Five Observations from Cannes Lions 2017

Diversity takes center stage

Diversity was top of the agenda at this year’s Cannes Lions gathering, from panels featuring actress Helen Mirren, supermodel Karlie Kloss to sessions with Unilever and P&G hashing out the topic of what more brands can do in conversation with the likes of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. The panellists and data confirm that brands that authentically embrace diversity engender greater consumer trust and greater purchase intent. Ethical values are increasingly important to consumer loyalty.

McCann’s State Street Fearless Girl campaign took the 64th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity by storm, winning award after award and sealing their place in the history of the festival at Cannes. ‘Fearless Girl’, a bronze sculpture of a little Latina girl placed right opposite the raging bull on Wall Street in Manhattan, New York, is the brainwork of Tali Gumbiner and Lizzie Wilson from McCann New York. They worked on a brief by investment firm State Street Global Advisors to create an advertisement for an index fund comprising gender-diverse companies with a higher percentage of women among their senior leadership, and also to encourage more companies to appoint women in leadership positions. Check out the video here

Convergence of TV and video

Another key theme at this year’s Cannes Lions was the transformation of how people watch TV and video and the impact this has had, not only on content, but also the ads around it. Panels and presenters discussed the new demands and requirements on brands to keep pace with the changing ecosystem, but also how convergence is opening up significant creative opportunities to tell brand stories in nuanced and effective ways.

Another interesting fact about Cannes Lions this year - TV networks are going to Cannes in increasing numbers and playing an active part in the official program, according to festival director Louise Benson in her interview with CNBC.

Focus on data and stories

There certainly was no shortage of presentations and discussions on the topic of data and storytelling, one conclusion was clear - stories first, data second. Data is a great tool for optimising campaigns, but advertisers need to focus first on building a relationship with consumers through compelling stories. Then, they need to look at how to use data to refine their messages and drive maximum results. It’s true that technologies are getting smarter. But if you aren’t telling a story that connects with consumers – one that’s built and formatted for the device and experience – then no degree of data or technology will help marketing efforts. Data should used as a tool for enhancing storytelling; it would be a mistake to think it can simply replace it.  

Adtech power play

Stretches of sand were renamed #TwitterBeach, Facebook Beach and Pinterest Pier. The pavement was painted teal, brought to attendees by Waze. Promotions for Shazam and Oath, the newly named tie-up of AOL and Yahoo, dominated the entryways of five-star hotels. There was also a Spotify House and an Oracle Deck. Meanwhile, Snapchat came up with a crazy way to grab attention - a giant Snapchat branded Ferris Wheel at the entrance of the Palais. All giant online advertising platforms continue to reign supreme and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing – the competition for attention is an ever increasing arms race.  

The growing importance of China at Cannes

China is the second largest ad market in the world, second only to the US. While advertising is a relatively nascent industry, factors such as the adoption of social networks like WeChat and encouragement from the Chinese government, have contributed towards making it a lucrative new market for Cannes.

The line-up of events at Cannes this year included China Day – a day dedicated to honouring Chinese innovation and creativity. Events included sessions with Chinese internet celebrities, understanding innovation in marketing technology, showcasing award-winning creatives from the region and a lot more. 

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