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Retail and technology battle it out as the big winners at this year’s Cannes Lions

Cannes Lions
Cannes Lions 2016

If you’re not yet sure of the role technology plays in the future of our industry – or any industry – just look at the Grand Prix winners at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Virtual reality, artificial intelligence, wearables and data visualisation all got a nod. There was a VR film from The New York Times sweeping up both top awards in the entertainment and mobile categories; the use of data to create The Next Rembrandt for ING Bank taking the cyber and creative data titles; and AlphaGo artificial intelligence beating the world’s best human player of Go, winning for innovation.

Even fashion got a look in with Google Project Jacquard picked up the Grand Prix in the product design category for the launch of its interactive textile technology. Levi’s was introduced as founding partner, which has since led to the introduction of a smart jean jacket for urban cyclists.

The big winners otherwise were far more traditional in concept, though heavily weighted to those in the retail and apparel industries for once. REI, Under Armour, John Lewis, Harvey Nichols and Toms all walked away with top prizes.

Outdoor retailer REI won the coveted Titanium Grand Prix (as well as the promo & activation title) for its #OptOutside campaign, which took the US by surprise on its biggest shopping day, Black Friday, when it shut all its stores and invited consumers to head outside instead. By taking a stand against the chaos of shopping straight after Thanksgiving, REI was also able to share its value that a life outside is a life well lived.

Sir John Hegarty, founder of BBH, and jury president for the Titanium category at Cannes Lions, said: “We were looking to credit something that has gone beyond; that’s perhaps daring, courageous and different. This involves all of those things. Lots of things are advertising, what we loved about this idea was how profound it was as a thought, and how daring it was to carry it through.”

Over 170 organisations showed support for the idea, with many of them also closing their doors in solidarity. The campaign, created by Venables Bell & Partners, earned 33 straight days of media coverage with 6.7 billion impressions, while the #OptOutside hashtag also generated 1.2 billion social impressions.

Under Armour meanwhile won in the film craft category for its Rule Yourself campaign by Droga5. A celebration of the fact US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has come out of retirement to compete for gold again, it shows the hard work put into training in a relentless pursuit of sporting greatness. The film outlines the brand message: “It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.”

In the film category overall, Harvey Nichols also followed up on the success of its Sorry I Spent it on Myself campaign from 2014 (which won four Grand Prix awards), and won this time around for its Shoplifters spot. Created by adam&eveDDB to launch the luxury retailer’s new loyalty app, it uses real CCTV footage of thieves getting caught in the act, albeit with animated cartoon heads protecting their identity.

As jury president Joe Alexander, CCO of The Martin Agency, said: “What’s funny is this film is actually really ugly, but it does what great filmmaking and storytelling does, it brought to life an idea.”

Given the fact retail is a struggling sector at present, it’s always a positive thing when a piece of work is awarded for the impact it actually has on the business; the sales or ROI it leads to. On that basis, John Lewis won in the Creative Effectiveness category for a second year this year, this time for its Monty the Penguin campaign from 2014 (which won the Grand Prix in film craft in 2015).

Another by adam&eveDDB, this two minute Christmas film was viewed 29m times across YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, over 6m of which were before the advert even aired on TV. Better yet, the Monty merchandise sales generated alone paid for the campaign, while sales across the department store rose a record 5.8% on Christmas 2013. Econometrics showed that advertising was the single biggest factor driving this growth, accounting for nearly 25% of all sales. In all, the 2014 Christmas campaign generated £132m worth of extra sales and £33m of extra profit.

A special award also went to Toms founder Blake Mycoskie. The Cannes LionHeart recognises an individual who has innovatively harnessed commercial brand power to make a significant and positive difference to people or the planet. Said Terry Savage, chairman of Lions Festivals: “Blake’s unstoppable passion and commitment has driven him to create a brand model that has made a positive impact on millions of people’s lives across the world. His vision to develop a new kind of conscious consumerism has transformed into a global movement.”


Overall, it was a great year for the industry at Cannes Lions, with other winners including Nike, adidas, Canada Goose and Björn Borg all winning gold awards, as well as Forever21, H&M, Issey Miyake, Pacific Brands, David Jones and Puma scooping silvers.

But there’s something to be said here too about the division between tradition and technology being seen in the Grand Prix names. What we need now is for those two to combine; for the retail and apparel vertical to gracefully integrate technology to develop even more award-winning work. But importantly to do so with a heavy dose of creativity, and not just gratuity.

As Hegarty said: “We’ve got to remember that technology enables opportunity, but it’s creativity that enables value. We say to clients [they] must not under invest in that, that’s what’s really important; that’s what will lead to success.”

digital snippets e-commerce film social media Startups technology

Digital snippets: Farfetch acquires Browns, Net-a-Porter launches social network, Warby Parker raises $100m

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech…


  • Browns acquired by Farfetch as part of omnichannel growth strategy [BoF]
  • Fashion retailer Net-a-Porter’s new social network wants to combine your photo-sharing and shopping in one app (as pictured) [Quartz]
  • Warby Parker raises $100m to expand store network, technology [Fashionista]
  • The Rodarte designers are making a movie [The Cut]
  • Toms wants you to Instagram your bare feet for charity [Fashionista]
  • The future of retail looks like Macy’s, not Amazon [L2]
  • Infographic: wearable tech at the intersection of function and fashion [AdWeek]
  • How 3-D printing is saving the Italian artisan [Bloomberg]
  • Could 3-D body scanners help you find the perfect pair of jeans? [AdWeek]
  • Launching a fashion Kickstarter? Consider this [Medium]
  • V-Files relaunches as trendy start-up determined to become the shoppable Instagram [Business Insider]
  • With big names and money flowing in, tech start-ups in India heat up [NY Times]
digital snippets e-commerce mobile social media Startups technology

Digital snippets: Amazon 3D printing, Zappos digital assistant, Target In a Snap app, and more

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech…

Jeff Bezos, Amazon 2012

  • What Amazon’s foray into 3D printing means for the industry [Fortune]
  • Zappos tests digital assistant that helps you track down any fashion item [CNET]
  • Target snaps up mobile shopping innovation with image recognition app [BrandChannel]
  • L’Oréal make-up goes virtual for selfie age [FT]
  • Yoox Group teams with messaging service WeChat [WWD]
  • Marie Claire’s innovative interactive magazine covers are breaking new ground in advertising real estate [BoF]
  • This Nike vending machine accepts only FuelBand points [Creativity]
  • Virtual reality: advertising’s next big thing? [AdAge]
  • Forever 21, Urban Outfitters among most popular retailers on Pinterest, relative newbie, Modcloth, tops list [Forbes]
  • 8 start-ups trying to help you find clothing that fits [Fashionista]
  • The new bazaar: in India, online stores catch on with buyers [NY Times]
  • New York Fashion Tech Lab program debuts at Hearst Tower [PSFK]
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The best April Fools’ Day pranks from fashion brands

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If we’re basing it on sheer volume of pranks, Google probably wins April Fools’ Day. But, perhaps seeing the “holiday” as a prime marketing opportunity, the fashion world got in on the fun as well — some of them incorporating elaborate videos and impressive new products into their jokes.

Here are a few brands and retailers that almost had us fooled…


Hunter introduced a new open-toe Wellington boot just in time for festival season. Referred to as the “latest in product innovation” from the brand, the design is a replica of the original rain boot first introduced in 1955 but with a new focus on breathability. “This revolutionary design enables air flow to circulate from the opening at the toe, traveling along the footbed to then exit at the top of the boot (and vice versa). The wearer is afforded a truly ventilated experience. This new technology is expected to represent an industry changing moment for rubber footwear,” read the fictitious write-up.


Bonobos made fun of the wearables market with the “launch” of a line of tech-enabled shirts, blazers and jeans meant to make “living your life as effortless as your style”. In the above video, a man demonstrates the capabilities of a washed poplin shirt. There’s “wi-fiber” that keeps you constantly in contact with a female voice seemingly inspired by Spike Jonze film, “Her”; smart fabric that knows when you’re lying based on your body temperature; and a feature that posts things to your Facebook wall, sometimes when you don’t want it to.

John Lewis

This would be clever if it weren’t creepy: UK department store John Lewis announced a new hi-tech electronic mirror that will provide shoppers with their precise measurements in seconds. The Scanning Computer and Mirror (SCAM) system – note the first clue – was to be trialled in the retailer’s Isles of Scilly store – clue two – before being rolled out around the country. It will use technology similar to that in airports, allowing fit “advisers” to get an eyeful of customers, reported the Daily Mail. As a result, sales associates were to be given “special intimacy training so as not to infringe the customer’s dignity” according to the brand.

American Eagle Outfitters

“We pulled your tail” shouts the headline on American Eagle Outfitters’ blog today. It introduced the idea of a doggy line called American Beagle Outfitters a week ago, but what was intended to be an April Fools’ joke to raise money for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), actually got such an overwhelming and positive response, the retailer is actually making it happen. A real canine collection is set to debut for Holiday 2014.


Lululemon promoted its new “Spray-On Yoga Pants” on its site today: It’s a $1200 can that pokes fun at the company’s see-through pants scandal of 2013. “Designed for lightweight flexibility and versatility, our newest innovation, Spray-On Yoga Pants, will take us to and through our practice without the fuss,” read the hilarious description.

Toms X Uber

Toms announced a partnership with Uber in a new initiative called shuberX. Basically, cardboard cars collect passengers and give them a pair of Toms shoes to wear as they run down the street. What’s great about this prank is that new Uber users who do actually enter promo code #shuberx when ordering a car will see $10 donated on their behalf to Footwork, TOMS’ partner in fighting podoconiosis. How very Toms of them.


On its men’s blog, Asos wrote a post chronicling the trend for beard bleaching. Those in the know are growing big bushy beards and then dyeing them radical new colors, like electric blue with purple highlights, it claimed. The e-tailer even attributed the trend to one “revolutionary Danish barber”: Alaxånder Alexandrå.

Honorary Mentions:

Here are couple of others we chuckled at:

Personal bra shopping site True&Co’s new kitten-themed sizing system

Statement anklets from Cupcakes and Cashmere

Lucky mag’s desks covered in Josh Hutcherson photos

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Digital snippets: Holiday retail round-up special

Given it’s the day before Thanksgiving in the US – meaning retailers are about to go all out on heavy promotions – here’s a special round-up of all the ways they’re using social and digital to help lure the seasonal shopper and start converting those all-important Holiday sales…

ebayinc_digitalstorefront_rm4 (2)

  • eBay debuts shoppable touchscreens and digital storefronts for Sony, Toms And Rebecca Minkoff in San Francisco (as pictured) [TechCrunch]
  • Target launches “most digitally enabled campaign” in its history, pins hopes on Pinterest this holiday season [Co.Create]
  • Topshop partners with Pinterest for online and offline Holiday campaign [Fashion&Mash]
  • JC Penney launches first Holiday campaign under new marketing head, includes crowdsourcing initiative inviting users to upload videos of themselves singing ‘Silent Night’ [AdAge]
  • ‘Reserve in Store’ service rolling out to all Banana Republic stores across the US, 200 Gap [CNBC]
  • Jingle all the way at Kmart with #showyourjoe Christmas ad [Fashion&Mash]
  • Kohl’s adds emotional brand spots to Holiday mix [AdAge]
  • Hollister teases Black Friday deals on YouTube [ClickZ]
  • All the interactive elements accompanying John Lewis’ #bearandhare Christmas ad [Fashion&Mash]
  • Cath Kidston, Bauble Bar driving traffic with Christmas treasure hunt campaigns [Fashion&Mash]
  • Michaels offers interactive Holiday help with live elf available through streaming video [Chain Store Age]
  • M&S teases Christmas #magicandsparkle campaign over social [Fashion&Mash]
  • Louis Vuitton highlights gift ideas on interactive goose game [Luxury Daily]
  • Tillys runs ugly Christmas sweater contest over Instagram [Tillys]
  • Neiman Marcus teams up with Shapeways to offer 3D printed holiday capsule collection [PSFK]