Art, copy, code

Picture of Christian Ward, marketing and media editor, StylusChristian Ward is the media and marketing editor of Stylus

The Friday schedule at Cannes Lions was topped and tailed by two talks focused on seismic shifts in advertising. The first change happened in the 1960s, while the second may transform the business anew in the years ahead.

A typically bullish George Lois, in one of many crowd pleasing reminiscences during his Legends seminar with Lee Clow, reiterated the impact of Ben Bernbach pairing copywriter with art director at DDB. Suddenly both were contributing at the conception of a campaign, resulting in better, more creative work. The ’60s ad revolution was sparked.

In the afternoon, Google and Burberry discussed a bold new pairing. With their Art, Copy, Code initiative, Google is bringing its magic box of HTML5 tricks to digital advertising, and making the case clearly that marketers and programmers should work hand in hand.

As with Bernbach’s revolution, a marriage of code and creative – right from the conception of a campaign – results in a startlingly new kind of work. At Cannes, Burberry showcased its Kisses project, where an HTML5 framework underpins an ad that not only allows viewers to interact via webcam to send a digital kiss to a loved one, but does so cross-device without the need for platform-specific plug-ins.

Interactive, personalised ads are nothing particularly new online. What sets Kisses ahead of the pack is the way in which the Burberry sensibility is communicated artfully at every touch point. Referencing the beautiful cityscape artwork, which thanks to Google’s data mashing in the background can adapt depending on where the viewer is located, Burberry’s head of digital spoke of a seamless synergy of the Burberry aesthetic with Google technology.

Right now this sort of campaign gets column inches due to the novelty of an experience driven by cutting edge code. But of course Bernbach’s work was novelty once too, and then became universally adopted. What Burberry Kisses shows – and it was a sentiment echoed across Cannes Lions this years – is that technological innovation alone is not enough: the story has to be compelling on its own terms. Many brands may think that they can bring the story, and the geeks can bring the digital surprises – which often results in a lot of flash and no heart.

Google Art, Copy, Code is saying: all three elements should be working together. Your tech partner will help move your narrative in new directions, and your communication goals should be feeding into the code right from the start. The likes of Lois and Clow may have made thinking creatively the mantra of the 20th century business, but now it’s time to think digitally.

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