The Digital Craft Lions Grand Prix winner: a case study

How a piece of work from Norway that "confused the jury in the most interesting way" highlights the way that the Cannes Lions Awards help surface and amplify the world's best examples of applied creativity.
Virtue Copenhagen’s ‘AdDress The Future’ for Norwegian clothing brand Carlings picked up the Grand Prix for Digital Craft in 2019. On stage, the Digital Craft Jury President and Founding Partner at I&Co, Rei Inamoto, called it "the most intellectually stimulating piece of work in the entire category". In this case study, we dive into the story behind the work and explore why many who judged it believed it was a great example of a Cannes Lions winner.
Digital Craft Lions President Rei Inamoto (right) presents the Grand Prix to Virtue Copenhagen

The Lions exists as a creative benchmark for this industry that can make others evaluate their own work in a new light. They work that wins serves to highlight emerging trends and to spark conversations. And because companies enter from all around the world, the winners also provide a chance for people to see work from outside their own territory that they might otherwise have missed. Finally, it's good to remember that Cannes Lions honours 'applied creativity', so the work that win will often also demonstrate exactly how bold ideas can deliver incredible business results.

In 2019, one campaign emerged as a perfect example of everything the Lions are built to celebrate: ‘AdDress The Future’ by Virtue Copenhagen. The work was created in response to a brief from Norwegian retail brand Carlings, as the firm prepared to open their first online shop. They wanted an idea that would create traffic and build market share for an new platform in an ocean of e-commerce rivals.

"It was magical, memorable and groundbreaking"
Rei Inamoto, Founding Partner, I&Co
The case study for 'AdDress The Future' explains how the brand built a digital-only clothing collection
The agency’s solution was bold and innovative. They decided to re-imagine the idea of an online shop completely. In the words of the Virtue "moving the category from being 10 years behind [the tech curve], to be 10 years ahead of its time". To do this, they leveraged mobile photo meta-data to create a digital collection of clothes that customers could purchase online. Customers could then have these items customised by a digital tailor so the could be used by people across social media. And because all the clothes were digital, the collection had a very low impact on the environment.

On stage as he revealed the piece as a Grand Prix winner, Digital Craft Lions Jury President Rei Inamoto told the audience that ‘AdDress The Future’ had sparked a lively debate during judging. In fact, he said that it was perhaps “the most intellectually stimulating” discussion he’d ever been part of in a jury room. For him, this debate happened because "the work confused the jury in the most interesting way". And Rei is certainly someone who has enough experience in the Cannes Lions judging rooms to recognise when something stands out for a jury. A designer by trade, Rei spent many years leading growth at AKQA before leaving to found I&CO. He's been a regular judge at Cannes Lions, serving as the Mobile Lions Jury President in 2013 before being named the Digital Craft Lions President in 2019.

"Why is it brilliant? It's not immediately obvious. It's gradually obvious... Yes it's for a specific audience, but the ambition this piece has is by far the biggest out of the winners we had."
Rei Inamoto, Founding Partner, I&Co
Rei Inamoto shares why his jury decided to award 'AdDress The Future' the Digital Craft Lions Grand Prix

Asking big questions of our industry

Later in the week, Digital Craft Lions Jury member Christian Waitzinger, Vice President and Executive Creative Director at Publicis Sapient, provided a little more detail around the debate. He explained that the piece forced the jury to ask themselves big questions about the relationship between the physical and the digital world.

Christian Waitzinger thought that the piece raised interesting questions about digital identities

For him, the work highlighted a new trend in how the attitudes of Generation Z consumers is already starting to have a profound impact on the way retail functions both on- and offline. The work prompted Christian and the jury to ask where this tension between the physical and the digital will end. “The fact that you still had to pay for the crafting” was interesting for the jury, and suggested that this piece was simply “the beginning of something… as it relates to our digital identity”.

"This is a generation we're just getting to know as marketers, and this kind of work is the wave of the future."
Krystle Mullin, Creative Director, RPA
Over on the Mobile Lions Jury, Krystal Mullin, Creative Director at RPA, told us that they’d had a very similar discussions about how the piece pointed to new ways to engage consumers from Generation Z. In her Inside The Jury Room talk at the Festival, Mullin picked out the work as being something that Generation Z have a much more “contextual” sense of identity than the generations that have gone before them. Because they “want to change based on who is seeing them”, the piece resonated with them far more than it might have with older people around the world. As a result, Mullin said that her jury’s first reaction to the piece was that it was “bonkers” but this changed as they dug into its cultural context. By the end of judging, they’d come to see that work like this is exactly “the way we’re going to connect with the younger generation”. 
Krystle Mullin admitted that her first reaction to the piece was to shake her head in disbelief
Interestingly, Digital Craft Jury member Valentina Culatti, Head of Creative Shop, Northern Europe, Facebook Creative Shop, had a different take on the piece. She told us that while she wasn't 100% convinced that the actual craft behind the work was faultless, the work rose to the top of the pile because it so perfectly captured the essence of great marketing in 2019. For her it was a "strong contender for what the industry should push forward" because it explored issues around social media, digital identities and finally sustainability in a single well executed piece. 
For Valentina Culatti, the piece was grounded in 2019 but pointed to the future.
"It makes a commentary about two fundamental and profound issues we face: wasteful consumption and the environmental crisis."
Rei Inamoto, Founding Partner, I&Co
Finally, we come back to the Digital Craft Lions Jury President. Rei pointed out as he prepared to award the piece that it came from a relatively small brand in a relatively small country and this highlighted exactly why the Lions are a brilliant benchmark for creative excellence. He told the audience that Cannes Lions should always be about “discovering and uncovering the untold history” of the wold through communications.
"This is where inspiration begins and hopefully [work like this] becomes a positive fuel for the world."
Rei Inamoto, Founding Partner, I&Co