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Three themes shaping the future of advertising

By Jalaja Ramanunni

Cannes Lions’ Simon Cook recently presented findings from this year’s awards.

Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity, a part of the Cannes Lions family, announced jury presidents for its 2023 awards. Simon Cook, chief executive officer of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity spoke to delegates at an event in Dubai to share his insights on themes and trends that emerged from winning campaigns at this year’s awards in France. Cook picked out three themes that emerged from the festival after researchers analysed winning pieces of work across 44 countries and speaking to 70 jury presidents, jurors and winners.

Tactical topicality

Being culturally relevant is an ongoing pursuit for many brands. Today, it means inserting yourself into stories and precise moments that really matter. Topicality is particularly important when there are lots of big events and crises taking place around the world simultaneously. It can be tricky to identify topics that work while brands have several opportunities to engage their audiences. Tactical topicality is about hijacking newsworthy, trending points to engage a target audience with great precision. Consider Chipotle, a brand whose recipe for success includes capitalising on cultural moments. Chipotle has a dedicated team of ‘culture hunters’ who track global conversations. It is constantly trying to understand what is happening in the world. The team helps Chipotle identify where to play, and more importantly where not to play and when not to have a stance.

Cook’s first recommendation is to invest in sophisticated cultural listening and keep up with trending topics. The second is to transition into an agile operating model that means optimising internal and external processes to execute an idea as quickly as possible.

Elevating empathy

Emotion and empathy are elements that can unlock magic and result in creativity. Brand empathy is about genuinely putting yourself in the shoes of the customer. It is crucial to bridge the gap between how you see your brand and how customers see your brand. Sean Healy, global chief strategy officer at Carat says emotionally intelligent brands that have mastered empathy are currently enjoying accelerated growth. According to Carat, the top 20 emotionally intelligent brands in the world saw a 910 per cent increase in stock market gain between 2010 and 2021.

Take a look at German Supermarket Penny’s Christmas ad ‘The Wish’, the winner of Cannes Lion 2022 Film Craft Grand Prix.  The ad conceived and realised by Serviceplan captured a perspective that many overlooked at the time: parents’ main concern during the pandemic was the irretrievable experiences their children missed out on during the pandemic. It just reiterates that looking at the entire story can unearth an accurate insight. We may want to take a leaf out of Penny’s book – listen more carefully to stay in touch with how people are affected by current events in real time. Empathy must begin at the source – this means asking the right questions. Digging into individual experiences will help capture the emotions behind closed everyday moments, which can then be turned into creativity.


Metacommerce bridges the gap between physical commerce and the convenience of online shopping. It is the next logical step in the evolution of e-commerce. Cook and his team chose to focus on metacommerce instead of tackling the metaverse more broadly.

Today’s products are multiversal – they exist in multiple spaces, and this fundamentally changes the way we shop and buy things. It allows brands to virtually test products, collect consumer feedback and build a fanbase simultaneously. Brands are figuring out how they can coexist and integrate physical products with virtual ones. We see hybrid work where the commerce element is starting to straddle both virtual and physical worlds. Adidas Ozworld had a bespoke partnership with Ready Player Me. It allowed consumers to explore a new aspirational connection in the metaverse using a unique avatar. The avatars were personalised based on people’s personal responses to a simple personality test. This level of personalisation prompted people to sell their unique avatars as fetching up to $1,000 and more – and this is just phase one. Adidas brought the metacommerce aspect to life by giving its NFT grant holders exclusive access to Adidas originals products and first access to merchandise at no extra cost. This is the possible future direction of metacommerce.

Studies show that the metaverse could be an $8 trillion opportunity. NFTs have a chance to be incredibly beneficial and blockchain is the most profound technology we have seen since the internet. For anyone thinking about the metaverse and what web 3.0 can offer, the most important metric at the moment is: are you out there experimenting? Do you understand what this potentially can lead to?

Dubai Lynx is MENA’s leading platform where the creative communications industry come together to learn, network and celebrate the power of creativity. The one-day festival is scheduled on 14 March 2023 and the award ceremony will take place on 15 March 2023 when winners will be announced at the Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. Entries for Dubai Lynx are being accepted until 2 February 2023.