Archive for July, 2023

5 take outs from Cannes this year.

Wednesday, July 26th, 2023
  1. AI

Lots of discussion on the impact of AI on our industry in the broadest sense.  From the optimists who are already experimenting and using AI as if it comes naturally to them, to the pessimists who are worried about the impact on their jobs and on ethics.  There is overlap between the two cohorts of course (optimistic about transformation, anxious about chaos) but once again it feels like the sector is taking sides, as it did over the metaverse, as it originally did over the internet itself.  And there’s the lesson.  Stick it in the “one day in the future” pile, as some organisations did then and you consign yourself to be one of the crew that lose out.  Over invest and you splash cash unnecessarily.  Find the middle path of conscious and careful development and surely there’s the breakthrough.

2. Diversity and purpose mean action.

There’s some outstanding work, and some excellent discussions.  Everyone now is looking for action and outcomes as well as intent.  Author, activist, cultural innovator and founder of, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh on the superb Inkwell beach spoke about the importance of doing something, anything, to help change – explaining that however limited your impact is, it might have the butterfly effect of encouraging one other person, who might open up action in another and create a movement that is unstoppable.  Something that Conde Nast’s Chief Business Officer Deborah Brett  said at “The Female Quotient: Lift As We Climb” panel stayed with me too: “Don’t apologise, everyone is afraid to speak and take a stand, in case you get it wrong.  But you don’t have to apologise all the time, you’re on a journey, everyone is on a journey.  You don’t have to fake it till you make it, because if you are not learning on the job you won’t have a job.”  As EssenceMediacom global creative chief Stef Calcraft puts it too, you have to unlearn, because everything is changing and the old rules don’t apply.  The peerless Aayati Dash (who is 10, and therefore might have been the youngest speaker this year at Cannes), made it clear that her generation are expecting action, and won’t settle for fine words.  I was thrilled to share a panel with her at the World Woman Foundation session on the power of advertising to create an equal future. 

3. Humour

After what seems a while, humour is back at Cannes.  This was however evident more in the bronze and silver Lions wins than in the Golds and Grand Prixs leaving some wondering if humour travels well in such a global competition.  We know that sex sells, and that purpose sells, but so does humour.  So it was great to see some light hearted twists on creativity for instance the chickens with pedometers and Oreo’s restoration of 2011.  The playwright George Bernard Shaw said: “Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.”

4. Relevance Rules

The challenge is clear. Without relevance reach is nice but outcomes lag. In the new communications economy people spend time gaming, shopping online, chatting and socialising as well as with media that can frequently interrupt them ads they don’t want to hear from.  In my 2012 book on marketing, Tell the truth, honesty is your most powerful marketing tool, I dedicated some space to the importance of cutting through by communicating in the right space, at the right time and with the right message.  That if you could find the right moment then focusing effort there with the right message, would transcend simply reaching people at scale in terms of empirical evidence based growth.  Being relevant in this way informed some award winning campaigns that drove real growth for brands in Cannes.  So,  Samsung’s Flipvertising turned the rules of media on their head by persuading the audience to search for their ads instead of chasing after their attention.  Heineken sold beer to people working late in the office by partnering with cleaning firms.  WAOO “killed” for love, getting partners of gamers to nominate them for targets to get them to take a break.

5. Big brands and partnerships

There were significant big brand winners at Cannes this year with real business challenges solved.  Many people were saying this was about time, and good to see.  Dove took the Grand Prix for media with a campaign that everyone was talking positively about, and that tapped into their long-standing purpose agenda and demonstrated real action.  All of the winners required a team to deliver the work.   Rob Reilly, ECD at WPP, stressed the importance of understanding the huge energy that is needed to create work like this, and that the partnership of multiple agencies and clients is crucial and should always be celebrated.  I heard one Creative agency ECD celebrating work on a stage that I know the media agency were instrumental in delivering without crediting them, or any of  the wider team. That’s why I’ve only named brands in this blog, not agencies. For full credits please see the Cannes Lions winners page.   I know it takes a village to win a Lion. I hope we can always acknowledge this in future.