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Cannes Lions

Huge and Amazon Hack Cannes

Hyper-collaboration shows a different side of Cannes Lions and an AI bodyguard emerges as the winner in the Palais hackathon

Huge and Amazon Hack Cannes

Platform hacking was one of the big themes of Cannes Lions 2018 in terms of the work shown and discussed – but Huge and their partners at Amazon and Global Citizen demonstrated the concept in particularly meta style last week by hacking the festival itself.

They brought teams together from across the world and across holding companies to participate in a 48 hour hackathon at the Palais. They were tasked by using the hackathon to come up with solutions to social and environmental problems using technology such as Amazon’s Alexa.

It was Amazon’s most pro-active presence at the Palais to date and for the team at Huge it was a chance to share their ideas and methodologies around rapid prototyping and collaboration. Their ambition is that of the concepts devised and created this week, some might end up in the running for a Lion or two next year. And for Cannes Lions, which has come under fire over the past year with questions about the true value of the festival, it was a chance to display the show’s more productive potential.

“Something you don’t see at Cannes is 35 attendees bright-eyed and ready to make a difference,” says Huge CCO Jason Musante, surrounded by teams of intent and active makers from across the industry. And he’s right, there’s not a whiff of a Gutter Bar hangover among the teams, who are tackling topics as diverse as teen mental health and water pollution. 

The format of the 48 hour hackathon sees the teams follow Huge’s hack methodology, something that they’ve evolved internally. However, with teams coming from Grey New York, McCann Worldgroup Europe, 360i, Dentsu Jayme Syfu, Mobiquity, Xandra Inc. and Connected Lab, the team are not concerned about keeping their approach secret.

“It’s really step-by-step. It’s a way we’ve found, this methodology, and we’ve perfected it – but we’re not precious about it,” says Sophie Kleber, Huge Director of Product and Innovation. As she points out, the foundations of ‘design thinking’ are 70 years old, and while it has stood the creative industries in good stead across the 20th century, the ever-changing environment of the 21st century requires an approach that’s fit for purpose.

“We think the future is hyper-collaboration,” adds Jason Musante.

On the afternoon I visit, I get to see the hack in action, as the teams from Huge and Amazon share their guidance and test and question concepts as they develop. The team from Grey are figuring out how to build an Alexa skill to help stressed out young people.


According to Huge’s Chief Design Officer Derek Fridman, he’s there to help probe, question and support the competing teams – but it’s up to them to choose what they want to listen to.

“It’s really easy for teams to focus on one thing, but we’re encouraging them to zoom out. In 48 hours they’re going to be thinking about something that works for now, but we want them to think about how it will work in the future,” he says.

After a gruelling 48 hours, it was the team at Dentsu who emerged victors. Their ‘Walk With Me’ innovation is an AI bodyguard that helps people walking home at night stay safe. It uses data to suggest safe routes and can intervene when danger erupts, taking action such as switching on the user’s phone camera. But, in reality, all of the participants were winners and each went home with a workable prototype with the potential to be further refined and put out into the work.

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