First published in Retail Week 19th June 2013

This week sees Adland decamping to Cote D’Azur, for the Cannes Lions Festival.

The event is perceived to be full of media types, sipping chilled rosé – and of course there’s an element of truth there. But there’s some outstanding work which is of interest to retailers too, and the shopper ante at the festival has upped to the extent that some of the showcased campaigns are helping to re-define retail, certainly in the two years since the festival shifted its focus from pure advertising to creativity.

Proof of this, if it were needed, Tesco Home Plus’ virtual store in a South Korean Subway which won a Lions Grand Prix in 2011 and has since been copied by retailers all over the world, to name just one initiative.

Expectations have been growing since then and indeed were high when Rob Schwartz, global creative president of TBWA and jury president of Promo & Activation, started his speech at the award show with the words: “The father of the category is buy-one-get-one-free, and the mother is a limited offer.”

It’s early days at the festival. There’s little of note certainly in the Promo & Activation category.

One Silver Lion winner that is worth a call out to the retail community is Sweden’s Malmo Hardware,  which showed how small high street retailers might compete with big box DIY.

Malmo Hardware identified that its core sales were in project supplies not power tools, so it started a ‘Tool Pool’. People could join through Facebook and when they booked a tool it appeared on their timeline. Then when they came in to pick up the tools they bought supplies. Simple, but effective, and worth checking out at http://www.facebook.com/toolpoolmalmo.

Other retailers that won in Promo & Activation were Kmart and 7-Eleven. 

Kmart launched a new in-store e-service to overcome out of stocks with a rather amusingly written film called ‘Ship my Pants’.  No surprise that it went viral very quickly, but the joke was only good enough to win them a Bronze Lion. 

The 7-Election, from 7-Eleven was an idea bold enough to bring politics in store and ask American shoppers to chose a red or blue cup for their coffee. Perhaps the judges felt this was a little too easy in a two party country and a bronze award was all it deserved. UK retailers may wish to think hard before running a similar programme in this democracy.

As I said however, it’s early days yet and my attention is firmly focused on the forthcoming categories for evidence of some stellar work in retail. The technology and mobile categories look most exciting, with highlights featuring Korean retailer Emart and fast-food supremo MacDonald’s.

Emart has found a fun way to help shoppers locate the best deals in store with its Smart Sale Navigation, while MacDonald’s Track my Macca’s’ app tackles the tricky retail issue of chain custody – by using image recognition and location services to enable customers to understand where the food they’re eating in that particular store came from.

Shop windows seem to be where the action is too, with Adidas’ Neo Shop Window on the shortlist which enables a store to sell when it’s closed. We are now starting to see this technology everywhere, and it’s a no-brainer:  it extends opening hours, but just as importantly it can showcase an entire retailer’s inventory when floor space is limited.

Meanwhile, United Arrows Green label claims to have the world’s first interactive mannequins. The MarionetteBot mimics the movement of people on the street and had people queuing to enjoy the experience. Let’s hope it also takes them in-store to buy.

What is evident at Cannes is that retailers, just as much as brands, are leading the charge when it comes to integrated campaigns that engage consumers with cutting edge, but accessible, technology to engage shoppers in all sorts of relevant and useful ways. As you’ll see on Cheil’s daily update – Ideas that move shoppers – as a collective under that banner, it’s really quite inspirational. I’m looking forward to the next few days.

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