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Creative Cannes Lions

How advertising execs want to see Cannes Lions reinvented


By Stephen Lepitak, -

November 13, 2017 | 7 min read

After Publicis hit the pause button on its Cannes Lions attendance and WPP threatened to leave altogether, the festival's organiser Ascential is due to reveal how it will "evolve" in 2018. Ahead of the announcement tonight (13 November), The Drum spoke to attendees from the industry to ask how they would like to see it reinvented.

Laura Jordan Bambach, chief creative officer, Mr President

I’d love to see more of the creativity and the work gracing the Cannes Festival. It feels like its been progressively pushed into the back streets or behind the “paywalls” of ticket prices or guest lists and it could do with bringing their work and inspiration to the fore.

It’s a much more competitive space now, and when you think of how SXSW or D&AD festival are able to provide that creative spark to different people at different levels and roles, with the creative energy that comes from ideas rubbing against each other, Cannes feels very much like its about the business of creativity, rather than creativity itself, in comparison.

David Sable, chief executive of Y&R

When I started going to Cannes, it was a festival of creative people celebrating the great work. It was elemental, gritty, and about the power of creative juice. In past years, it has felt more elitist, opulent and more about power brokering. Think we need to stop spending so much time counting points and spending dollars, and return the focus to the creators — the people, the offices, the clients, who are in the trenches every day getting the work done. Let’s see more celebration of their great thinking and work.

Anatoly Roytman, head of Europe, Africa and Latin America, Accenture Interactive

“Cannes is the best forum for us at Accenture Interactive to see what’s happening, who’s doing great work and to think about the future of the industry and creativity. It’s a unique opportunity to meet both clients and colleagues from other agencies to talk about what’s now and what’s next.

“For 2018 and beyond, it’s going to be critical for Cannes to maintain and protect its focus on creativity. Martech is a very important element to what we all do, but as the enabler of the new experience. Great campaigns still need great creative if they’re going to achieve the outcomes that clients want.

“We’re keen to work with Cannes to help them to evolve the event while maintaining its status as the festival of creativity.”

Nick Manning, chief strategy officer, Ebiquity

If the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity did not exist, it would need to be invented, especially as creativity delivers an increasingly important competitive advantage.

The global convention world is consolidating into CES and Dmexco on the ‘tech’ side and Cannes holding the torch for creativity as a key driver of advertising success.

But the world is moving on at light speed, and Cannes needs to broaden its base to reflect the wider marketing (not just advertising) world.

So it needs to find the right balance between the traditional virtues of powerful creative advertising and the newer forms of creativity in the use of technology, and not just the tech itself. We can learn about AI, VR and AR at CES (sorry, ran out of acronyms).

It needs to showcase the power of creativity in business success, reflecting the need for evidence in a data-led marketing world.

Vicky Bullen, chief executive of Coley Porter Bell

I love Cannes Lions. It's inspiring, entertaining, and an easy way to see an enormous amount of great work from the year. It’s also a great way of spending time with a large number of colleagues and clients, which you don’t often get to do in an informal setting, and what's not to love about a few days in the south of France, with the odd glass of cold rosé.

But in all seriousness, it’s in danger of losing a bit of its soul. There are so many people and companies vying to be seen and too many people there who don't even step foot in the Palais. I'd love it to be less expensive, I'd love it to be a little less crowded. I'd like the design category to have more brand design agencies entering work, I'd like more truly commercial work that has proven to work for the client in-line with the original brief and budget, and less stuff that's just been done for Cannes as a way of showing off the latest toys.

But does any of that stop me wanting to be there? No. And I’ll do my damnedest to be there next year.

Mark Lund, chief executive officer, McCann Worldgroup UK

The Cannes Festival of Creativity would benefit from becoming even more client focused in the future.

As an industry, we are increasingly required to collaborate with clients as both business and creative partners. This presents an opportunity for the organisers of Cannes to proactively take on the role of requiring that approach to the content that we hear at the event, and the criteria for defining creative success.

Creativity is still key, but a new kind of creativity that is combined with business success and effectiveness is essential.

As is today’s challenge of storytelling across multiple platforms. A more multidisciplinary approach to the way that clients are represented, from award categories to juries and panels, would be a step in the right direction for the world’s biggest celebration of creativity.

David Jones, founder and chief executive officer, You & Mr. Jones

The good: the arrival and massive presence of the tech platforms in recent years. Also, the efficiency — you can still get to see a lot of key people in one place in a short period of time.

The bad: too many categories and awards. And too big.

The odd: agency groups are pulling out and leaving Cannes to the tech companies and the management consultants.

How do we improve? Make it smaller, shorter, and have fewer categories and awards — it also needs to do more to be the industry's number-one platform to drive diversity and inclusion in the industry. Personally, I love the new Global Goals [for Sustainable Development, a partnership with the United Nations) and think it's a great move. Let's also bring more tech start-ups and companies focused on innovation into the conversation.

Jo Coombs, chief executive officer, OgilvyOne UK

Cannes Lions has become more about Cannes (the expensive rose´, the sponsored beaches, the ‘my celebrity is bigger than your celebrity’ media owner chest beating), than the Lions (awards for great work that works). If that’s what they want their legacy to be, then they are doing a good job. But if they want to be remembered for celebrating creativity, for supporting diversity and encouraging young talent then they need to be doing less and giving more back. Young Lions is good but not it’s not enough. Cannes Lions are perceived to be expensive and greedy. As an agency leader I can justify every pound we spend on D&AD entries because the awards have prestige and all money raised goes back into the creative industry, in particular supporting new blood. Cannes Lions needs to drop the Cannes and celebrate the Lion by focussing on the talent, the craft and not the circus.

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