Creative Agency Culture Business Leadership

Is Cannes still hallowed ground for agencies in 2022?


By Sam Anderson | Network Editor

June 22, 2022 | 7 min read

This week, the Cannes Lions festival returns with its first proper real-world iteration since the pandemic began (with some hybrid events too). Still for many adland’s most hallowed ground, Cannes has been changed recently not only by lockdowns, but by an influx of tech giants with deep pockets, as well as shifting dynamics between agencies and clients. So, is Cannes still an essential in agencies’ yearly calendars? We asked four leaders from The Drum Network.

The croisette in Cannes, France

Agency leaders on the shifting role of Cannes in their strategy / Barna Bartis via Unsplash

Wendy Dixon, chief growth officer, M&C Saatchi Group

Opinions on Cannes vary so much, especially in the current world context. But for the industry we’ve chosen as our professional home, it’s where the game is being played. Yes, it’s a game. But I can think of worse games.

People coming together to celebrate the most clever, most effective, most innovative work. Brands finding inspiration. Talent connecting with talent. Agencies upping their game. Cannes and other awards and events push the bar higher, whether IRL or virtually – in that sense their roles haven’t changed. This year, we have a solid set of entries, a few of our brightest on judging panels and, after a few years of no attendance, we’re sending a small contingent to the festival. We want to be there, we want to recognize the achievements of our creative teams and clients, and we want to connect with the global industry network.

Lee Davies, head of tech, Anything is Possible

As of writing this, I still haven’t quite worked out where I’m staying. I might have to call in some favors. But I’m excited to attend my first Cannes this week. And I think being there will be more important than ever.

I’m a tech specialist managing the stack for the agency. Clients look to us for an informed tech perspective. This feels like the best opportunity in, literally, years to find all the tech giants whose products we spend so much time with. There is an art in weaving their platforms together to develop new client possibilities.

They make the tools. We make them work.

Seeing so many in one place, understanding their plans and ambitions, sketching a picture of what that means for client effectiveness – it’s essential data and essential context.

Does this mean that tech is overtaking creativity as the focus of Cannes? No. But is it bringing them closer together? I hope so. That’s why I’m going.

Mike White, chief executive officer, Lively Worldwide

I’m attending Cannes Lions, my agency is producing an experience for one of the largest media businesses there, and we are hosting our own event at a villa.

These events are still relevant. The industry needs them to allow us as an industry to meet, share our insights and continue to develop.

But I feel we have not learned much from the pandemic, or considered how our approach to marketing and sales should evolve. The opportunity to create hybrid experiences and valuable content doesn’t seem to have inspired us. In fact, we all seem glad to just go ‘back to normal.’

There still seems to be a focus on who can be the biggest and the best. We should all be thinking more about the environment and the current state of the world, and what we’ve learned.

I met with Najoh Tita-Reid, chief marketing officer of Logitech, pre-Cannes Lions and we talked about the impact the last two years have had on marketing, creative and the role of chief marketers. We spoke about how we need to defy logic and challenge ourselves.

Cannes Lions is a great event. It’s a celebration of creativity. It’s also an incredible location and I feel privileged to be here. I’m proud our clients have allowed us to work with only local suppliers and collaborate with them, and I’m excited to be able to meet senior marketeers to discuss the future of marketing. I’m excited to be inspired.

I’m looking forward to what comes out of this prestigious event and what new things we will all take out of it.

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Linn Frost, European managing director, The Social Element

Cannes enables us as an industry to unite and celebrate. Face-to-face interactions can never be fully replaced by virtual ones.

As an industry we work very hard, long hours – Cannes enables us to relax, reflect and learn, resetting for the year ahead.

I would love to see more young talent here – let them come, experience and learn.

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