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Artificial Intelligence Brand Purpose Agencies

Cannes key takeaways: brand purpose is out, brand authenticity (and AI) are in


By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

June 24, 2024 | 11 min read

It’s the Monday morning after Cannes. If you were there, it’s time to inspire your team with some of the incredible insights you collected during your five days spent mixing with the great and good of global creativity and marketing.


Key takeaways from Cannes

If you’re a CMO, it’s time to start pulling all the insights you gathered into a PowerPoint document to share with your marketing team, after which you can start setting internal meetings to talk about all the things you ‘should’ be doing with your marketing and brand in the year ahead. If you’re an agency account or a new business person, it’s time to start your follow-ups with potential clients and all the potential partners you met. Email systems stand by for some furious activity.

But if you’re back in the office and struggling to remember much in the blur of Cannes activity, fear not. Here are some key takeaways from some of this year’s attendees (that you could pass off as your own).

Josh Golden, CMO, Quad: “Brand purpose is out and brand authenticity is in. For purpose marketing to work, the cause must be inherently woven into the fabric of your brand; it must be intertwined and aligned with your mission as a company, it must be something your company can be authentically passionate about. If the connection isn’t there, don’t try to create it. A brand needs to be authentic to succeed. If your brand wants to give back focus on supporting your employees and your community, align with a cause that fits with your brand’s business and value proposition – success is all about authenticity.”

Steve McHenry, managing director UK, Yahoo: “We’ve quickly moved on from the original conversations around AI to a more sophisticated understanding within the industry. Creatives and AI-developers are increasingly looking at the future of how their two unique skill sets can work together and complement each other. AI is now a part of almost every strategy we develop, as its power has been clearly demonstrated over the last couple of years. Businesses that are making sensible and responsible decisions in the field of AI are going to reap the benefits and the creatives that come along for the journey will have their talents amplified tenfold.”

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Olaf van Gerwen, founder & global creative director, Chuck Studios: “It’s great to see big brand work celebrated at Cannes Lions. What I feel is overlooked is the immense value of hard-working, full-funnel, product-centric work. This area can be both greatly effective and creative. Indeed, I’ve had many conversations with effectiveness specialists around exactly this. Celebrating campaign platforms, not just fabulous films would acknowledge the innovation and the potential of these spaces. Creativity shouldn’t be reserved for big brand ads alone. Let’s not forget that all the wonderful Apple and Ikea work is product ads doing the heavy lifting for brand.”

Jeff Rosenblum, CEO, Questus: “Unfortunately, the Cannes Lions Festival does more to hold back the industry than to propel it forward. It celebrates what the brands want to do but doesn’t champion what the audience really needs. The industry continues to focus on using AI, data and creativity to interrupt rather than empower. Festivals and awards need to help the industry break its addiction to antiquated techniques.”

Mark Singer, US CMO, Deloitte Digital: “GenAI is forcing the conversation that personalization is a key piece to the future because it’s making CMOs realize that they can get scale and delivery while creating cost savings that CFOs want.”

Lotte Jones, chief commercial officer, The News Movement: “A cloud has lifted and the Festival as we know it is back. It’s the first truly joyful year post-pandemic, with existential threats like AI an accepted reality rather than a pervasive ’WTF?’ and the focus shifting to craft-like themes such as humor. It felt much more global and I met many more attendees from beyond Europe with a solid bedrock of US folk. As the official media partner of the Young Lions, it was fantastic to see this global perspective among our industry’s future talent – making sure that we continue to deploy and herald diversity of thought.”

Paul Briggs, SVP Europe, Silverpush: “AI is, as expected, been a hot topic on the Croisette. It’s really important that all tech vendors driving AI are clear with their proposition. Agencies need to stay ahead of the competition and test new solutions, particularly with the deprecation of the cookie. With contextual advertising and AI many previously manual and time-consuming tasks have been automated and streamlined, taking a lot of the grunt work away and helping marketers refocus resources. Education and development in this area is key and that conversation will continue beyond Cannes.”

Antonia Faulkner, head of marketing & analytics for Europe & APAC, Samsung Ads: “Cannes has always been a microcosm of the media landscape; this year is no exception. Most striking, in recent years, is the Croisette becoming increasingly tech-focused; the days of ‘big media’ dominance are behind us. The drive to break new technological ground in media is palpable. The concentration of incredibly smart people focused on new solutions makes for unique opportunities to have powerful conversations. Personally, Cannes allows for perspective. Speaking directly to clients and partners, hearing their challenges and ambitions first-hand – allows us to engage and contemplate the bigger trends shaping media today.”

Marisa Thomas, CMO, Good-Loop: “People are finally hungry for action, but the awards aren’t reflecting the conversation. While the industry is finally looking to take meaningful steps towards a more sustainable media world, the work is shying away from it.”

Giulia Zecchini, commercial partnerships strategy director, ESL FaceIt Group: “There’s no argument that Cannes Lions, and the events that surround it, are brilliant, year on year. But something I’ve often noticed is that they’re also extremely US-centric across most of the narratives shared. I would love for more European, African, Middle Eastern and Asian companies, sports rights holders and marketers to find their own space in these festivals to share different cultural perspectives, ways of working and what works across different geographies. Because it’s vital that we don’t always look at our industry through a singular lens. Diversity is powerful; we all know that.”

Patrick Garvey, co-founder, We Are Pi: “While all wait frothy-mouthed to see how the new humor category unfolds, the other big conversation is on AI, AI, AI. These two topics are seemingly born from different places and, inevitably, people are talking about convergence. All I know is this. To create truly groundbreaking work it must really move people, so I’m most excited about seeing how both humor and AI are being used in service of this.”

Geoffrey Goldberg, CCO and co-founder, Movers+Shakers: “Despite the surge in conversation around AI-based personalization at Cannes this year, I heard a few brand side marketers on stage discussing the importance of direct communication with consumers and how those key insights drive product development and marketing. By utilizing social listening and tapping into consumer sentiment, they are aligning with their target consumers, giving them what they want and proving to them that they are paying attention.”

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Guy Griggs, VP of national sales, New York Times Advertising: “AI is going to change everything. But as we move towards automation, hyper-personalization alongside trust and authenticity will be more important than ever for B2B and affluent audiences. It is paramount to create experiences specifically catered to a consumer to build loyalty.”

Janis Middleton, chief inclusion officer, 22Squared: “As a first-timer, I enjoyed seeing deep conversations around DEI and its various touchpoints. Firstly, experiencing Creative Ladder and Cannes Can: Diversity Collective creating specific and intentional content on the importance of inclusion to Female Quotient and Sport Beach hosting content around the power of mental health, women, etc. Secondly, while Cannes highlights the best creative ideas around the world, I am pleased to see that it is becoming common knowledge that great creativity starts with the people creating it.”

Stacy Kemp, executive lead of Deloitte’s CMO Program and Principal at Deloitte Consulting: “There’s a healthy debate about the bounds of creativity: is it narrow or is it broad? Creativity has always been important, but the business community is seeing how creativity can be a driving force for growth and I love seeing CMOs leading the way.”

Daniel Gonzalez, creative director, Remezcla: “It’s amazing to witness the presence of Latine voices at Cannes, championing each other’s panels and steering brands towards recognizing our significant purchasing influence.”

Liz Grabek, SVP of consumer strategy, Betty: “Passion is the new purpose. Whether it’s pickleball, F1 or pets, the brand presence and stage are dominated by brands helping people explore, experience and pursue the things they love. Creativity is back in a big way. After years of brands leaning into tech to drive performance, they are leaning into tech to help amplify bold ideas and find more authentic ways to connect.”

Mike Khouri, CEO, Tactical: “There’s a clear split between creative and media (platforms) in Cannes, and you clearly see it’s over-indexing towards media. The romance of creative remains, but the power and money towards tech can’t be ignored and is only set to grow further.”

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