Advertisers get happy

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Andrew Carlson, Experience Design Practice Lead at DigitasLBi, reports on some of the key learnings from this year’s Cannes Lions and argues that brands need to learn to have more fun.

Given the choice between something fun and something not, I’m guessing I know which one you would pick. As insights go, “fun things are more fun” isn’t going to win any strategists a promotion or cause the creative team to run to their notepads with eureka ideas.

Maybe that’s why joy, fun, and happiness can feel so under-represented in awards. Advertisers are confronting guarded beliefs. Challenging social conventions. Fighting for causes. Whimsical expressions of delight don’t factor much into that narrative.

Not so this year.

Maybe it’s because there is too much seriousness in the world without advertising adding to it or maybe it’s just the inevitable swing of our collective values pendulum, but for whatever reason, the winners of Digital Craft and Design Lions in particular are celebrations.

They delight and entertain, not pulling at your heart-strings so much as yanking away your frown lines. No need to shame or sadden their audiences with gotcha moments or points to score. They inspire, they wink, and they smile. It’s not the fly-in-the-eye, slow-piano manipulation we’re used to (though there is still plenty of that around). It’s joy as an expression to be shared.

In lesser hands a project like “Because Music” could have turned into a plodding, tech-fueled documentary. Instead, it feels like an almost endless series of happy moments, meticulously made. Game-like animations and undirected scenes built from album art take you down a rabbit hole of music history that feels like a true presentation of the urgency and excitement of the label. It’s designed to pull you in, get you lost, and make you smile. It succeeds on all counts. Don’t bother looking unless you have at least a half hour to kill.

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Design winner “Life Is Electric” is a deliberate statement of happiness that spans digital and physical channels in a joyful series of visual expressions. Whether you catch yourself grinning at an exacting citrus arrangement powering a battery, or laughing at the idea of colorful battery packaging that informs you your purchase was powered up by a hamster running in his wheel, it’s hard not to feel optimistic. Excited even.

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Both categories bubbled over with examples. Gold winners Codeology and Chrome Music Lab struck similar chords in Craft while MT Yokohama and Art With Watson did the same in Design. No sad piano. No confrontations. Instead, optimism. Happiness. Whimsy and joy.

The takeaway for brands? Have fun. It’s allowed, and you might just win something.

Originally featured on Huffington Post