Cannes Lions 2021 – It’s Time for Creative Commerce

Headshot of Manuel Borde and Gabriela Lungu

We may have missed the human interactions kindled at the Palais or on the Croisette, but ironically the big win at last month’s Cannes Lions Live was ‘connectivity.’  As we streamed countless talks and celebrated with champagne for one, we experienced creativity from all ends of the world via our devices. 

Yes, there was a certain element of eeriness in experiencing Cannes Lions from a far. But the energy and buzz across social channels told the real story of our industry – one poised for the greatest comeback of all. An industry bursting at the seams with that same creative spark that drove the transformation of the Mad Men era.  

'Mad Men' was a period marked by media and channel innovation, memorable campaigns that played on emotion to connect, a major shift towards a new socially aware younger demographic, and the beginnings of increased opportunities for women and minorities. The decade’s true imprint was the melding of creativity, culture and commerce.  

And here we are again igniting its flame.   

Digital channels may be powering our connections but our journey from touch point to touch point is defining a new type of creativity. Creativity that inspires and persuades us to purchase in an increasingly nebulous world, absent of distinction between physical or digital. Creativity that reflects human behavior and converts in the moment, regardless of channel.   

Recent Lions winners across categories shined a light on this interconnectivity. With most work involving at least some e- (or digital) component, winning work reflected a recognition of people’s changing relationship with brands. An understanding of how consumers buy today – anytime, anywhere.  This omni and unified reality of the shopper journey is elevating the role of commerce as an emotionally charged moment of brand engagement, seamlessly leading to purchase.  

This is the birth of a new form of commerce, creative commerce.  

Campaigns demonstrating this beautiful intertwining of channels, rightly won success at Cannes by bringing consumers along the journey from brand to demand, all the way through to conversion – with creativity at the core.  And this wasn’t only seen by fellow jurors in the eCommerce category.  

In the Titanium category work like Diesel’s ‘Enjoy Before Returning’ tapped into the cultural insight and social behavior of returning clothes after being used once, and bravely embraced this to become a campaign. Not only an ecommerce play, a key physical component of the idea converted price tags into invites for Fashion Week making this a great example of culture, ecommerce and brand experience coming together across channels.

Likewise, we saw design play an integral part in creative commerce too. Grand Prix winner, H&M “Looop”, the world’s first in-store recycling systems that turns garments into new ones, was a wonderful sustainability play by the brand. It was beautifully crafted for visibility for shoppers in both physical stores and across ecommerce platforms.  

“The Birth of Gaming Tourism” for Microsoft Xbox broke new ground, for the first time promoting not gameplay but games as a tourist destination to reach new audiences. Built around a partnership with global travel guide publisher Rough Guides it turned a digitally native industry into a physical book to drive a new type of engagement.  

Sold at stands at the UK’s biggest travel expo, the commerce experience transformed Xbox into a travel brand right ahead of the holidays. Small wonder the work landed a raft of Lions across print and publishing, and, direct.

And one of our favorites from VMLY&R, the Glass Lion Grand Prix “I am”. An emotional and inclusive campaign by Starbucks turning their own stores into safe spaces where the transgender community can legally change their names. An idea authentically aligned to Starbucks identity, and seamlessly brought through their brick and mortar locations to drive cultural awareness, brand equity and footfall. 

The pandemic sparked an exponential shift in how commerce is conducted, and it’s work like this that is challenging modern brands to deliver creative commerce that mirrors the way we interact and shop. 

Commerce is no longer the "last mile" or "moment of truth" or "channel for product distribution and selling”. Brands are now born and built seamlessly across e-commerce channels and physical retail which both remain the ultimate manifestation of a brand. 

For commerce to deliver the most relevant, engaging and immersive experiences, we need to think beyond the confines of the digital channel alone. 

We look to our industry to join us on this journey.   

- Manuel Bordé is Global Chief Creative Officer at VMLY&R COMMERCE & Gabriela Lungu is Global Creative Director at VMLY&R COMMERCE UK and a juror for the Cannes Lions Creative eCommerce jury