Thoughts On Cannes Lions 2019: An Outsider’s View

Thoughts On Cannes Lions 2019: An Outsider’s View
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Unruly MD AUNZ Ricky Chanana puts fingers to keyboard to reflect on his Cannes Lions 2019 experience.

As the dust settles on this year’s edition of Cannes Lions, the beach clubs and bars clear out piles of empty rosè and champagne bottles. Sales of Berroca and detox pills hit an annual high along the Cote d’Azur as survivors of adland’s biggest event attempt to repair body and soul. There’s always a bit of downtime straight after the festival, which is an appropriate time to reflect on one’s festival experience.

Full disclosure, I wasn’t a proper delegate – at least not in the eyes of the organisers. The official programme of talks and events that take place inside the Palais are for badge-holders only, and that’s a space that caters pretty much exclusively to the creative sector. Media and technology are present, but they’re both discussed in terms of their impact on creativity.

Outside the Palais however, it’s a very different story. Here media agencies, consultancies, tech companies and specialists of almost every discipline in communications are present – hustling and hosting, producing their own events, throwing parties and booking those all-important meetings that make the whole experience of being Cannes worthwhile. While the Palais hosts talks by actors like Jeff Goldblum and venerated creatives like Goodby & Silverstein, out on the Croisette you could see WPP CEO Mark Read interview Fox Corp’s Lachlan Murdoch, or hear the latest research and insights up at the UM or MediaCom suites.

Genuine industry game-changing things happen too. Last week saw the launch of the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, which is a collaboration between the world’s biggest brands and tech platforms, including Unruly, that is setting out to tackle the persistent problems facing the online world. This is a major step forward in creating better, safer and more rewarding online experiences for both users and advertisers… and it kicked-off in Cannes.

Ask anyone about the dominant trends in this year’s festival, and they’ll talk about the idea of ‘purpose’. Throughout the work, the talks, both in the Palais and across the city, the idea of brands finding purpose loomed large across the entire week. CMO’s discussed the importance of finding purpose, and the daily awards shortlists were rich with examples of brands doing good things to make the world a better place. For me though, there were two more nuanced trends on display.

The first was censorship and news. There was a lot of work this year in the awards from campaigns that set out to tackle fake news or press censorship. Connected to this, it was also interesting to see how many brands were getting political in their ad campaigns, with the Trump administration in particular proving to be a popular topic for satire by brands like Burger King.

The second trend was within the delegates themselves. Cannes attracts tens of thousands of people to the city every year, and friends connected to the Festival tell me that whatever the organisers release as the official number (generally around 10-15 thousand, depending on the year), you can safely assume at least the same amount again are in town without a pass, just like me. But pass-holder or not, it was clear that despite the usual rounds of parties and evening events, people were there this year to do business. Everyone I spoke to had back-to-back diaries, and people who would normally go for the week were just doing two or three days. It’s no doubt a sign of the times where everyone is trying to more with less, and in less time – but it’s also reassuring to see that in its sixth decade, Cannes Lions is still essential to our industry for its ability to help people connect, and provide a platform for important discussions for every part of the communications landscape.

Cannes Lions 2020? I can’t wait.

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