Why Creative Commerce Brings ‘Super Bowl-sized’ Ideas to Sales

Two cell phones being used for online payment

For generations of creatives, the benchmark of success was landing a ‘big brand ad’; think 60 Superbowl seconds. But Superbowl-sized creative opportunities are now emerging from the most unexpected places. The ‘big idea’ may be found in an engaging interaction with a tub of ice cream, or revealed as air pillows in a shipping box, or experienced in the metaverse as virtual collectibles. 

We’re witnessing the rise of ‘creative commerce’. 

‘Commerce’ is a catch-all for a range of retail-related disciplines – including shopper marketing, experiential, e-commerce, and social commerce – all intended to nudge consumers along the path to purchase. Today, commerce can be gamified, socialised, live streamed or experienced with all the senses across every channel in any format. 

Creative opportunities are limitless.

In my view, the best of creative commerce is laser-focused on generating a response which results in conversion. In the finest work, creativity (often enabled by technology) turbocharges commerce, lifting a simple activation to an emotionally charged moment that drives both brand and demand – it’s what my creative partner, Manuel Bordé, calls ‘iconic tactics’.

‘Scent by Glade’ is a favorite example. Glade brilliantly teamed with Walmart to infuse air pillows in shipping boxes with its new fragrance. Once popped for recycling, people experienced an instant sample of the scent – which could be purchased in the moment with a scan of a code. Glade built conversion into the heart of interaction, sending Walmart.com sales up 83% in the first week of activation.

Creative commerce can also merge the digital and physical, moving us beyond a siloed view of e-commerce. The new Nike Rise store in Seoul behaves like a ‘digital twin’ of the online site. Using the Nike app, you can ‘Find and Reserve’ products in-store, 3D scan your feet to find the right size, and conjure up product information using RFID-enabled footwear on an ‘Inside Track’ digital table. It’s the perfect hybrid experience.

The creativity showing up in commerce is creating full-funnel conversion moments, solving for friction across buying moments to drive an immediate action - regardless of channel.

Creatives and smart marketers are quickly catching on. At last year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, commerce-related entries were up 18%.

The work that won in 2021 speaks for itself – conversion-led, clever in both message and medium, and intrinsically connected to brand and culture. Here are three cases from last year’s Lions, which get us excited about the future of commerce:

Shopping Inside Songs – Brazilian retailer Magazine Luiza teamed up with music streaming service Deezer to drive sales of musical instruments on its ecommerce site. A mobile experience was created within Deezer’s app, inviting listeners to discover and buy each musical instrument used in the songs. Magalu’s instrument sales soared by 50%, and Deezer subscriptions tripled. Creative commerce is often defined by innovative use of media, and this was one of the best I have seen (or heard!).

Enjoy Before Returning – Rather than chastising customers for bringing worn clothes back, Diesel encouraged people to ‘enjoy before returning’, so long as tags were still attached and items in their original condition. Timed to coincide with global Fashion Week, this twisted promotion saw people flaunting the Diesel tags on social media, while Diesel parties were accessible only to those who kept their labels on (no matter the brand). Sales spiked 24% and counter-intuitively, in-store and online returns declined substantially.

Buy With Your Time – This is a case of a smart value exchange between brand and consumer. Ikea superstores can be a hike from the center of cities. So, when Ikea opened a second store in Dubai, it offered to convert travel time into money, which people could use to buy Ikea products. Shoppers needed to show their timeline within Google Maps at checkout, and a discount was applied. I love this idea because it’s so simple and smart. No expensive new tech required – Ikea leveraged a tool that consumers use every day to generate traffic, sales and goodwill, driving footfall up 32%.

Commerce is now not only a result of smart brand and customer experience, it’s deeply embedded in both, and at the top of marketers’ agendas.

This has been recognised by Cannes Lions with the advent of the 2022 Creative Commerce Lions (a move we helped instigate), making it fertile ground for top creatives everywhere. The category will shape how we award and celebrate creativity for generations. When I chair the jury, I know we will be struck by the fact that powerful, conversion-driving creative can work across categories and doesn’t need big budgets, just big thinking. It’s about the full blending and blurring of channels across physical, digital, and mobile.

It’s time to widen our horizon beyond that ‘big brand ad’. Commerce is the biggest creative playground in the world. All you have to do is jump in, start playing, and growth will come.

- Beth Ann Kaminkow is Global CEO at VMLY&R COMMERCE

Originally published in Contagious