Everyone seems to be raining on Cannes. Not me – an optimistic take on June 2019

Cannes-2019-750x417pxLet’s be positive.

Conrad Hilton said: “Travel bridges cultures and promotes peace in the world”.  Some people are pointing to Cannes this year as a harbinger of doom.  Actually, it was the very opposite.

Whilst it would be oversimplistic to suggest that the ad festival promoted world peace, the general message of the week was more about solutions and realistic situational analysis than it was about problems and existential crisis for a change this year.

Yes, the IPA pointed out that there is a lack of correlation between effectiveness and creative winners.  Yet a strategy panel of CSOs that convened later in the week pointed out that this reflected the nature of the entrants to the Effectiveness Awards rather than a crisis of creativity.  And called for a stepchange in diversity of types of work for the 2020 awards.

The sessions at the Palais ranged far and wide as always with some of my colleagues reporting highlights including calls to dream big, flex business models to be more agile and where appropriate to personalise.  From AR to XR – extended reality enabled by 5G.  There’s much more action (not just talk) on diversity and inclusion.  Undoing stereotypes is long overdue, and the Unstereotype Alliance is now making good ground.  This gives many people reasons to be cheerful.  Berta de Pablos, Mars Wrigley CCO set a refreshing tone of honesty by presenting the results of the Geena Davies institute’s analysis of how their advertising executions were doing.  Better than most, but not enough.  This honesty under the spotlight is inspirational.  She said: “”The best ads take on the responsibility to accurately reflect society. We hope that by releasing some of our findings from the institute, we can encourage the larger industry to prioritise the equitable inclusion and representation of women.”

Back at MediaCom’s suite a session hosted by Matt Mee (Global CSO) was dedicated to optimism.  Matt asked CMOs Janelle Anderson of American Airlines and Kellyn Smith Kenny CMO of Hilton Hotels, if they felt optimistic about anything.  The answer was a resounding yes.  Kellyn, who cited Conrad Hilton’s purpose, said that his pioneering spirit was contagious.  Yes, the sector has been disrupted, but that disruption has inspired the incumbents to new heights.  Janelle pointed out that budget airlines have opened the habit of flying up to many more people, and made the point that positivity was crucial to a business where if anything out of the airline’s control goes wrong (like a bird strike, or the weather), their passengers love to blame them.  However, “if something goes wrong, and our people help through that, and make the customer feel good, then that’s a win for the brand.”

The panel agreed that the role of CMO is to be an engine for growth and to champion healthy brands.  Kellyn said she believed that there had been more innovation in marketing in the past 7 years than in the previous 200, and marketers had never before had better tools for mining insights from data.  When I asked them for tips for navigating all this change they advised: “Get a coalition by your side”.

In light of this optimism the alarming news from the IPA and FT that there’s a big disconnect between the FT’s c-suite readership and any real understanding of how marketing works must be seen as an opportunity for development and education.

Reasons to be cheerful this year at Cannes, even if the path ahead is still very steep and rocky it looks like some light is beginning to dawn.




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