Public Social Experiments Abound in Cannes This Week

Cannes, France– It wouldn’t be a proper festival without a few spectacles now, would it?

For the 57th return of Cannes Lions, a number of agencies have built real-time games and social media experiments designed to distract, amuse, and possibly even be of use to ad creatives as they make their way around the city this week.

marcopolo-front2-01.jpg SapientNitro: “Marco Polo”

SapientNitro has conceived a utility – or is it a game? – that lets attendees broadcast their whereabouts and get tips about what’s happening nearby. In the process they’ll hunt down a mysterious character and compete to win an iPad.

Those who want in must first follow @SapientNitro on Twitter and enable “locations” on their account. They can then tweet an @reply greeting or photo to that account with the #marco hashtag, which will communicate their location and desire for information to the agency’s Twitter bot.

In reply they’ll receive a link with the #polo” hashtag and a map of nearby “hotspots,” some pre-selected by SapientNitro and others based on buzz and human density in the area.

In the tradition of other location-based tools (Foursquare, Dodgeball), the agency has named its Cannes experience after a classic children’s game – and indeed a gaming element is a central component of the Marco Polo service.

The agency will deploy an elusive persona, the mustachioed “Marco” (a SapientNitro staffer or combination of staffers), who will wander around town. Participants who pass close to him will receive a direct message telling them how far away he is. Others playing the game will also be able to see his whereabouts, which could set off an interesting chase on the streets of Cannes.

Why did SapientNitro opt to use Twitter as the platform for its “Marco Polo” experiment, as opposed to hot geo-location platform Foursquare? Head of social marketing Nathaniel Perez said the agency surveyed Foursquare’s adoption in and around Cannes and found little activity. A bigger factor was Twitter’s substantial reach and familiarity.

“People are very comfortable with Twitter already,” he said. “There’s a million users on Foursquare – not a lot – whereas Twitter is extremely viral because of its openness.”

On Friday, SapientNitro will host a session to talk about the game and give iPads to a handful of participants who managed to catch “Marco.”

davidondemand.jpg Leo Burnett: “David on Demand”

In a case of Justin.TV meets fraternity hazing, Leo Burnett recruiter David Perez has shipped off to Cannes with orders to, well, take orders. The “David on Demand” experiment kicks off today, when Perez dons a pair of webcam equipped glasses and begins live streaming his experience at The social aspect comes into play on Twitter, where Perez will obey the whims of his followers. Whether you want to make Perez streak during Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Wednesday session or just tell him to eat a Croque-Monsieur on Le Croissette, place your order through @davidondemand.

The project was created by Leo Burnett and Arc Worldwide with help from, Tool, LiveU and Optimus.

Hill & Knowlton: Improv Everywhere

Charlie Todd, the founder of prank comedy troupe Improv Everywhere, will make an appearance at Cannes this year in a session led by Hill & Knowlton. Details are sparse, but whatever they have planned will culminate in a “live group action” on the streets of Cannes.

Improv Everywhere is behind such recent stunts as the public reenactment of the iconic library scene from “Ghostbusters,” the tormenting of Best Buy employees, and a series of pantsless group subway rides.

Porter Novelli: Cannes Buzz Reports

Finally, in conjunction with video content and ad startup Mofilm, Porter Novelli is hosting a “social media hub” at the Palais des Festivals where the agency will analyze and publish online buzz coming out of Cannes. You can track festival buzz on Porter Novelli’s Twitter account or by following the hashtag #pncannes.

Speaking of hashtags, Twitter’s now-familiar conversation-flagging protocol is already proving to be a big phenomenon this year. In addition to Porter Novelli’s #pncannes and SapientNitro’s #marco hashtags, the Cyber Lions jury has for days engaged in a lively twitter discussion using the tag #cyberjury. Other examples include #askBenandJeff, for questions directed to Jeff Goodby and Ben Stiller during one of the week’s celebrity sessions, and of course festival-wide catch-all, #CannesLions.

Follow Zachary Rodgers on Twitter at @zachrodgers.


Follow Zachary Rodgers on Twitter at @zachrodgers.

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