Creative FOMO & How To Be a Winner

Eric Suliga, Creative Director

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is in full swing, and the most brilliant creative minds in the industry are gathered along the southern coast of France to talk inspiration, creativity, and business whilst sipping rosé and enjoying the breathtaking (and heavily branded) scenery. Mild jealousy aside, it’s an amazing time of year: Cannes Lions is a platform for marketers to both inspire and be inspired. Creative thinking and innovation is celebrated on a global scale, pushing the advertising industry into unprecedented and unimaginable places.

For me personally, Cannes Lions this year is especially exciting. As a Creative Director at an audio company, I’m aware and in-tune with both the visual and sonic identity of a brand more than most. At last, the industry is beginning to catch up. After six years at Pandora, the power of audio is getting the recognition it deserves within the creative community. And while I’ve looked forward to reviewing Cannes’ award-winning campaigns, I’m more excited to see brands expressing themselves and reaching consumers in a whole new way: with sound on.

But as a relatively new focus, what does it take to stand on that stage and bring home the much-coveted Lion? What is the recipe for award-winning audio creative?

While I’m not officially on the Jury and can’t say for sure (although, I am available June 2020 if needed), I’ve been around my fair share of audio advertising and know a thing or two about how to rise above the noise.

So, I present to you my very own Radio & Audio Top 5.

Selected from the just-announced Radio and Audio Cannes Lions shortlist, I’ll select my winners based on the following questions and criteria:

  • How are they bringing audio to life in new ways and pushing the medium forward?
  • Are they immersing the listener in a different world?
  • What is my level of FOMOness?

Westworld: The Maze

Brand: HBO // Agency: 360i

The Maze is a voice game on Amazon Alexa-enabled devices that allows fans to navigate WestWorld from home, relying only on audio interaction.

cannes2019 HBO theMaze

This is one of my top contenders to take home a Lion, and here’s why:

  • Complete Listener Immersion: Through their clever use of storytelling and leveraging theater of the mind, listeners feel like they in the Westworld environment
  • Use of Sonic Identity: By leveraging the voice actors and familiar sounds from the series, the sonic identity is reinforced in the fans’ mind
  • Innovative Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Format: This is brilliant; with over two hours of content, the sound design leverages multiple action cues to keep the listener moving forward and deeper into the experience until they reach the end

Sounds of Future Ocean

Brand: National Geographic // Agency: In-house

Sounds of the Future Ocean is 4-track album highlighting humans’ negative impact on nature.

cannes2019 natgeo album

As an in-house guy myself, I’m totally rooting for Sound of Future Ocean, and here’s why:

  • Surprise Ending: The listener is immediately transported to a relaxing beach, but is completely caught off guard when the narrator reveals that the sounds were actually made from plastic bottles
  • Use of Sound Dimensions: The seagulls and the waves in the background have a resonance to them that is relaxing and at a primal level, signals safety. This false sense of comfort sets the listener up perfectly for the shocking twist

Road Tales (Snelweg Sprookjes)

Brand: Volkswagen // Agency: ACHTUNG!mcgarrybowen

Road Tales is a location-based audiobook series built from the insight that 7 out of 10 kids are handed screens during long rides. The audiobook tells a story that is contextually relevant to the characters in the story and their journey along the road trip.

cannes2019 vw roadTales

This made my list because:

  • Strong Narration & Identify: The playful and clever voiceover creates a rich identity for the story engaging bored, trapped-in-a-car children in an extremely unexpected way
  • Engaging & Interactive Sound Cues: A contextual relevant story keeps youthful listeners engaged and even prompts the listener into action (to fly to outerspace!)
  • Use of 3D Audio/Painting Technique: Is that fruitfly actually flying around my head?
  • Boundary-Pushing: This campaign blows past the limits of what we’ve seen before, and I can only imagine how 5G technology is going to push this type of content further

Broadway the Rainbow

Brand: Mars // Agency: DDB Chicago

For the Super Bowl, instead of following years of established advertising tradition, Skittles skipped the 30-second TV ad and made a full 30-minute Broadway Musical.

cannes2019 skittles broadway

Here’s why I’m all about Broadway the Rainbow:

  • Embracing Audio: The super bowl is an extremely saturated market, so they went outside-of-the-box to stand out from the norm
  • A Brand Identity that Shines: The clever and humorous writing shows that Skittles is overtly self-aware and makes fun of itself—winning over it’s consumers
  • High Risk, High Reward: Skittles is known for off-the-wall ideas and is ready to take the risk—and it pays off

Immigrant Songs

Brand: Southern Poverty Law Center & BravoMic // Agency: Wing

Immigrant Songs are corridos style musical ballads created to help reach vulnerable populations along parts of the U.S.A’s southern border with information regarding immigration laws.

cannes2019 immigrantSongs

Honestly, I feel like this is a very clear winner:

  • Audio for Good: This is a clever solution to a very real problem, and uses audio to instill change and communicate information
  • Cultural Relevance: The best way to reach an audience is to connect with them, and the best way to do that is to create a culturally relevant, memorable tune that hits home with listeners
  • Strong Call-To-Action: This demands action and participation from the listener and communicates a very clear message

I'm ecstatic about this year’s shortlist and applaud the creatives who are taking audio to new levels. And the best part? We are just dipping our toes into what’s possible. There’s a reason audio is the foundation of every great campaign, and it’s because it’s truly the most powerful medium. It has the ability to transform your brand message from an ad, to an unforgettable experience.

Ready for more? You can explore the power of audio yourself with Pandora’s Six Dimensions of Sound, or visit our in-house consultancy Studio Resonate for more information.

And because I can’t stop thinking about the beach, here are two Cannes-inspired stations for your listening pleasure: 7 Heures Du Mat Radio or Le Musique Playlist