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Cannes Lions Marketing Brand Safety

We Cannes fix advertising if we go ‘a.p.e’


By John Hegarty, Founder

June 12, 2024 | 6 min read

John Hegarty worries that creatives have lost touch with effectiveness. He will lay out a way to reconnect the cause and effect at Cannes Lions.


It’s that time of year again. Preparations for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity will be underway on the French Riviera. Next week intrepid trophy-hunters will gather at the Palais De Festivals and the surrounding area, praying that their creative efforts will attract the attention of the judges. For those vying for a Golden Lion or Grand Prix there’s likely to be a lot of phone checking and email refreshing – winners are notified of their victory before the ceremony. The festival is about more than toasting brilliant work. It offers a bellwether for the industry – and allows the perceptive onlooker a glimpse into what’s likely to resonate with audiences in the coming twelve months.

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For this installment, I’m hoping to pose a question on the main stage. It’s estimated that last year brands spent over $750bn on advertising globally. But some analysts believe that as little as 6% of this demonstrates any kind of effectiveness. While it’s a universal law of business that your marketing hits a bum note from time to time this proportion seemed a little out of whack. So, what’s going on?

To help unpack all this, I’ve enlisted the help of my friend Orlando Wood. He’s chief innovation officer of the System1 Group, a research company designed to help businesses understand the impact their creativity has on commercial performance. We’re going to have a discussion on whether the world requires a new (or, rather next) creative revolution.

Spoiler alert: it definitely does.

Going ape

Away from the grandiose environs of Cannes, The Garage Entertainment has been hand-to-plough on a new launch that approaches the issue of advertising effectiveness. Our latest course is called a.p.e. and it stands for Advertising Principles Explained.

As you might gather from the name, it offers a detailed look at why advertising works and how businesses could use it more adeptly. Written and hosted by Orlando, eight masterclasses approach issues like: why you should borrow comms techniques from the Ancient Roman orator Cicero, how you should appeal to humans’ two types of attention; and where Looney Tunes stories featuring Bugs Bunny and his chums demonstrate a template for excellent marketing.

If you think this sort of thing sounds whimsical, you’d be wrong.

Orlando has dedicated his career to understanding what it is that makes a piece of advertising effective. And after two books, and a deep interrogation of over 26,000 campaigns, he has a uniquely objective view of how the best get it done. Beyond this, he’s joined by a raft of branding luminaries who lift the lid on how they use creativity to drive a meaningful boost to the bottom line. The line-up consists of agency founders like Trevor Robinson OBE, the visionary founder of Quiet Storm. Scientists like professor Karen Nelson-Field, founder and CEO of Amplified Intelligence. As well as business leaders (for whom perhaps effectiveness matters most) like Margaret Jobling, global CMO of Natwest. ‘The first cohort for a.p.e., launching in association with the IPA and System1, kicks off on September 23 and bookings are open now.

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With an advertising landscape that is more complex than ever, it’s getting harder to predict the big themes that will emerge from the festival. Conversations will likely center on how to use AI to maximize creative potential (without creating mass redundancies), why approaching the climate crisis requires application and imagination, and the general role of brands in this decade. I hope to add another debate into the mix: what are we doing in advertising if only a slim proportion of our actions are creating an impact?

After that, I hope a.p.e. helps to correct the disproportion – 6% really won’t cut it.

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