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Rebuilding trust & bridging C-suite gaps: will agencies be attending Cannes Lions 2023?


By Laura Blackwell | Content Executive

June 1, 2023 | 9 min read

Is there any cultural capital for marketers attending Cannes Lions in today’s economic (and actual) climate? Seven industry leaders told The Drum their plans, and how they’re changing their outlook on this year’s festival.

'Cannes' sign surrounded by palm trees and terracotta buildings

Cannes Lions 2023: a beacon of hope? / Jannis Lucas

Cannes Lions season is upon us, but given last year’s climate protests and ongoing industry-wide budget squeezes, for some, the week-long event has been reduced to a question mark.

When asked about their plans to attend or not attend, responses from members of The Drum Network were a mixed bag: for B2B agencies, the decision to show up is obvious following the festival’s recently launched B2B category in 2022, while others feel confident in their ability to make an impact from afar.

Luke Bristow, chief operating officer, Kairos Media Group: At Kairos, we recognize the importance of attending Cannes Lions, even in the face of industry-wide budget constraints and economic challenges. That's why we've chosen to attend this year with a skeleton team focused on networking. But also because we also have been nominated alongside our client Heinz and want to celebrate not only them but our team that created this work.

“Despite our scaled-back presence, we see valuable opportunities ahead. By identifying important events aligning with our goals and prioritizing attendance, we're confident we can make meaningful connections and build relationships with existing and potential clients.

“In a complex and challenging economic market, it's more important than ever to be strategic and proactive in our approach. By following up diligently post-event and nurturing the relationships we establish, we can maximize the value of our Cannes Lions experience and navigate industry challenges with both prudence and ambition.”

Amy Zwirn, commercial director, Influencer: “Festivals still hold huge cultural capital for marketers, and Cannes Lions still leads the way, setting the following 12 months’ agenda for the global creative network and showcasing the very best in content, strategy, and creative minds.

“Cannes offers marketers unparalleled opportunities to connect with peers and clients from across the globe, offering a global platform for a diversity of perspectives and idea exchange – which is so important within the advertising industry. Most importantly, they’re able to do this face to face, something which became all the more important in a post-pandemic world.

“This year, Influencer is seizing the opportunity to unite clients and prospective clients from all over the globe with global creators. We’re hosting a number of highly curated and targeted events that will allow attendees to connect, celebrate the very best in creativity, and discuss important global issues impacting our industry today.”

Chris Bagnall, chief executive officer & founder, Transmission: As a B2B focussed agency and with Cannes Lions only recently launching their dedicated B2B awards categories in 2022, the opportunity for us to celebrate all that is great around marketing creativity and effectiveness is too good for Transmission to not be in attendance this year.

“We will use the event as an opportunity for us to host important clients from around the world, creating a specially curated, week-long agenda dedicated to B2B. We are teaming up with event sponsors and partners, to create unique content, host panels, discussion groups and networking for all, with the goal of raising the profile of B2B marketing excellence.

“This year, our focus has changed from last as we unveil the findings of our global research study looking into the brand value gap that exists between corporate chief marketing officers (CMOs) and their chief financial officer (CFO) counterparts.

“We will be providing marketing teams with the crucial evidence they need to help support their organizations’ defense of marketing budgets by giving them evidence that proving spending on brand health has a demonstrable impact on overall business health.”

Maira Genovese, founder and president, MG Empower: There’s no doubt agencies have been feeling the ‘economic pinch’ this year, but it’s for this exact reason it is so important to prioritize building genuine relationships that help to build much-needed trust with brands.

“This is why we’ve chosen to attend and exhibit at this year’s festival; to leverage the power of IRL connections and, through our cabana, physically translate the ways we see the future of marketing.

“One of the main ways we see this happening is through co-creation. We’re so confident about it that we’ve dedicated our entire space in Cannes to the theme. From TL events to co-creation experiences, to the artwork on the wall, we can’t wait to lead this conversation and really demonstrate how impactful and powerful integrated marketing can be.”

Julie Reid, strategy director, Hallam: While we’ve not attended Cannes Lions before, it's a big moment in the industry’s calendar and will always attract attention and conversations about the most pressing issues of the day. But there are still ways that agencies can take part in those conversations without being there.

“We can ensure we’re discussing the implications of an advertising campaign with our clients at the briefing stage, looking at how we can prioritize the products and services that have a positive impact on society.

“We can join organizations like Ad Net Zero and Purpose Disruptors that are pushing for the industry to be more sustainable and conscious about our role in what the future looks like, and we can seek to make our own agencies as sustainable as possible; reducing our carbon footprint, producing creative work in a carbon neutral way, and putting policies in place that benefit employees, suppliers, local communities and the planet."

Gill Browne, sustainability and social impact practice lead, Propeller Group: “At Propeller, we see huge value in joining the industry’s de facto annual assembly. However, with adland’s leadership flying en masse to the Riviera, its environmental footprint is significant.

"The message for the planet isn’t ‘don’t come to Cannes’. Cannes Lions is a crystallizing moment that gives us space and time to reflect, which is why it’s a hotspot for industry conversations. Greenpeace last year asked advertisers not to boycott Cannes but to boycott fossil fuel companies, and to use their influence for good.

"It chose Cannes precisely because it drives conversations and sets trends. However, the industry needs to ensure that it isn’t recycling the same old discussions year after year. Last year’s protests were a signal that the current conversation, and subsequent action, isn't maturing fast enough. We need to take that seriously and use Cannes to create not just consensus around change, but momentum.”

Christie Clark, marketing manager, Found: I’m heading to the festival as this year’s Alumni Tutor for the Cannes Lions School’s Brand Marketers Academy. 30 young marketers from around the world are going to take part in this year’s specialist academy and, I have to be honest, spending the week nurturing the talent of this cohort of future chief marketing officers (CMOs) is probably going to be the professional highlight of my year.

“The festival is an invaluable source of creative inspiration and I cannot wait to introduce these young marketers to the festival in bespoke sessions with leading creatives and CMOs.

“As a Young Lion myself, and an attendee of last year’s academy, I know what to expect from both the festival and the course and I could not be more excited. To slightly amend my favorite line from Parks and Recreation: ‘it’s the best week of the year!’”

Will we see you in Cannes? Meet up with The Drum team, or follow along with our editorial coverage here.

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Content created with:

Kairos Group

Led by experts with more than 100+ years of gaming and media industry knowledge, Kairos Group comprises multiple entities including Kairos Media, Kyma Media and Horizon Union.

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We are the originators of influencer marketing.

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Transmission is the world’s largest independent global B2B marketing agency.

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MG Empower

We are a fully integrated marketing powerhouse offering a range of best-in-class marketing services, from community-building and brand co-creation to amplification and full awareness campaigns, to world-class brands, talents and innovators.

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We’re a multi-award winning full-service digital agency based in the UK, and a trusted partner to some of the world’s biggest national and international brands.

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Propeller Group

Propeller delivers a joined-up approach to PR, Content and Business Development.

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We’re the digital performance experts who devise and deliver more opportunities for brands to grow online.​

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