Cannes Lions

Tech-Driven Global Addressing System Wins Innovation Grand Prix at Cannes

What3Words Identifies Any Spot on the Globe

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What3Words, a tech-driven global addressing system that assigns a simple three-word identifier to any spot in the world, nabbed the Innovation Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The technology was created out of the eponymous company co-founded by Chris Sheldrick and Jack Waley-Cohen. It divides the entire globe into 57 trillion three-meter squares and assigns to each of those squares an address created by combining three common words, such as karaoke.novice.doing.

The system is simple and precise. It works in multiple languages and requires just 10 MB of memory, so that it can be used on nearly any device offline without a data connection. It also answers a problem faced by about 75% of the world--approximately 4 billion people don't have reliable street addresses. For developing countries, the technology can help scale microfinancing, expedite water support and humanitarian aid to locations in need. For developed nations, it can help ensure proper package delivery, promote awareness for local businesses and more.

During the Cannes Lions Innovation Press Conference, Jury President Nick Law, who's served on the festival's juries four different times, described this year's entries as "the best body of work I've seen on a jury." The category is unique in that as part of the judging process, the jury hears presentations from the creators of all the shortlisted work. This year, there were 34 in that group and Mr. Law said they comprised a surprising range of ideas: "We had robots, chopsticks and all sorts of crazy shit. The only thing that was missing was the selfie stick. I can't believe someone didn't enter it -- so elegant, simple and it changed the world," he joked.

Controversy or clear winner?
By definition, the Innovations Lions honor "brand-aligned ideas and business solutions" and this year, recognized work in two categories --"Creative Innovation," which honors business solutions associated with a brand or campaign, and "Innovative Technology," which honors standalone tech solutions.

Mr. Law said that in deliberating the Grand Prix, these two categories came into play. "There are two sorts of creative thinking, the more narrative, agency-type thinking and the more systematic, Silicon Valley-type of thinking. There was a lot of work that was more narrative, usually on behalf of brands, but to me, a lot of the conversation was parsing out the differences and the pros and cons from these two worlds." This year, the jury went with an idea representative of the latter systematic type of thinking.

Looking at all the winners, "I almost felt it was a triumph of simplicity over technology," said juror Pete Blackshaw, Nestle Global Head of Digital and Social Media. "Coming from a big company where a lot of thinking goes into ideas, it was quite humbling to see how some of these concepts nailed it."

Outside of the Grand Prix, the jury awarded seven Innovation Lions. The awarded work included the "Life Saving Dot" for Talwar Bindi. Created out of Grey Group Singapore, it allowed Indian women to receive their necessary does of iron through a traditional Bindi forehead adornment. There was also "Baidu Kuaisou," smart chopsticks from Chinese search-engine giant Baidu that will read food and detect signs of contamination on the spot and a smart baby sock created out of R/GA, New York for Owlet, which alerts parents when their infant's heart rate or oxygen levels are out of normal range.

The jury:
R/GA Global CCO Nick Law oversaw a 10-person jury with surprisingly diverse mix of agency, venture capital and brand-side innovation experts. It included Mr. Blackshaw; Alex Gurevich, partner at Javelin Venture Partners Global; Dentsu Japan Creative Technology exec Kana Nakano; Xavi Tribo, head of technology at VFX Firm Glassworks, Barcelona; Ben Cooper, group innovation director at M&C Saatchi, Australia; Frances Ralston-Good, chief strategy and innovation officer at PHD Media U.K.; AKQA U.K. Chief Technology Officer Ben Jones; Iris Worldwide Global Exec Creative Director Shaun McIlrath and Index Ventures Partner Giuseppe Zocco.

What's next?
When Mr. Law was asked what he would recommend for people submitting to the category and for agencies in creating innovative work going forward, he noted, "Cannes has originally been a place for storytellers, and there's still a great romance around narrative thinking. I think what the industry has had a hard time recognizing is that people who come out of digital are creative. It's interesting because they wouldn't think the same thing about an architect, but I think that sort of thinking is analogous to digital thinking. It's important not only that you recognize systematic thinking is creative, but more important is to recognize both styles of thinking as two hemispheres of the brain and when you get them together, then you have something bigger, better and more interesting."

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