The Design Thinking Behind This Year’s Cannes Lions

Photo credits: The Inspiration Room


       Design Thinking signs have started to appear behind the Cannes Lions creatives this year resulting into some human centered, life improving, problem solving  works. Unlike the general creative thinking that in advertising gets to spark from the brand’s universe, product's features, consumer’s culture or cultural artifacts, the Design Thinking inspiration will always spring from the core of a human approach in order to solve an existing problem, to seize an opportunity or both (see HBR ‘s report). This is the type of Design Thinking inspiration which is most likely to lead to innovations such as: category shift, opening up of new markets, market growth, NPDs (see OECD’s The Oslo Manual page 49)  and more importantly, improving people’s lives by bringing leaps of progress upon us.

       Here are some of the creative works from this year’s Cannes Lions Advertising Festival in which (deliberately or not) Design Thinking played an important role through: Opening up new markets by turning a traditional product with a very old fashion audience into an "iconic" one: The Holy Bible. Creating art out of people’s “daily” activities. Designing an artistic anthropological review from the Coat Era to the QR Code days. Or a case study of Value Co–creation and Value in Use : the Pay with a Tweet campaign:

Pay with a Tweet - Case Study - OMG version from Leif on Vimeo.

"What began as a promotion became a whole new way to trade content online” - equals creating value.  However, the most spectacular Design Thinking problems solved this year didn’t come from the Design category, but from categories such: Media, Activation, Direct. As one of the chapters with the highest need to re-invent itself, Media had some of the most meaningful Design Thinking works: Media solving problems and improving people's lives. It's people not news anymore at the heart of good media.  The changing the game and shifting the category type of media. As well as our daily life as the media.

Photo credits: Coloribus

        Two trends have been unanimously spotted at the festival this year:  Technology and “Emerging markets”. Thus a relevant design thinking case study comes from such a country. A case study of national branding through deliberately co-creating the patriotic sentiment.


It’s been long since a brand managed to have an impact on the cultural collective conscience in such an authentic way and really start a national sentiment shift. There’s  still a long way to go for Romania’s rebranding (especially among Romanians), but ROM  was a smart brave step: a case study of national innovation out of Need: a Romanians' need to completely replace the lenses through which their national value perception was being formed). Not for being my childhood chocolate, but ROM has been addressing some of the most important cultural socio-economic hotspots: low national pride, brain drain, declining economic situation. Using reversed psychology in a relevant and funny way by mirroring people’s daily behavior, ROM triggered awareness on all the national values that people were taking for granted. ROM’s design thinking approach has set a precedent for Romanians and for other emerging markets inhabitants facing similar problems.


        Besides this year’s campaigns, here are also the most important Cannes Lions Design Thinking concepts, reinforcing once again the melting boundaries between disciplines with the Design Thinking processes drawing inspiration out of the various experiences of our daily lives:

  • And finally, the core and holistic Design Thinking’s human centered approach in humanizing the web.


As the economy has been transitioning from the industrial era through the services revolution, advertising will hopefully keep shifting from addressing target groups to solving real problems, supporting communities and sustainably improving our lives.

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Customer discovery - would love your thoughts

Started by Nikki. Last reply by Arne van Oosterom Nov 30, 2017. 1 Reply

Human-centered design and service work?

Started by Christopher Federer Oct 12, 2017. 0 Replies

Promoting my book

Started by Aaron A. Palileo Sep 12, 2017. 0 Replies




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