Inside the jury room at Cannes Lions this year, the definition, value and influence of innovation across the industry sparked heated debate. My jury and I looked for the highest level of innovation and creativity in the work we judged across a range of factors.
From converting a good idea or invention into something that enhances daily life to innovative approaches to connecting with consumers through new product developments, world-class innovation is a broad concept and not easily defined. An integration of technology is often the first assumption of true innovation yet on its own, I believe, it’s not enough.
Great innovation can and should have a bigger meaning and impact on society. A new smartphone, for example, could have the most advanced facial-recognition system but will only enhance people’s lives until the next rival phone enters the market. We looked, instead, for work that was advancing technology to solve real social problems through solutions that had long-term impact.
Technology can and should create real-life solutions
Inside the jury room, we looked for simple ideas that had never been done before to solve real-life problems. So, it was inspiring to see examples in the work of how voice technology and artificial intelligence are being used to support important causes. These technologies have started to become part of our everyday existence, providing advancement, and enhancement, in the way we live.
There was one trend I predicted we would see in the jury room this year. I hoped it would reign in the work we selected, and it did. The growing relationship between artificial intelligence and genuine human activity is making waves. We awarded the Grand Prix to “See Sound,” a joint project between AI startup Wavio and Area 23, an FCB Health Network Company. The work genuinely and courageously solves a problem for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Designed to assist people living with hearing impairments, “See Sound” utilizes AI, machine learning and mobile technology in a highly creative way. The plug-in device identifies common household sounds, like a kettle coming to the boil or a doorbell ringing and sends notifications to users’ smartphones, making them aware of noises they wouldn’t otherwise hear. “See Sound” is so innovative because it offers an all-in-one solution, rather than a person needing multiple tools to track different sounds.
Collaboration is crucial for impactful innovation
We loved “See Sound” on many levels, but an absolute essential element to its success was the collaboration involved. Area 23 joined up with Wavio to use their expertise to create such an innovative solution not yet on the market. I believe that behind every outstanding innovation, there’s a collaborative team. The jury and I were drawn to the work’s ability to really make a difference in people’s lives. This project showed that innovation can be found in the connection between preexisting technology and creative minds, but it was also more than a nice idea, one that had huge societal impact
Across the Innovation Lions winners, more work stood out for having real, tangible purposes. Take “ThisAbles” for Ikea by McCann, Tel Aviv, produced by Craft London. This suite of product adaptors, such as pegs that can attach to a sofa’s feet, makes Ikea’s furniture accessible for people with physical disabilities. This problem-solving work took home the Grand Prix in the Health and Wellness Lions and a Silver Innovation Lion.
I’m excited to see how the work continues to innovate in the future to go further in raising collective social awareness to tackle the world’s social injustices—and, of course, how diverse companies can collaborate to share the tools and creativity that will really make the difference.