Cannes-thumbnailThe Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is the Oscars for ad professionals. The seven-day event features celebrity speakers, training seminars, and, of course, plenty of awards.

This year the festival is celebrating its 60th year and a record 35,765 entries were submitted from 92 countries.

With mobile, design and branded content in the mix, out-of-home advertising may not be the most buzzworthy category at Cannes. But based on the winners of this year’s outdoor and innovation categories it’s clear that outdoor advertising is as relevant as ever.

We look at three of the big winners so far to see how creative marketers are using a mix of digital and physical technology to make out-of-home advertising more interactive.

The winners of the Outdoor category celebrate on stage at Cannes Lions. Image via www.canneslions.com.

IBM and Ogilvy Mather France team members celebrate their win in the Outdoor category. Image via www.canneslions.com.

Cinder

This year Cannes Lions introduced a new prize, Innovation, which is awarded to an exceptionally, well, innovative technology (platform, app, software, or program).

The Grand Prix winner of the new category was Cinder, a software and development platform that is particularly useful for digital out-of-home advertising.

Cinder was first developed by digital agency The Barbarian Group for Apple’s iTunes visualizer to generate images and shapes from sound.

Now Cinder is an open source technology used by developers around the world, including out-of-home advertisers who use it to generate images from movement or touch.

Judges on the Cannes Lions panel said that Cinder earned the top prize because it was used in more than 20 entries at Cannes this year.

UTEC Potable Water Generator

Cinder is used to make ads responsive. The Potable Water Generator, which won Gold in the outdoor category, is generative; it’s a billboard that produces drinking water (literally) out of air.

UTEC, the University of Engineering and Technology in Lima, Peru, with the help of Mayo Draftfcb, came up with an ad that would exemplify the school’s ingenuity and attract the attention of potential engineering students.

In Peru there is a shortage of potable water, very little rain, and high atmospheric humidity (around 98 percent), so UTEC and Mayo Draftfcb engineered a billboard that captures the air humidity and turns it into drinking water.

The billboard generated a month’s supply of drinkable water for hundreds of local families. The campaign also helped increase UTEC applicants by 28 percent.

Smarter Cities

While digital out-of-home is all the rage in the OOH industry, the Grand Prix in the outdoor category went to a campaign that took a decidedly physical approach.

IBM, in collaboration with Ogilvy and Mather France, created functional ads that doubled as urban furniture.

As part of its Smarter Cities campaign, IBM looked at the urban landscape in London and Paris and identified a need for more bus shelters, benches and ramps.

By playing with the shape of their ads, they made them 3-D. But not 3-D like Avatar, 3-D as in shelters, benches and ramps. Commuters can use the ads to sit down, stay out of the rain, or push a stroller up a few steps.

The ads are simple, practical and go to show that interactive advertising doesn’t have to mean digital.