Since becoming managing director of Cannes Lions last September, one of the most common questions people ask me is: “What are you going to change at the festival?”
This expectation of radical change surprises me, as one of the constant features of Cannes Lions is the fact that we change all the time. The creative industries we serve are always evolving, and it’s our job to be with them (and sometimes ahead of them) every step of the way.
And 2017 is no different. While there are continuous and subtle adaptations in the way we review and reward some of the best creative thinking of the past 12 months, this year there are also five major thematic movements that represent the growing innovation and diversity in our community.
A new power nation
China is increasingly recognised globally as a hub of creativity and innovation. A technological pioneer, it is a real pathfinder when it comes to incorporating bleeding edge developments such as artificial intelligence and robotics into communications.
Cannes Lions 2017 has recognised China’s influence and expertise with the launch of China Day - a new programme of talks from thought leaders and practitioners from this exciting part of the world. China Day is for all delegates, no matter where they’re from in the world, and all talks come with simultaneous translation.
To help get the full flavour of how the nation’s culture informs its commercial output, there will be insight from talent across China’s music, film, digital and psychology disciplines, as well as testimony from leading Chinese clients.
It’s not just China - there are around 100 countries represented at the festival with 50 of those represented on the 2017 juries. We have a responsibility to make the Cannes Lions community as international as possible, and it’s a duty I personally take very seriously. But aside from the international festival mix, this year’s jury line-up is the closest one yet to our goal of achieving full gender parity, with 43.5% of its membership female, up from 20% just four years ago.
Diversity is a priority across the whole festival. From jurors and entrants to speakers and attendees, we actively encourage participants to embrace diversity and the opportunities it delivers. In 2014 we launched See It Be It, in 2015 we launched the Glass Lion, and this year one of the headline festival speakers is Rev. Jesse Jackson who will speak on the role the creative industry can play in making society more inclusive. All these landmark moments are part of our ongoing effort for Cannes Lions to act as a platform for change.
Our work here is ongoing, as we hope in future years to continue working to address other global, cultural and societal issues. There is always more work to be done, and we’ll be announcing some new initiatives over the coming weeks and months, but I’m pleased that 2017 represents a major step forward.
Now that’s entertainment
Brands have been funding content for some time, but now the entertainment industry is firmly involved in advertising. The simple fact is we’re all in the same business – whether it’s a brand, agency, tech platform or entertainment company, the aim is to understand how to engage with and monetise consumers.
The evolution of the Entertainment Lions this year is a reflection of this trend in our industry, and if we look at the line-up what’s happening is clear: A$AP Rocky alongside Viacom; Steven Gerrard talking with Casey Wasserman about broadening sports off the pitch, Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari talking about the power of scripted entertainment alongside Paramount. And they are just a handful of speakers from the world of entertainment coming along to talk creativity.
When we launched Lions Innovation in 2015, it was our way of recognising the role advanced technology plays in the development, dissemination and consumption of creativity. We call it a “field trip to the future.”
The topics discussed at Lions Innovation, almost by definition, change every year. I’d say that one of this year’s hot topics is mixed reality, and the creative application of different immersive technologies is an exciting area for brands. Another key feature of Lions Innovation is the way it connects startups with revolutionary ideas meet technology providers with game-changing products.
Access all areas
Networking is a big reason why people join us each year, and it’s our role is to make sure everyone with a Cannes Lions pass benefits as much as possible from supporting the festival. For this reason, Cannes Lions pass holders will get priority access to the main bars and restaurants of the Palace Hotels along the Croisette between 8am and 6pm to make the most of the unique networking opportunities the event presents.
If people don't have a badge they will still be able to use these hotels (the Majestic, The JW, the Carlton, the Martinez and the Grand) during these hours - subject to capacity as always - but will need to complete a short online form the first time they want to go in.
Combining this exclusive networking access to the Quai d’Honneur means attendees will be able to leverage the most important meeting areas to make connections and discuss talking points, building on the community’s collective wealth of knowledge and resources.
There’s a lot going on at the festival, being able to decompress and chat with your peers brings out the inside track on everything from the hottest tech and latest creative trends, to best after-hours socialising. Even this year’s look and feel of the event is based on the idea that “great stories start in Cannes”.
Jose Papa is managing director of Cannes Lions