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Creativity Agency Culture Brand Strategy

Cannes Lions still matters. Here’s how to make the most of it


By Nicola Mendelsohn | Vice President, Global Business Group

June 13, 2022 | 7 min read

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is more than a celebration of standout work: it’s also a hotbed for inspiration, education, and social connection. Here, Meta’s Nicola Mendelsohn tells us why it may be more important than ever.


Cannes Lions is an opportunity for marketers to celebrate great work and forge connections. (Credit: Adobe Stock)

Next week, the creative industry will descend on the south of France for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. After two years off the Croisette, it’s time to take stock of what the event is, and why it still matters.

For nearly 70 years, Cannes has offered a moment for marketers and advertisers to convene and applaud the year’s most stellar campaigns and the people behind them. It’s an annual opportunity to celebrate important stories, spark conversations, and build culture.

Cannes has evolved over the years, and what I’m hearing from CEOs and CMOs is that people are now attending not just to celebrate the work, but to learn.

With so many changes over the last couple years to the ways people live and work, and so many challenges affecting how we do business – such as staff shortages, the war in Ukraine, supply chain issues, and inflation – a new value equation has been forced into people’s heads, along with a greater need to demonstrate ROI.

Given everything that’s going on, people are rightly asking questions like: ’Why should I make this event a priority? How will this week meaningfully serve my work and my clients? What concrete learnings can I take home and put to good use?’

Everyone is looking to achieve growth in new ways, because the places it will come from in the future are very different to the places it has come from in the past.

A case in point is the rise of web3, which will be a step change for our industry – one that puts individual creators front-and-center and is poised to distribute share of voice more equitably among the existing big players and the up-and-comers.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of this transition. If you want evidence of its momentum, look no further than this year’s festival lineup, where speakers will explore the impacts of web3 on everything from marketing to luxury fashion.

It’s not unlike the tsunami that tech unleashed on the ad industry over the last 20 years that ushered in digital advertising at scale – and made it possible for small businesses to reach key audiences. Except this time, the people producing content stand to benefit, too.

With technologies like NFTs making it easier to assign ownership to assets and artistic creations—and directly reward individual creators for their talent – web3 promises to democratize the creative industry and increase diversity by creating a true ’creatocracy’, allowing anyone with a good idea and a following to make a living doing what they love.

That’s great news for all of us who trade in creativity because the more talent we draw into the fold, the more opportunities we have for fresh collaborations, fresh inspiration, and more chances to reach new audiences and deepen relationships with existing ones. Just look at the following of someone like director Karen X Cheng, who is a terrific advocate for trying new tools and creative experimentation.

The energy is palpable. And judging from big thought leadership forums this spring, the appetite for reinvention is huge. Huge amounts of creative energy pulsing through the industry – yesterday’s ’great return to the office’ is giving way to a modern day rennaissance. And if today’s Michaelangelos are agencies and creators, then Cannes is the loggia.

This year, learning will be our currency. That’s why we at Meta are particularly focused on hosting things like Reels School and Quest2 tutorials. We’ll also set aside space to educate creators, advertisers and agencies on what these products are, how to use them and why they’re important – so that everyone goes home with the skills to spark new ideas and enhance current strategies. It’s a celebration of the modern renaissance, with a substantial dose of responsibility.

The same goes for business messaging, which represents a huge opportunity to not only better serve customers, but for social commerce as well. Each week, over 1 billion people and counting connect with businesses over WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct, and evolving AI is enabling individualized conversations at scale. That’s important because the metaverse is just over the horizon; connections made today will become foundational to building your business in the virtual landscape of tomorrow.

The future will be here before you know it, so my advice this year is to make the time to do a few things that you’ve never done before. Come to the Meta beach, where you can experiment with Reels. Listen to a masterclass from Hasan Minaj on how master conversationalists engage their audiences with authenticity and humor. Hear from Kate Jahveri, the CMO of the NBA, which created a virtual stadium in Horizon Worlds in honor of its 75th anniversary. Or strap on a Meta Quest 2 headset and experience it yourself. I promise it’ll be an epiphany.

Pick a few panels on the main stage too. I’m excited to see my old colleague Fidji Simo talk about the rise of Instacart and Ryan Reynolds talk about how his companies Mntn and Maximum Effort make advertising fun again. I’ll also be up there interviewing a special guest.

Whatever’s going on in the world, Cannes will always be the place where the industry comes to share and learn new things. The key is to be insatiable in your learning and adventurous in your discoveries. Not everything will be relevant, but all of it will be interesting. And most importantly, make time for the meaningful side conversations after the meetings. We’ve found so many ways during the pandemic to work around being apart, but now that we’ll be together, let’s make the most of it.

Nicola Mendelsohn is the vice-president of the global business group at Meta.

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