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Cannes key takeaways: GenAI celebrated by brands & sustainability focus


By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

June 26, 2024 | 8 min read

Cannes doesn’t end when you leave the Croisette and board your (more than likely) delayed plane home. The week after Cannes should be just as focused on Cannes as the weeks leading up to it.


Coffee and key takewaways from Cannes 2024

There’ll be lots of learning to process, lots to share among your team, lots of ideas to start strategizing around and lots of receipts to process to keep the finance department happy – or, if not happy, at least sane.

So, what did you learn from Cannes 2024? Here are the key takeaways from some attendees The Drum caught up with.

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.”

Tamryn Kerr, co-founder and CCO at Hijinks: “Fear of GenAI reared its head at almost every single panel and talk we attended. We hear about it every single day in every single channel, yet none of us really know how it will shape our industry. And meanwhile, the optimism gap between agencies and clients about GenAI is widening, which is a real shame. For example, Johnnie Walker’s global brand director, Jennifer English, said that she would much rather her agencies be working on amazing creative ideas than resizing banners. A thousand times ‘yes’ to this! It’s here to stay and will fundamentally change our industry.”

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Guto Monteiro, ECD, VML KC: “No win is awarded solely to an individual. At Cannes Lions, great ideas come from a collective effort – when people collaborate with empathy, respect and shared vision for the mission ahead.”

Mike Craddock, CEO and founder, NewGen: “My key takeaway from Cannes 2024 is that the creator economy is truly gaining traction. There are more creators at Cannes than ever before, and the introduction of the creator track/pass highlights this shift. Brands and agencies now recognize that creators are here to stay and must be integrated into their strategies to stay at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Brands that don’t embrace this do so at their own peril, risking falling behind those that expertly integrate creators into their wider marketing plan.”

Amelia Shepherd, director of growth, Wonder: “After attending Cannes for the first time, it struck me that the event’s real purpose is routed in people: connection, community, creativity and collaboration. In between all the shared insights and celebrations of creativity, the biggest benefit was reconnecting with people, meeting new talent, building new partnerships, getting inspired, finding new ops and – most importantly – having fun. I’ll return to Wonder with a renewed energy for getting out more, making more face-time with teams, peers and partners, and remembering that one of our industry’s biggest perks is the fun it can bring.”

Anne Kawalerski, chief client officer, Bloomberg Media: “There is a critical need to balance short-term impact with long-term brand equity and corporate reputation. Finding ways to measure this balance effectively is essential since the impact of creativity in connecting work with measurable results emerged as a major theme this week. Moving forward, integrating these insights will be pivotal in enhancing strategy and ensuring sustainable success. Furthermore, the CMO is balancing short-term KPIs and the long-termism required to build corporate reputation, which is a tension that was raised this week.”

Barney Worfolk-Smith, chief growth officer, Daivid: “The key thing we’ve heard said on a few occasions is that there is a real desire to turn the many conversations at Cannes this year into concrete action. More so than in previous years. Sensible, scalable opportunities driven by a desire to innovate and improve. Deals are back.”

Mateusz Ruminski, VP of product, PrimeAudience: “This Cannes, a lot has been said about audience curation, which seems one of the most promising ways to help advertisers buy more qualitative audiences without compromising user privacy. Unsurprisingly, generative AI is repeated virtually everywhere. However, I would expect more sophisticated uses of generative AI technologies in advertising than those that were presented, giving new entrants more opportunity. People are tired of hearing about cookieless. At the same time, industry leaders are quite convinced that brands are significantly underprepared and will get a shock when the plug gets pulled. Finally, measurement remains a challenge, in particular, how to understand the campaign results holistically, considering that individual targeting tactics rely on different targeting and measurement tools and there is no easy way to reconcile it all.”

Andrew Douthwaite, chief commercial officer, Dubit: “The key takeaway for me is the critical importance of purpose-driven marketing and the strategic use of data to enhance creative effectiveness. Brands must align their initiatives with their core values and utilize data analytics to optimize content for better engagement and returns. This approach will ensure more meaningful connections with audiences and improved campaign performance.”

Pawan Wankhede, managing director UK, LS Digital: “Cannes Lions 2024 has once again proven its significance as the premier event for the creative industry. The diverse range of speakers and the introduction of Lions Creators underscore its commitment to fostering innovation and inclusivity. This year’s festival not only celebrated outstanding creativity but also provided a platform for meaningful collaboration and growth in the creator economy.”

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Shobha Sairam, chief strategy officer, 22Squared: “The programming I saw centered around the importance of community-building, particularly on social. Not a new concept but technology has taken it to a whole new level. Some takeaways I had for brands: Firstly, personal is the new mass – learn to communicate that feeling of nuanced and insightful rather than making big, broad generalizations. Secondly, if you focus on the fan experience, the brand experience will automatically be enhanced. Fandoms are essential to creating ‘brandoms.’”

Shannon Jones, co-founder, Verb: “The key phrase over the last 48 hours has definitely been “moving at the speed of culture.” While the definition remains ambiguous, many folks at Cannes are laying claim to doing that. So, I’m excited to witness firsthand how that actually comes to fruition both during and after the festival once the dust has settled.”

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