Cannes Lions rewards digital craft in 2016
A view from Wesley ter Haar

Cannes Lions rewards digital craft in 2016

The MediaMonks co-founder has been picked as president of the first Digital Craft jury for Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. He explains what the new category means for the industry

So here we are, with a new Cannes Category to celebrate the artistry of digital craft. What does it mean for our industry and what does it say about 2016 in general. As someone who has just celebrated a 15-year anniversary of toiling in the trenches of digital production it’s taking considerable restraint not shriek, "Finally!" and run off to celebrate with some drone-infused, Snapchat-enabled piece of tech trickery.

But I won’t, because there is considerably more going on here than digital production following in the well-worn footsteps of our film friends. Celebrating work purely for its craft, instead of judging it only as intrinsically tied to the creative concept, can be a hot-button topic for Cannes. And rightfully so, but in digital more than any other medium (except, maybe VR*), a great idea badly executed becomes a bad idea. Automatically.

Great ideas simply don’t survive bad user experiences. There are a million micro moments that can mess up a message in digital, and a million more reasons to browse elsewhere, instantly.

That is one of the reasons digital craft matters, but as digital quickly becomes the de facto interface (quite literally) between brands and people there is more at stake. It’s the production craft, from form to function, and how we use content, data and technology, that helps turn viewers into fans, clicks into customers and browsing into buying.

And this is not to say we won’t be celebrating and honoring ridiculous feats of creative digital production, high-wire balancing acts between creative and technology, purely produced to engage and entertain. We will, and we should. It’s the reason most of us that make the balancing act happen started out. To do something that pushes the possible, saying yes to "firsts" and "never been done befores" with glee and abandon.

But beyond that flurry of fun is the functionality. And for anyone that has been on the Cyber or Mobile juries these past few years, this answers that recurring and ever-more relevant question. What do we do with great, industry defining, brand building, market moving digital work that does not rely on a big idea.

What do we do with the perfect execution of digital strategy, user experience, digital design, and development that many agencies and brands are bringing to market — Ideas that we historically might not define as big but are clearly having a huge impact on brands and business?

Well, the answer is here. We reward them. We reward them so brands understand the value of great user experiences, and great digital design work. We reward them so creative agencies can regain a seat at the table that has slowly been lost to IT and consultants. We reward them so we can talk, as an industry, about the added value of combining creativity and craft with the reality that every single industry we work for is on the verge or in the midst of a digital transformation or possible extinction. We know creativity matters for business, I look forward to the same being said about UX, digital design and development.

So here’s to a sunny and serious week in June, I look forward to the bar our jury sets for the category, and the work we’ll get to judge. The definition of a Big Idea just got bigger.

*Queue endless discussion if VR is film or digital. Or both.

Wesley ter Haar is the co-founder of MediaMonks.