Cannes Lions 2017: Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg & Airbnb's Jonathan Mildenhall reveal how they push creativity on mobile

In conversation with Colleen DeCourcy, Global Chief Creative Officer of Wieden & Kennedy, Sandberg and Mildenhall share how the shift to mobile has changed the services their brands provide

e4m by Srabana Lahiri
Updated: Jun 23, 2017 6:03 PM
Cannes Lions 2017: Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg & Airbnb's Jonathan Mildenhall reveal how they push creativity on mobile

How brands can boldly push the limits of creative work in a mobile era – that was the topic of a conversation that Colleen DeCourcy, Global Chief Creative Officer of Wieden & Kennedy had with Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and Jonathan Mildenhall, Chief Marketing Officer of Airbnb at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2017 on Wednesday. At the centre of the conversation were three keywords – community, creativity and mobile. Here are some edited excerpts from the conversation:

Colleen DeCourcy: Let’s start with brand mission. At Cannes, there are brands that are constantly testing themselves to deliver for the larger picture. So the question to you is, what is your mission?

Sheryl Sandberg: Our mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and accepting. But despite the challenges we have of terrorism, polarization we are still a world of individuals and we do have the power to connect and care about each other. So that is what we do. That is our mission.

Jonathan Mildenhall: Airbnb is on a very important mission of making people feel a sense of belonging everywhere they go.

DeCourcy: Can you give examples of how that sense of community helps in translating into business?

Mildenhall: We are absolutely nothing without our community. We use technology to connect people offline in their homes or increasingly with their passions. Just last year, we moved from being a conventional business to an experiential business. So if you have a passion, we can connect you to a host with a similar passion and that host can make money through the Airbnb platform. Without our community, there is no Airbnb and no brand at all.

DeCourcy: Jonathan, how has the shift from desktop to mobile changed the service you provide?

Mildenhall: Last November, when we launched ‘Trips’ we were changing the narrative to the Airbnb experience you can have outside the home. A young team came to me and said what they would like to do within a 24-hour period is document six such experiences in different locations all around the world. They were going to be captured on mobile using Facebook’s new technology, ‘Facebook Live’ and it will be almost instantaneously edited and the users of these experiences would be able to drive these experiences. Initially, I was reluctant to go ahead but was later convinced to try out the new mobile plan. To my amazement, there were six million participants in our story within the course of 24 hours. Mobile has created the opportunity for real life experiences to be shared all over the world.

DeCourcy: Jonathan, how do you think brands should embrace the new short and medium forms of video?

Mildenhall: It’s very important to optimize the platform and by that I mean user generated video can engage up to six times more impactfully on social media channels than advertising video. We launched our global ‘Live There’ campaign and it was incredibly successful and received a Gold Effie. What’s even more interesting is that the advertising we developed for other forms of media didn’t do quite as well as our user-generated content for social media. The job for brands is to link in what communities create and then curate that and then put their message behind that so that the narrative of the brand is twofold. I would encourage everyone to be really conscious of what you’re creating and what you’re curating and finally how you’re going to amplify what you’ve curated for social media.

DeCourcy: So part of what the brand is bringing is the amplification and exploration...And now you’re moving to be a more holistic travel company and the shift to experiential. So what does it mean in terms of shift in your creative product?

Mildenhall: We want to inspire people to use that piece of technology in their pockets to be their most creative and expressive self. It means ‘letting-go of the perfect brand narrative’ and surprising yourself with the imperfections of a brand narrative.

Sandberg: That explains the leadership gap we have owing to our perception of performance gaps. In this community, we have the opportunity to change that formation of a glass line here where odds can change the stereotypes. An average person sees thousands of ads per day. So if we change the marketing messages and we start marketing against sexism into equality, it delivers great results.     

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