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Seeing is believing – and Cannes Lions showed experiential builds trust

By Beki Winchel, Spiro



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July 4, 2024 | 8 min read

In the last of a mini-series of diaries from Cannes Lions, Beki Winchel of Spiro says the festival highlighted the power of real-world experience in creating bonds with both customers and clients.

Numerous colorful padlocks attached to a surface

Some 77% of customers say interacting with a brand through a live event helps them trust that brand more / Christian Wiediger via Unsplash

Sun, rain, rosé – and conversations about AI – were in plentiful supply at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Yet, attendees didn’t just celebrate the best in creativity – they also grappled with how to use the best of creativity to break through to today’s customers.

From La Croisette to the Palais, creativity’s power to capture attention was on show. Spotify Advertising won a Digital Craft Grand Prix for coding a music video for a John Summit track into a media-planning Excel spreadsheet. Kargo and Drone Stories lit up the sky each night with 1,400 drones that scrawled visual stories above the beach. Pinterest returned with an updated Manifestival, encouraging attendees to express themselves creatively by trying out different colors and hairstyles or getting a tattoo in a parlor on the beach. Even the Lions State of Creativity report underlined creativity’s power to boost a business’s bottom line.

Yet, creativity for its own sake won’t get you the brand results you want. As Jeff Rosenblum, CEO of Questus, said, the festival: “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.”

Recent technological advancements cut both ways. Though bold creativity still captures audience attention, today’s consumers – in an age of deepfakes and fake news – can increasingly have doubts about what they see. But using creativity to interact and empower your customer through experiences and touchpoints can also foster trust, positive brand sentiment, and the seeds of brand loyalty – in ways that will stay in their hearts and minds.

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This is backed up by the stats. Some 71% say they need to trust the brands they patronize. At the same time, emerging technologies are increasing anxiety while decreasing that trust – with 67% of consumers worrying about fake news and content created by gen AI.

This landscape has led to customers increasingly needing to see things, in person, to believe them – what we call the ‘belief gap’. Live experiential can help marketers address this new imperative, as it comes to form a new center of truth in our increasingly digital landscape. Consider that 77% of customers trust brands more after they interact face-to-face with them via experiences.

This was on show at Cannes Lions. Not only was AI and emerging tech featured prominently in panels, firesides, and sessions across festival agendas – it was also front and center in this year’s brand activations. Many of these seemed to be designed to build trust around new technologies.

Meta’s beach experience invited attendees to test drive its VR headsets and create Reels content on the spot. In an overtly transparent move, Meta showcased, via a timeline wall, how the company has been using AI innovations since 2006.

LinkedIn’s B2B Lounge used an interactive mirror to quiz marketers on their skills and traits, using AI and insights to generate them a tailored B2B marketing persona. Scanning a QR code gave attendees an in-depth report to dive into the insights. Amazon’s Port activation used AI to offer attendees a personalized digital portrait, an immersive music listening experience, and real-time IMDB trivia via an interactive game.

Trust is a creative ingredient

As the festival draws to a close, it’s time to digest its insights. And as you translate networking into partnerships and projects, keep in mind that Lions State of Creativity noted a growing tension between brands and their agency partners, with 37% of brand-side marketers and 45% of agency marketers calling the relationship difficult.

Similar to the ‘belief gap’ among consumers, this tension can stem from a lack of trust. Put simply, brand execs don’t trust the creative marketing ideas delivered to them because they don’t trust their agency partners to truly grasp their brand’s business problem.

Strategic alignment – often sparked by in-person collaborations and meetings – is important to build trust and solidify the types of relationships that produce Lions-winning work. These relationships become especially important when marketers on both sides collaborate with content creators – another theme embraced by this year’s festival.

As Simon Cook, Cannes Lions’ CEO, said in an interview: “Creators want brands to better understand their creative potential and form relevant partnerships. Brands want to understand how to optimally work with creators to drive growth for their business.”

From capturing attention to building trust via live experiential, and cementing brand-agency partnerships – how will you implement these insights now that Cannes Lions is over?

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