of opportunities to serve customers where they want to be served – pushing the boundaries of digital transformation in-store. Nike’s House of Innovation 000, located at 650 Fifth Avenue, covers 68,000 square feet in the heart of New York City. Showcased by Forbes Metropolis as “the temple of shopping” and “the edge of retail transformation", personal, smart, and responsive experiences and instant checkout are powered by modern apps and smart devices, helping ensure “the promise of living retail comes to life.”

“As stores moved from transaction to experience, we are also moving from transaction to relationship,” Nike noted. We couldn’t agree more.

Consumers no longer distinguish between the digital and physical worlds. Neither do marketers, who crave instead to deliver, regardless of channel, creative in-the-moment conversion.

Gen Z is living proof that we’re not going to be a mobile- and digital-only world. Nobody wants physical stores and physical experiences more than this generation. Inspired brands and companies are stepping up, just as they did when transitioning to e-commerce.

Creative commerce

This has led us to a powerful new creativity, creative commerce. By which we mean integrated, all-worlds creativity that merges brand equity and conversion, coalescing into a creative whole and opening a world of possibility. It’s more than a transaction. It’s an interaction that can be gamified, socialized, live streamed on digital, or experienced with all the senses.

Today’s customer may toss items into their virtual cart based on a TikTok video. Days later, they may visit a store and take cues from both the eye-catching display and reviews on their smartphone while browsing aisles.

As channels collide around shopping and buying, as sales converges with marketing, creativity in commerce has become essential to delivering consumer experience, brand promise, and memorable engagement. What used to be considered below-the-line or lower-funnel has become creativity’s next great canvas, a space to devour new creative thinking and showcase beautiful new work that converts.


TikTok is building an experience where brands can showcase creativity and personalities and where people easily move from discovery to purchase. Sofia Hernandez, TikTok's Global Head of Business Marketing, talks of creativity in advertising having “never been more important” for connecting brands and people, participating in trends, and creating moments that translate into commerce.

“People are taking control of what they want to see and when they see it. This has fueled an entirely new way to discover products,” she says. “A new shopping culture has emerged rooted in community, creativity and most importantly entertainment.”

Cannes Lions and commerce

At Cannes Lions, commerce-related Cannes entries were up 18% in 2021 year-on-year, and the judges noted many interesting emerging trends – notably, around distributed and equitable commerce.

No wonder “betting big on creative-commerce” is a major trend tipped by Forrester for next year. “In 2022, commerce practices will embrace creative differentiation or risk falling victim to digital sameness,” it predicts, “just as digital experiences have in the past.”

WPP’s Global Chief Creative Officer Rob Reilly believes, “nothing matters more than being able to tie our creativity to wildly successful outcomes. The talent that masters this broad new canvas at the intersection of brand and customer experience, will help to redefine the future of commerce.”

Successful companies are reimagining how they deliver commerce to drive growth. That’s an exciting place to be.

For too long, commerce as a space has been approached and viewed as purely transactional. Yet, commerce is every bit as creative, as emotional and as engaging as each piece of work we create.

We’ve long believed that we’re stepping into a new era and a wealth of opportunity for the industry. Thank you Cannes Lions for leading the way.

Beth Ann Kaminkow, global chief executive officer at VMLY&R Commerce with editorial input from & Manuel Bordé, global chief creative officer.


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VML is a leading creative company that combines brand experience, customer experience, and commerce, creating connected brands to drive growth. VML is celebrated...

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