Voxpop: Does the Cannes Lions Festival still matter?

The Cannes Lions Festival marina in 2019

Despite a disappointing show from the UK at this year’s Cannes Lions, brands and marketers were still very visible at the festival. However, with a new round of questions around its extravagance and relevance in the face of more purpose-driven marketing, The Drum asked some of the attendees whether Cannes still matters to them:

Scott Cullather, CEO, INVNT

As a creatively-driven agency, Cannes Lions remains an important event for INVNT to be a part of. It allows us to take a step back from our day-to-day and put the creative discipline under the microscope. We’re able to consider what constitutes good creative in this era of distraction and infinite choice, and importantly, how we can maximize engagement and produce cutting-edge work for our clients and their audiences by leveraging the new tactics, tools and tech available to us.

It’s the one time of year where creatives and strategists from across the world and from different marcomms segments come together in the same place, which makes the networking element both valuable and organic. Pre-arranged meetings have their place, but it’s often the conversations had over a glass of rosé at one of the festival’s many social events which lead to new connections being made and existing relationships strengthened.

While the official program is always topical and attracts a slew of renowned speakers, supplementary activations by the likes of The Drum, AdWeek and Verizon Media made the experience all the more worthwhile this year. The new CLX offering also represented a renewed focus for the event and reminded us of the importance of creatively-led branded content.

Ascential’s decision to increase the festival’s focus on live brand experiences – off the back of marketers’ added demand for the form – has made all of the above even more relevant to us, and to our clients. More and more of them are choosing to increase their spend on live, which makes Cannes Lions a must-attend as it enables them to learn about the latest developments in the space, and they can see first-hand how other brands are participating – whether that be by the beach, on the Croisette or elsewhere around the town.

Cannes Lions has a knack for adapting to changes within the industry and wider world, and it’s this approach that will ensure the festival remains relevant for many years to come.

Becky McKinlay, group MD, TVC Group

Yes, Cannes still matters. Or maybe I should say Yes, Cannes (still) matters (for the time being).

Right now, on the world stage, Cannes clearly does still matter. One example of this is the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion, who worked hard to target the Festival and provoke action amongst attendees – proof of Cannes’ perceived relevance, profile and influence.

But to make sure this relevance endures for clients, agencies and the industry as a whole - Cannes needs to ensure it is focused on showcasing the impact, business benefit and value of creativity -and not allow itself, or its partners to become too self-indulgent or myopic.

The Festival needs to put substance over style – clients should be at the heart of how it operates, not just seen as an excuse to break out the Bolly. A very telling comment from a former client I bumped into who had returned to Cannes after a number of years struck a chord:

"The longer I stay there, drinking their champagne and marvelling at the excess and how they afford all of this, the more I am sure I will put my agency budget elsewhere. Because there’s only one way the agencies can afford this, and that’s by using monies clients pay them. My budget is stretched enough – it all needs to be focused on maximizing results.”

The networking, panels and debates are where the value is and this is where the organisers, clients, agencies and partners need to focus. Sessions like ‘Wake up With The Economist’ help us learn, think about how we can apply new thinking to our business, and how we can future proof our business and strategies.

To make sure Cannes continues to matter, it needs to position itself as an outward-looking forum which brings together the world’s leading creatives, media thinkers and practitioners to discuss and debate the marketing challenges of the day. If it’s just a jamboree of awards for activity that has never been seen outside the industry, and a contest to see which group entertains with most excess, the sun will start setting on Cannes.

Julia Smith, director of communications, Impact

A few years ago we noticed a rise in negative feelings towards Cannes Lions Festival but the week-long event is still holding its own. Our clients of brands and agencies were out in force and one of the conversations centred around the rise of the partnership economy.

This was backed up by a commissioned study released this week and conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Impact Tech, on investing in partnerships to drive growth which highlights the benefits of the partnership channel with 49% of respondents seeing a boost in revenue and 45% seeing a boost in brand awareness from their partnership program initiatives in the past year.

A successful partnership channel can contribute up to 28% (on average) of overall corporate revenues. That’s huge. It’s bigger than what paid search contributes (FYI – that’s about 18% on average). And, for an average company – it’s worth about $162MM more revenue annually versus companies that don’t focus on their partnership channel.

Money talks and the desire to deliver strong performance was a common theme this year. Creativity is still a significant element of Cannes Lions Festivals obviously, but the event is also a place to discuss marketing and partnership activity - albeit in the luxury of the Carlton Terrace!

Sammy Mansourport, managing director, AgencyUK

I love Cannes Lions and have some early memories of the festival when I was cutting my teeth in advertising. And it still provides a phenomenal showcase for great work and great talent.

But there has been a sea change in the past decade that has seen independent agencies rise and networks start to crumble, particularly as tech giants have interrupted the media space and management consultancies began to circle.

Cannes Lions has always been better geared up to the large agency networks. Providing a stage for industry chest beating, a way for creative directors to parade their beauty and compete for glassware. Do I think our clients care? Very little. How much tangible business really gets done in Cannes these days? I would guess far less these days.

So does the festival still matter? I hope so. The organisers have done a great job of reviving the festival and giving it new purpose. If they continue to build on that then the festival should matter as long as our industry matters.

Steffen Svartberg, CEO and co-founder, Cavai

Cannes Lions Festival 2019 has come at a time when consumer trust in advertisers is at its lowest ebb for 60 years. Conversations on the yachts, the panels and in the Palais talked about the need to reestablish trust and marketers need to put implement a consumer first strategy.

The rapid rise of chatbots, voicebots and chatvertising is expected to provide a solution to helping customers buy, interact and respond to advertising. ‘Consumer first’ is a message that has resonated through every conversation in Cannes and the event is still an incredibly worthwhile playground for serious conversations and outputs to happen.

Rahul Ramanuj, design director, The Clearing

First things first – Cannes is a celebration of advertising rather than creativity. Discussing the relevance of Cannes and those shiny golden lions spotlights the age-old debate of whether awards are worth the cost and effort of entering and who they benefit.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Cannes. I love watching beautiful ad campaigns for the biggest brands in the world (Apple was named Creative Marketer of the Year), but great work can now be shared instantly and globally through social channels, websites and blogs – perhaps to an even greater audience than an awards body like Cannes can offer. Which means whether you’re one of the largest agencies or brands in the world or whether you’re new to the scene, there will always be celebration of intelligent thinking and beautiful execution (with or without an award).

At the end of the day if the work makes a difference, inspires and delivers for the client, then how can the rest of the industry disagree? But hey, who doesn’t love a shiny trophy…

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