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Brief Published: 25 Jun 2013

Cannes Lions: Happy Hacking


“Happy hacking”, a spontaneous form of co-creation, is opening up new possibilities for advertising, according to senior executives at global communications network Dentsu, speaking at the Cannes Lions festival. 

“Hacking used to be an intimidating term… but its meaning has evolved,” explained Naoko Katayama, executive planning director of Dentsu Holdings USA. “Hacking is nothing more than the sharing of joy.”

Platforms that allow people to join forces and transform branded content into individual stories will produce “more engaging” advertising campaigns, said Katayama. “The value in happy hacking is that you are creating a shared experience for consumers, so that they can engage with the brand,” added Elise Mitchell, chief executive of the Dentsu Public Relations Network.

The panel shared two examples of major clients “hacking with consumers”, including the Connecting Lifelines project by Japanese carmaker Honda. The project – launched in response to the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 – used Honda’s Internavi navigation system to identify roads that remained intact, based on 3G traffic analysis. In so doing, the project hacked driver data to benefit the wider public.

Giving too much control to consumers is a worry for brands. “Neither the client nor the agency knows what is going to be the result [of hacking],” noted Mitchell. The challenge for advertising agencies is to facilitate and guide the hacking process. “Whatever consumers do, the campaign and outcome have to add value to the brand experience,” said Katayama.

The seminar ended with a striking performance by Japanese techno-pop group Perfume that captured the idea of “happy hacking”. Prior to the performance, the band freely distributed music and motion-capture data online, enabling fans to programme new dances and have creative input on the band’s choreography and visuals.

For more on how brands, individuals and even cities are pursuing hacking to spark positive change, see the Stylus profile of New York-based digital strategist Josh Klein. Similarly, Data-Crunching, part of the Thinking Digitally Industry Trend, explores how brands might collate consumer data to deliver compelling and relevant marketing stories.

Cannes Lions ran from June 16-22 in France. Look out for more detailed coverage of this year’s event coming soon from Stylus. 

Cannes Lions