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Cannes key takeaways: Creativity hits back but DE&I fades


By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

June 21, 2024 | 10 min read

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is over for 2024. The Drum asks attendees what they got out of it.

Takeaway bag

What did Cannes attendees takeaway in 2024?

After five days of furious networking, debating, discussing, watching and being wowed by stunning, award-winning creative work, it’s time for attendees to reflect on what they learned during Cannes Lions 2024.

The key to a successful Cannes is what comes after Cannes – what meetings will blossom into lucrative new business relationships and, ultimately, what did you see and learn that you can put into action to make your own business or brand even bigger and better?

As suitcases were hastily packed and taxis booked, The Drum asked attendees to tell us what they would take away from Cannes 2024, other than a hangover and a hard-to-explain expenses bill.

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Lenny Shteynberg, vice-president of strategic partnerships, Open Influence: “One of my key takeaways from Cannes this year is how front and center the creator economy has become. A whole new area dedicated exclusively to the creator economy, with speakers and an agenda that specifically addresses the growing sector. I have also seen many panels over the week discussing creator marketing and witnessed lots of creators in attendance. I think this is the year that solidifies that the creator economy is not only here to stay but will continue to gain pace across media and culture.”

Emma Dean, chief operations officer, SMG: “This year, retail media truly took center stage at Cannes. Great minds from across the industry shared perspectives and, most importantly, came together to collaborate on what’s next in this space. Organizations that, in other (perhaps cooler) climates, may consider themselves competitors agreed that continued growth of the industry requires more partnerships, transparency and standardization – all of which remove the complexity for brands and agencies to invest. At the Microsoft Beach House event ‘Retail Media Everywhere – the future of Omichannel’, Sean Crawford of Threefold said: “Ultimately, every decision we make should help a customer make a purchase decision.” An important reminder that in among the hype and intensity of the week, that is what we are all ultimately working to achieve.”

Sam LeCoeur, chief client officer, Adam&EveDDB: “The crop of work this year has underlined the need to continue to build big, enduring creative platforms for brands, but also, more than ever, how important it is to remain open to more unconventional, reactive opportunities.”

Gati Desai Curtis, president, Elite Media: “It has been an inspiring, eye-opening, and motivating week. As part of an independent, Black-owned, female-led agency, I have been extra focused on hearing from esteemed leaders, experts and partners about ideas of inclusivity, purpose and authenticity. The resounding theme I have felt and heard is “Bring them in and bring them up!” My takeaway will be to deliberately, intentionally, and strategically bring more perspectives from more unique backgrounds into our fold and then foster and nurture their growth to help build the future leaders that represent the New General Market.”

Giancarlo Pacheco, CEO & founder, Plan C Agency: “At Cannes this year, I’ve learned that companies are increasingly seeking multicultural markets for growth. Creativity is thriving in everyday life, and AI has stood out as a lasting innovation, unlike fleeting trends like the metaverse. AI is here to stay, reshaping marketing strategies. Cannes again has offered a unique environment for forming rich, spontaneous relationships, which is a key reason I’ll return. The festival’s dynamic atmosphere fosters invaluable connections at the highest levels and insights, making it an essential experience for anyone in the industry.”

Rich Denney, joint CCO, St Luke’s: “Despite the craziness of Cannes, the constant for me is seeing the best in class globally. The winners, and even the losers, fill me with hope and a bit of jealousy but always inspire thoughts of what we could achieve for our clients back home. Cannes reaffirms my belief that creativity is alive and well and that brands investing in smart strategy and stellar creative will always cut through the white noise of vanilla marketing.”

João Inácio, creative director, Dept: “What’s beyond social impact? Cannes has been famous for campaigns that add value to the world. But what’s next? The introduction of the humor category shows us that Cannes is changing and that’s a reflection of what consumers want. Sometimes, a funny ad is all consumers need to consider a brand. And that speaks volumes about what type of attention your audience spends with you. Is humor more important than social impact? And if not, what is?”

Mike Barrett, co-founder and chief strategy officer, Supernatural AI: “Even though Cannes Lions is a massive celebration of creativity in service of commerce, it still feels really organic. In many ways, it’s like a high school reunion. It also feels more like CES than ever – completely overwhelming and hard to self-organize a coherent path through. Just like CES, I think people could benefit from guides. The level of creative here is off the charts: Inflation Cookbook, Map of Emotions, Umbrella Species Dolls, Paper organs. But somehow, there doesn’t seem to be as many huge campaign platforms showcased (an ongoing trend for 10+ years now). This just proves no matter how good the creative is, it’s harder than ever to break through in media.”

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Chris Kubbernus, founder & CEO, Kubbco: “It’s clear at Cannes that if you’re not working in AI or with AI, you won’t be a lion, you’ll be a lamb being led to slaughter.”

Ben Shaw, chief strategy officer, MullenLowe: “Everything is getting faster and won’t be going back. ‘Social-first’ is still coming second. AI seems to be creating more questions than answers. Too many case studies don’t measure commercial impact. The sun is nice, the people are better.”

Yadira Harrison, co-founder, Verb: “I saw a panel earlier stating that ‘DEI is not dead,’ which is interesting because, in 2018/2019, that was the main topic of conversation at Cannes Lions. Yet, in a few short years – especially not long ago since George Floyd – people are still addressing how much has eroded at different organizations and the exodus of DE&I leadership. It’s interesting to see how it’s all being discussed in whispers compared with previous years.”

Louise Johnson, CEO of Fuse & president of the Sport and Entertainment Jury at the Cannes Lions: “Sport took over the Croisette this year, and while plenty of trends stood out, the quality of the work reigned supreme. During our panel, basketball player Flau’jae Johnson said she tells her team that winning is 90% confidence and only 10% skill. Brands need to maintain confidence and be bold when incorporating women’s sports into their marketing – moving away from the classic parity story and instead using women athletes for creative storytelling in their own right. It’s a powerful move that will deliver against a brand’s business objectives and provide real value.”

Vincent Villaret, CEO, Impact+: “My key Cannes Lions takeaway this year was the unveiling of the Global Media Sustainability Framework by the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) and Ad Net Zero. Setting common standards on how advertisers measure their carbon emissions is a significant milestone in the creation of a more sustainable ad ecosystem. There is an urgent need for more sustainable practices in digital advertising, but walking around the festival this year, I was really struck by the collaborative spirit and groundbreaking ideas being shared, showing that sustainability is no longer a niche concern but a core priority.”

Stephen Martell, head of innovation, De-Yan: “From my perspective, this year Cannes has seen a significant increase in attendance and more ambitious brand takeovers, with major new players like Fifa joining the beach. In addition, while last year it felt like we were exploring AI, this year has showcased how it’s being actively implemented.”

Pierre Harand, co-CEO, Fifty-Five: “What really struck me this year is the lack of actual case studies from generative AI. ChatGPT was launched in 2022 and last year everybody had brilliant opinions and plans for gen AI. One could have expected tons of case studies this year. Does this mean that gen AI is just a fad and will soon be forgotten like the metaverse is today? Absolutely not. It’s just that gen AI is bringing an immense change to the creative industry, like how programmatic has transformed media. And the industry needs time to adapt. Brands and agencies willing to take a head start with gen AI will benefit from a significant competitive advantage. They might want to check out Pencil Pro – a SaaS solution to generate ad creatives for digital channels. It generates amazingly good creative 10x faster, and for half the cost of traditional methods. It’s already been used by over 5,000 brands for $1bn+ worth of media campaigns.”

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