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As we head into a holiday weekend here in the States, let’s look back at the semi-holiday that ad executives had at the 2015 Cannes Lions International Festival, which wrapped up on the 27th of June. The annual festival provides a space for creatives to connect and continually sets new bars for “good creative.” Jonathan Mildenhall, CMO of Airbnb, confirmed that this year’s winners did not disappoint, saying, “Every time I come [to Cannes Lions] I leave a much bigger person in terms of my understanding of creativity.”

The festival did a few things differently this year. The most notable was adding an entire sub-festival that was focused on Innovation. Cannes added the Innovation Lions to the festival three years ago but this year they decided that innovation was important enough to be the pillar of its own festival.  As Shaun McIlwrath, global creative director of Iris Worldwide and one of the judges for the Innovation festival explained: “Actions speak louder than words. The amazingness of our actions is the best advertising we can ever create.”  It was in this spirit that the Innovation festival was formed.

The sub-festival was open to brands, agencies, startups, and tech companies, with a jury comprised of professionals with diverse backgrounds. McIlwrath and the other jurors believed that the innovation awards could be narrowed down to three simple questions: “Is it a breakthrough? Will it endure? Can it change lives?” With those questions in hand, companies like Talwar Bindi – Life Saving Dot, a bindi that delivers a daily dose of iodine to Indian women, preventing birth defects, and BioRanger – a crop-testing device that enables farmers to manage blight implications there and then, were recognized for their innovative service of people and communities, in turn creating an even more powerful brand message.

Also new to the festival this year, was the creative data category. With the ad industry placing such a heavy emphasis on data these days, the new category seemed only fitting. The purpose of this new addition was to celebrate and recognize powerful data-driven creativity. Local Projects, a New York-based media design firm for museums and public spaces, won gold for its compelling and inventive use of data for the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

The evolution of the Cannes Lions this year reflects the continuous change taking place in the industry. As technology continues to evolve the way we express ourselves and engage with our constituents, the benchmark for “good creative” will continue to rise. Festivals like the Cannes Lions are important reminders that in order to succeed at our craft we must always push boundaries and never stop looking for new ways to inspire.

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