Cassandra Kelsall: Ideas worth stealing at Cannes Lions?

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Cassandra Kelsall: Ideas worth stealing at Cannes Lions?

Cassandra Kelsall, head of experience at Publicis Sapient Australia was on the Cannes Creative eCommerce Lions jury. Here, Kelsall provides CB readers with some key takeaways, following the Festival.


I quickly realised this rodeo would be four parts windowless jury room, one part rosé, and no parts yacht. Nevertheless, my first time on a Cannes Lions jury was quite a ride.

In its sophomore year, Creative eCommerce Lions entries rose by 12%, demonstrating how Cannes Lions are moving at pace to mirror the industry’s continuous shift to digital. We were there to celebrate creative, commercial eCommerce, payment solutions and innovation. In the diverse company of nine brilliant jurors, we set out to analyse how each piece of work innovated and optimised the customer journey to increase consumer engagement and achieve commercial success.

But eCommerce is a commercial transaction between a vendor and customer, done online. Were we about to spend four weeks of pre-judging (plus three days in a bunker) reviewing hundreds of websites? I jotted down my hopes and expectations a week before the pre-judging began. I was eager to see sophisticated, divergent thinking and craft from across the globe that goes beyond best practice or gimmicky ideas. I was hoping for memorable eCommerce experiences that differentiated through brand, cutting edge technology, hyper-personalisation, and connected services that blur the lines between physical and digital. But what I was most excited about, was the opportunity that Cannes Lions presents to show the world’s best brands how creativity can not only transform eCommerce itself AND unlock true business value in the process.

We saw all of what I’d hoped, and much more. But very few had it all.

It’s incredible, as Daniel Bonner our Jury President put it, we are in an age of “atomised retail”, where you can buy from anywhere, in ways you couldn’t even imagine. We saw the components of that atomic system, and rigorously debated the merits, gaps and opportunities of the shortlist. Some work connected deeply with customer needs and desires, but lacked evidence of business need or impact. Other experiences were functional and fluid, but a hollow brand experience wasn’t able to engage on an emotive, human level. A few pieces were memorable, cheeky and fun, but were isolated moments that disrupted the customer journey. And some were “cuspy”, great ideas but entered too early to judge effectiveness.

But what if the most elegant and provocative ideas could be more fundamentally connected as an ecosystem, in a seamless end to end experience? At the Creative Effectiveness awards show, John Seifert said “creativity has the power to move markets, build businesses and change the world”. I truly believe that, but it takes comprehensive insights about customer behaviours, needs and goals across their lifecycle – delightfully considered ideas executed not only during awareness and consideration, but through to transaction, ongoing service and loyalty. It takes going beyond the brief.


It takes tapping into the power of network. In China, 2 million KFC brand customers turned into brand co-owners as they designed and launched their own KFC Pocket Store on WeChat social commerce.

It takes contextual relevance. Nike tapped into the street culture of São Paulo with Air Max Graffiti Stores, combining physical and digital activations, leveraging hacked graffiti as the medium for product pages and discovery.

It takes pinpointing shared moments. Hey Google, ask Nike enabled a live, in-game shopping experience where anybody could explore the new Adapt BB kicks, and shop the game by interacting with Google Assistant.


It takes cultural significance. In India, FlipKart brought the bargaining experience out of the market and into Google Assistant with Hagglebot. They used NLP to respond with well known bartering strategies, gamifying sale price discovery and allowing customers to strategise and find a good deal.

It takes understanding emotional needs. Even if they’re irrational. Petz enabled pooch-possessed shopaholics, by researching canine behaviour and defining doggie-UX patterns on their Pet-Commerce platform. They used AI facial recognition to recognise multi-breed emotional intent, guiding owners purchase to toys their dog responded best to.


It takes having guts. The Whopper Detour put their stakes down by geo-fencing (trolling) 14,000 McDonald’s arches, so customers could unlock a Whopper coupon to drive Burger King app downloads and mobile purchases.

It takes a deep look at back stage enablement. Sometimes simple changes to things behind the scenes, policy, customer service or operations can enable the biggest innovation on behalf of the customer. For Pay it Forward, the Big Issue used mobile payments to re-sell magazines, but also worked with Monzo bank to change their policy so that the unbanked homeless were able to open an account without a fixed address, and earn.


It takes a holistic view of logistics and fulfilment. Transforming the Walmart unboxing experience into a sensory one, Scent by Glade intercepted shoppers with fragrance-filled protective packing and drove a circular commerce experience. Brahma Pay Per Beer in Brazil, powered by TV-commerce subscriptions, were delivered during live football matches within the hour.


It takes having heart. Our Grand Prix winner, Do Black is a sustainable and scalable enabler of eco-commerce. It’s the carbon limit credit card that offers a banking service where your spending and savings are measured by your conscience. Doconomy then helps you track, compensate and put a limit on your C02 consumption, empowering you to take notice and action.

On our final day in the jury room, we created a manifesto articulating our collective criteria for medal-worthy work. The components of winning were the ambitious wow factor, that it simplified and invented, was sustainable and scalable, made customer and business impact, set new standards to learn from, and that it was an idea worth stealing.

I’m a strong believer that iterative innovation can be more effective than disruptive innovation, and “imitation is the highest form of flattery”. So steal it. Create unexpected connections and perfect it until it becomes best practice. I’m pleased to report we only judged less than a dozen websites, but once upon a time, that was a creative idea worth stealing too.