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Cannes Lions 2019: Celebrating creativity, innovation, and storytelling

July 9, 2019 in Industry | 8 min. read

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This year at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Unity showed up as the leading real-time 3D creation platform with the tools to create compelling content that reaches and captivates audiences. Our unified front across core tech, brand advertising, and media and entertainment caught the attention of brands and agencies across industries.

We want to share with you what we saw, what we learned, and what we still can’t stop talking about.

A festival for creatives

Cannes Lions is the leading event for creatives, marketers, and advertisers, where they come together to share, learn, and inspire each other. The brightest minds in the industry take a look at the latest creative campaigns and hottest industry trends, setting the stage for the next wave of innovation. For five full days along the French Riviera, attendees admire award-winning work, attend thought-provoking sessions, and experience companies through in-person demonstrations.

Awards for creative work

The Cannes Lions awards span nine different categories: health, communication, craft, experience, entertainment, innovation, reach, good, and impact. Jurors comb through hundreds of submissions, announcing the short-listed projects a day before each award ceremony.

Several Made with Unity projects were short-listed, setting a global benchmark of creative excellence. Below are a few of these projects.

  • PHAROS AR by Childish Gambino: Short-listed in the Entertainment Lions for Music category for Excellence in Interactive Music Video, submitted by MediaMonks for Childish Gambino. This project was a partnership between Childish Gambino, Google, MediaMonks, and Unity. The app is a shared augmented reality (AR) journey through Childish Gambino’s music that encouraged fans to participate in a sacred communal space where they could unlock the hidden meaning of his brand and explore a cosmic journey. Many visual metaphors and easter eggs hint at a sort of digital Plato’s Cave where a 2D world springs to life in 3D. This app was the world’s first multiplayer AR musical experience and invited users to take a journey through Childish Gambino’s musical universe. The app was launched at Coachella, where Childish Gambino headlined two nights, along with a physical installation created for the Pixel 3.
  • Talk to the Reasons: Short-listed in the Digital Craft category for Experience Design: Voice, Content: Personalized Storytelling & Experience and in the Entertainment Lions category for Audio Visual Branded Content: New Realities, and Innovation in Entertainment: Innovation in Branded Content, submitted by Moth+Flame for Netflix. To support the launch of 13 Reasons Why season 2, Netflix created this immersive conversational experience where depending on what the user says, the story changes shape around them. Users were fully immersed in video calls with various characters from the show. The experience was available in 17 different countries and eight different languages.
  • Muse Simulation Theory VR Experience: Short-listed in the Digital Craft category for New Realities: AR/VR Immersive Storytelling, submitted by Listen New York for Microsoft. Muse sought to create a whole world around their latest album, Simulation Theory, through their songs, music videos, live show, and album art. Listen worked closely with Muse to develop three custom virtual reality (VR) games inspired by the band’s latest album and music videos. Working with Microsoft and two independent VR game developers (and with creative oversight by Muse), they built three different VR games in Unity, running on Windows Mixed Reality and communicating to a locally networked scoreboard. 

Unity thriving at Cannes

Our cabana was located in Cabana Town near Facebook Beach and alongside cabanas from NBC and Pandora, among others. Inside the cabana, we hosted bleeding-edge AR and VR demos that captivate audiences across media and entertainment, gaming, automotive, and advertising. While Unity technology has myriad uses, AR and VR applications arguably represent one of the most powerful storytelling mediums we’ve ever had, and we know that telling stories is at the heart of what brands and agencies do.

Showcasing Unity for AR

In our cabana, attendees were able to demo PHAROS AR, the first multiplayer, multi-device AR music experience we created in collaboration with Childish Gambino and Google – the same experience mentioned above.

Timed with our presence at Cannes and our session about PHAROS AR, we launched our behind the scenes video on the making of the app. We’ll be continuing that conversation in a webinar on Thursday, August 15, at 10:00 am PT co-hosted with MediaMonks, the creative agency that brought the app to life. Register here to save the date. 

In our cinematic VR demo area, we showcased three cinematic VR experiences: Bonfire and Crow the Legend by Baobab Studios and Gloomy Eyes by Atlas V.

Staying on the festival theme, we kept the creativity hot and the rosé cold at our cabana. We showcased AR wine labels on wine provided by Treasury Wines, an Infiniti AR app, the LEGO Playground AR app, and a list of interactive ads, including a Carnival playable ad, a Fossil Sport AR product explorer ad, and a Miller Lite AR Portal ad with a first-of-its-kind web AR execution that complemented a larger St. Patrick’s day campaign earlier this year.

What Unity had to say

Chad Taylor, one of Childish Gambino’s managers, and Brittany Edmond, Sr. Tech Product Marketing Manager for Platforms at Unity, hosted a session about the making of PHAROS AR. They discussed the story behind the creation of the app, how AR can build strong communities of superfans without alienating the rest of the audience, and how brands can bridge the gap between AR as novelty and as an impactful utility in today’s hyper-connected, overly-saturated market.

One of the reasons Childish Gambino and team chose to create a mobile AR app was because they wanted to extend the Pharos mini-musical festival they hosted in New Zealand. They wanted to create a “moment” for fans that they could experience anywhere they opened the app. They chose to use AR to “scale” the experience. 

One of the biggest concerns from brands and agencies about incorporating AR into their marketing experiences is scale. They’re concerned the experiences won’t scale. The reality is, one billion devices are mobile AR-enabled, and this number is expected to grow to over three billion in the next four years. People interact with AR with Snapchat, not even realizing that it’s AR. Scale is a reason to use mobile AR as part of your marketing campaigns, not a reason to avoid it!

Members of the Unity team also participated in panels held throughout the festival. 

Timoni West, Director of XR Research, spoke on a panel at Facebook’s beach titled “Creativity in the Age of Conversation.” Other panelists represented brands and messenger marketing companies. They considered how innovations in technology facilitate new mediums of conversation. Timoni painted a compelling picture of a potential future where AR is ubiquitous, and the stories brands can tell are richer and more interactive, and unique to these mediums that truly isn’t possible in another form.  

Tony Parisi, Global Head of AR/VR Ad Innovation, spoke on a panel led by Microsoft titled “Innovation in the Agency of the Future.” Tony and panelists answered questions about the current realities surrounding the immersive collaboration that 3D platforms afford. 

We also co-hosted a beachside chat with LoopMe. Agatha Hood, Head of Global Advertising Sales at Unity, Stephen Upstone, CEO and founder of LoopMe, and Iain Jacob, former CEO of Publicis Media EMEA, discussed how to drive ROI with creativity and artificial intelligence (AI).

Our latest news

In case you missed it, we made several exciting announcements at Cannes.

Add features powered by Unity directly into native mobile apps

Unity as a library is a tremendous advantage for various use cases across industries, and now brands and creative agencies can easily insert AR directly into their native mobile apps.

Cutting-edge brands see the value in adding AR to their traditional marketing campaigns. Unity support for Unity as a library streamlines the process. Brands and creative agencies no longer have to rebuild their app to insert AR or hack together a solution to use Unity as a library.

AR in your ads doesn’t need to intimidate your audience

AR ad units present an unprecedented opportunity to connect with consumers, but serving the ad to the user may still have friction. Apps need to request permission to access a camera, which may unsettle some users. Responsive AR ads give more control to the user, allowing them to choose to interact with richer content. 

With Responsive AR ads, marketing content begins as a 3D-rendered ad unit. After a brief period of familiarization, it gives users the option to enhance their experience by using AR. Since the ad is interactive no matter what the user chooses, brands can design with purpose and avoid using fallback creative.

Example Responsive AR ad user flow

Creatives are optimistic about AR in marketing

Ahead of the festival, we surveyed 1000 creatives within advertising and marketing to understand their thoughts on AR, ranging from client demand, willingness to include AR within campaigns, technical competency, pain points, and overall enthusiasm. 

The biggest challenges surrounding AR in marketing are technical and financial. However, consumer demand is clearly ready for AR, with 62% of creatives seeing an increased client demand for advertising. 

Both consumers and marketers are hungry for AR content. Marketers are eager to implement AR, 56% stating they were likely or very likely to consider an AR campaign in the next 12 months – but they want to do so in a way that is smart, ROI positive, and meaningful to their audience.

Making AR more accessible

Unity will remain focused on making AR easier to implement, providing the tools to create, reach, and captivate. And we’re looking forward to seeing all of the different ways creators, innovators, developers, marketers, brands, agencies, and storytellers will captivate their audience.


To learn more about how brands and agencies are using Unity, check out our solutions page.

July 9, 2019 in Industry | 8 min. read

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