Top ten ways social media is teaching us to be human again

This week I spoke at the Cannes International Advertising Festival and one of the things I stressed in my  social media seminar was the fact that “Technology is teaching us to be human again’. The two winners of the Cannes Cyber Grand Prix – the Nike/Livestrong Chalkbot campaign and the VW ‘Fun Theory’ fun campaign – demonstrate the truth of this.

What these two pieces share is the use of technology to connect emotionally with what it means to be human. For its part, the Nike’s Chalkbot enabled cancer sufferers and their family members to send short, heartfelt messages (like the one above) and have them spray painted in chalk on the road in front of the cyclists. What’s more, everyone who contributed a message received back from the brand with a photograph of their message painted on the road.

The power of this exchange cannot be overstated. Here’s why:

1. IT’S PERSONAL: It enabled the very personal (and therefore ultimately universal) emotions of individuals to meet the sweat equity of the athletes head on. That’s a very powerful combination of heart and body in service of the cause and brand.

2. IT’S GIVING: The campaign benefited from free worldwide media exposure directed at the Tour de France that led to donations towards the cause and emotional comfort to other families and individuals touched by cancer.

3. IT’S DIALOGUE: The fact the brand replied to the contributor with a photograph of their message demonstrated that Nike was truly sensitive to their emotions and not merely leveraging them for their own benefit.

4. IT’S CELEBRATORY: The exchange not only demonstrated a true dialogue between brands and consumers, but it shows how a brand can successfully represent itself by amplifying the voice of its community.

5. IT’S DIRECT: Often brands try too hard to find ways to connect with their community. Yet this approach was so simple and recognized that what connects us is not technology but heart. Technology was put in the service of that truth.

The second winner was the VW ‘Fun Theory’ campaign in which interactive sound effects were added to physical environments to encourage healthier behaviors. This too serves as a guide to the many ways technology is allowing us to connect to our shared humanity again.

6. IT’S POSITIVE: The ambition of this campaign was to change behavior for the the better of the people involved. That’s no small task yet it showed what can be achieved when you bring creativity to change.

7. IT’S FUN: Too often brands take themselves too seriously, ignoring the fact that people like to reveal the lighter side of themselves.

8. IT’S UNIVERSAL: The fact that the most popular stunt in the series has been viewed over 12 million times on YouTubes demonstrate how much we have in common.

9. IT’S SIMPLE: Like the Nike Chalkbot work above, this campaign is strikingly simple. Yet for a brand to embrace this idea and execute it, they must recognize the importance of simplicity, human connection and technology in the services of universal values.

10. IT’S UNPREDICTABLE: No one could know what people would do on the musical stairs (below). No one could predict the exact words a daughter would write to her father suffering from cancer for the Nike Chalkbot. There’s inherent risk here and powerful trust in human creativity, honesty and spontaneity.

The fact that these two campaigns were so highly awarded at Cannes bodes well for the traditional advertising industry and proponents of social media. It show creatives working with technologists to foster connection through two polar opposite but equally fundamental emotions – grief and joy. As such these two campaigns are a master class in effective advertising and social media and Nike, VW and the Cannes International Advertising Festival deserve all the credit.

What do you think of the two campaigns? What other campaigns have you seen that connected so emotionally?