Palm trees sway in a warm breeze, music pumps from the white-sand beach, and the rosé is flowing.
Cannes Lions is the industry event of the year — but that doesn’t mean it’s always representative of the industry. Huge organisations and agencies dominate the resort town, and there’s money in the air. While well-known figures enjoy cocktails on the terrace, young creatives are on the hunt for the places offering a free lunch.
Rehab jumped at the opportunity to attend. If you haven’t been, you want to go. While that was true for us, we were excited to be going there with a real purpose.
Having competed against over 50 agencies for a place, a five-strong team from our London-based creative technology agency was there to take part in the Change for Good Hackathon for Earth Day Network.
We arrived with excitement and anticipation, and to our pure delight, we left with our very own Gold Cannes Lion.
The week-long Hackathon set out to tackle environmental issues such as air and water quality, biodiversity and plastic waste. Under immense time pressure, and with the guidance of experts from the likes of Amazon, Huge, NASA and more, we developed a concept that uses photos as a measure of air quality.
An estimated 14 trillion photos are taken every year. Based on this, and a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information which found that photographs can be used to identify air pollution, we are able to leverage the tech people already use to share valuable data with Earth Challenge 2020.
Amongst others, a key factor in our success was the low barrier of entry for anyone, anywhere. The minimum input required is a WhatsApp message. Everyone takes photos — everyone can contribute.
The graft for gold was gruelling, but we’re not ones to shy away from hard work. At Rehab, we hold regular hack weeks and work in sprints as part of our process. We know that the power of getting the right people in a room together can’t be underestimated.
Egos aren’t a fast-track to first place — it’s about chemistry, trust and giving it all you’ve got.
And we certainly did that.
For most, the idea of spending five days (and nights) in a windowless room with your colleagues isn’t advisable, but it worked for us. From reliving our student days by sharing pesto pasta at the dining table, to turning every car journey into a group karaoke session, there wasn’t a dull moment.
As an independent agency, we are more family than colleagues. From start to finish, we worked together, and insisted on presenting our winning pitch as a team. Taking first place against global networks, with the opportunity to make a big difference, is the stuff of dreams.
Yet one of the best moments in Cannes actually came from home. The words of support coming from the rest of the team in London kept us going throughout the process, but the reaction when we won was on another level. It could’ve been mistaken for a winning goal in a World Cup final.
We’ve never felt luckier.
Being part of Cannes Lions taught us a lot. Above all, we’ve learned that with talent, drive, and total trust in our process, we can create great work that has a positive impact in the world.