The 2017 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity was bigger than ever before, celebrating the best of the ad industry. If you weren’t lucky enough to be there, we’ve complied a handy review along with video highlights from all eight days.
BBDO took home the first Grand Prix of Cannes Lions 2017 for “Meet Graham,” the TAC road safety campaign that imagined what humans would look like (with Australian artist Patricia Piccinini) if our bodies evolved to withstand car-crash forces.
Meanwhile, Ogilvy Media identified Facebook as the number one gatekeeper for news, edging out legacy traditional media sources and significantly outpacing other social networks/digital platforms like Google and Twitter.
On day two, Pinterest president and “money man” Tim Kendall said the right technology can help us stop tapping and start doing.
Actress Laura Dern and YouTuber Grace Helbig faced off as Classic Hollywood met New Hollywood on-stage at Cannes.
During an Alibaba talk, Chris Tung made it clear from the outset that they were a business who sees themselves as a place where buyers and sellers meet, as well as the seller’s data manager.
Addressing the elephant in the room of all ‘big data’ discussions, he rightly challenged businesses who claim to have ‘big data’ but still have gaps in their knowledge about their customer. The relevancy to marketers in this is the question of how much they really know their customer.
He then revealed Uni Marketing – a product Alibaba created that feeds from the data infrastructure they have for their big data. It provides an online account for marketers to go in and track real-time campaign performance, but also the behaviours of their customers. Alibaba have a whole installation in Cannes Innovation about it that delegates can engage with. It really could live up to Tung’s claims about it revolutionising marketing, but Alibaba is still dominated by Asian consumers, so will be most relevant for these markets for now.
Meanwhile, IBM’s Watson talk looked at how AI was being used from diagnosing cancer through to helping people through tricky legal processes. At premium fashion event The Met Gala, Watson fed data from social media platforms to the dress of Karolina Kurkova whilst at the event. Online comments about the dress determined the colour of its lights. Alex Da Kid enriched the session with his views on the technology ‘not many music producers have access to such technology’ he said, perhaps hinting that many would use it if available to them.
Prejudice and the use of data in marketing are both controversial topics. The latter of these seemed to receive larger audiences today, perhaps because the former has been talked about in previous years and we now need to take action. What was clear was that successes come from even the simplest of actions: Alex Da Kid playing around with IBM’s Watson resulted in a top-10 Billboard hit and Mindshare’s formation of Bollywood and pop-band Brooke Bond Red Label: 6 Pack Band brought some of the band members out of poverty.
— Keith Weed (@keithweed) June 19, 2017
On day 4 fashion photographer Mario Testino provided exclusive and unfiltered access in to his career history this morning, which paved the way for MARIOTESTINO+, his marketing agency.
Meanwhile, Diageo gave a well-structured and intuitive lesson on purpose marketing, answering some difficult questions and admitting failure – “If you don’t put your hand up to admit failure, you’re either not a creative or your lying… as we all fail, we might as well talk about it”. A perfect blend of examples, theory, take-aways and encouragement, this was an especially useful presentation to watch.
Tuesday also marked China Day, and the Cannes Lions pane discussed the rise of Chiona’s top cyber celebrity Papi Zhang. When the session started it became clear quickly that Papi Jiang and her team, represented on stage by her agent Ming Yang, had achieved extraordinary success in launching her own social media platform – Papitube.
Day five at Cannes was Lions Entertainment, bringing with it a flock of celebrity names, discussing their careers, the issues that concern them and their relationships with brands and the advertising industry.
Sir Ian McKellen, speaking at the Brooklyn Brothers session Telling a Good Story, spoke of the similarities between the stars of stage and screen and brands: “There are two types of actors, the stars and the rest of us. Stars are the personification of branding. They’re always the same. You don’t want to see Mick Jagger singing opera.”
He brought his personal experience to bear on the ad industry: “I don’t know enough about your world, but if the branding is about lying, about assuming something about your audience, if it’s not about genuinely trying to relate to them, I suspect that branding will go wrong.”
At the session All Worth It: L’Oreal and Dame Helen Mirren Redefine Diversity, the actor discussed the importance of self-belief for creativity, and the importance of humility: “What forces you through as a creative person is the balance between incredible belief in yourself parallel with incredible self-doubt. It’s the battle between the two that creates a brilliant moment.”
Fashion designer Alexander Wang took to the stage to discuss his work with Adidas, encouraging creatives to be brave: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The best ideas don’t have to come from the top. Usually they don’t. Encourage yourself to challenge the status quo and ask questions, ask why things can’t be done differently.”
The celebrity guests grabbed the headlines, but amongst the industry names speaking, Keith Weed of Unilever took top billing. During his session, he took the opportunity to announce the launch of Unstereotype Alliance, a new initiative with UN Women, to ensure more representative advertising across the industry: “Advertising doesn’t represent where we think society should be, or even where society is right now.”
At Getty Images Seeing is Believing: The Power of Re-picturing Stereotypes panel, actor and writer Lena Waithe discussed how to change attitudes and ensure better representation across the media: “We have to make people uncomfortable. When we continue to do things that make society at large feel comfortable we regress.”
Piera Gelardi of Refinery29 thinks brands and media at least have to try: ‘You need to try. You have to try, and you might get it wrong. If you get it wrong, you admit it and you try again.”
Stereotyping was also central to the P&G Creativity and Responsibility: Using Our Voices to Promote Gender Equality session, Madonna Badger discussed how brands can know if their work is objectifying women: “There’s a simple way: empathy. With our hearts and minds, look at the piece of advertising and ask ‘what if this was my daughter, mother, sister or me, would I be OK with this?’ If the answer is no, then it’s not OK.”
Also on the panel was Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg: “We have to acknowledge the stereotype that exists, and change it. When a young girl is called ‘bossy’, tell their parents ‘she’s not bossy, she has executive leadership skills’. Admitting that all of us have that stereotype is the first thing we need to change.”
Prominent economist Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, brought her own experience to the matter of gender bias: “Clients assumed that I was there to serve coffee. It took the strength and decency of my partner to say ‘she’s not bringing coffee she’s drafting contracts.’ Things have changed, but it’s still the case in many professions that women are not given the same platform, the same access, the same chances to achieve. It’s a waste.”
At the Why Independence is the Key to Creativity session, Lee Daniels, director of Monster’s Ball and Precious talked about the necessary skills to make the most of an independent creative career, if that’s your chosen path: “You have to understand the human condition, and then be fearless to talk about it and be fearless to do it. I’ve always gone with my heart.”
Meanwhile, The Lumiere Theatre played host to this year’s Cannes Debate, featuring Sir Martin Sorrell, Robert Kraft and Ron Howard. An academy award winner for Apollo 13, had just been unveiled as the man behind the camera for the new Star Wars’ Han Solo film. He discussed his career and the attitude he takes to every project: “Every one of these projects we’ve ever done is always entrepreneurial, every one of these projects is a startup, every movie, every documentary, every pilot or series is a startup.”
The final day of the festival opened on the Debussy theatre with attendees queuing to hear the personal stories from those who believed in Coleman F. Sweeney, ‘The World’s Biggest Asshole’, and turned a PSA for Donate Life into a viral hit that lured elusive millennial males to sign up in droves and save lives.
Guests David Fleming, President and CEO of Donate Life America, Joe Alexander, Chief Creative Officer at The Martin Agency, and filmmakers, Will Speck and Josh Gordon, joined a panel moderated by Jenny Rooney, Editor of the CMO Network, Forbes.
After showing the audience the Coleman Sweeney film, which was met with great applause, David revealed the frustrations that drove the development of the ad: that there are millions of people currently waiting for organ tissue in the US, just to allow them to lead a normal life.
“It’s a frustrating thing for people that get paid to do this,” he said. “It’s the frustration of having a vision of what could be to what is. I’ve been doing this for 19 years – casting a broad net hoping to catch [people].” He added that they found young people, particularly young men were the lowest rate of donors despite them tending to be ideal organ donors.”
As the session came to an end, Jenny asked Joe what is next having had this experience and success, in which he responded:
“The question is always at back of your head at Cannes: once you’ve had success you wonder if you’ll be back here and be lucky enough to make it back on stage, and I think that’s our challenge,” he said. “What David has done for organ donation through this particular PSA is ‘mark of the year’ kind of stuff because it’s really saving people’s life and there’s no bigger reward than that.”
One of the last sessions on the final day of the festival was a rather quick 15 minute talk in the Debussy Theatre with Michelle Morgan, Co-founder of Livity, a youth led creative network bringing brands and young people together, for the better.
Michelle shared what happened when she burnt out at the end of 2016 after spending 15 years building her youth agency, and how frightening that felt, how numb life became and how lost she felt. She explained how, by putting together – somewhat slowly and painfully – her own plan of recovery based on digging deep to rediscover her creativity.