When Cannes Met Hollywood

Cannes Lions 2016 has come to a close, and the dust has settled on our industry’s biggest and arguably most productive (really) global marketing event. Over the course of eight days, more than 15,000 people gathered from 100 countries. I came home energized by creative peers and feeling more connected to the pulse of where our industry is headed.

Throughout the course of the week, core themes emerge that will shape the year ahead and beyond.

Hottest Buzzword: Content. Hollywood officially met Madison Avenue at Cannes, with the launch of the first-ever Lions Entertainment, a separate track and awards showcase dedicated to “unskippable creativity.” The irony is, this is what many great marketers already aspire to – to create marketing content so engaging people want to watch it. In fact, there was a lot of overlap in the on-stage themes and awards, with some of the best work from the Entertainment Lions (like Guinness’s "Never Alone" and Netflix’s “House of Cards” campaign) taking top honors in the standard Lions categories.

Conversations at Cannes often centered around “content” over “advertising” with everyone from publishers to entertainment companies and tech platforms touting content offerings. With the rise of ad blocking and the increased volume of content available to consumers, the bar for “stand out” creative has only increased.
Creating great content at the scale and speed required today is hard work. Harder still is figuring out how to organize for it and what partners to work with to inspire fresh thinking. New partners and ways of working are emerging to help marketers tackle these challenges, and brands like Pepsi and Johnson & Johnson are openly experimenting with new models. There likely won’t be one model that works for everyone, but chances are that legacy models won’t be the ones leading marketers into a future driven by unskippable content.

Brightest Shiny Object: VR. VR officially moved from the fringes this year, with The New York Time’s VR campaign deservedly taking the top prize in mobile, and with VR experiences from Samsung and Nokia on full display. Many of the branded VR examples still felt experimental, either not fully leveraging the creative possibilities of 360 sight and sound, or not representing brands in truly relevant and meaningful ways.

VR has reached the point of being “shelf stable” and is poised for growth. At Cannes Lions 2017, expect to see VR work that is creatively more sophisticated and immersive, and that brings brands into the experience in more meaningful and relevant ways.

Biggest Disappointment: Progress on Diversity. Our industry needs more progress in achieving diversity in advertising, and positive images of women. What we got at Cannes, save for a few poignant moments from Cannes speakers like Madonna Badger and Kim Getty, was headlines about tasteless parties and bad work that shouldn’t have seen the light of day, let alone earned a Lion. Most importantly, while there was some stand-out work honored for pushing the diversity agenda, ultimately, the judges awarded fewer Glass Lions than last year.

Notably, some of the most exciting progress for diversity in advertising came not at Cannes, but in the days before the festival at the United State of Women Summit. There, with the support of The White House, the ANA launched the #SeeHer initiative, with a mission to accurately portray girls and women in media by 2020. It’s an action-oriented effort that will shine a light on brands upholding positive images of women.

Beyond simply being morally just, positive diversity in advertising is good business. For one, the ANA found that accurately and positively representing women improves ads’ effectiveness by as much as 30%. Here’s to hoping we see more of this work created, championed and recognized in Cannes next year.
Cannes propels our industry in ways that no other conference does – it gives us the opportunity to spark meaningful dialogue, to create change and to inspire each other to do amazing work. What we do between now and Cannes 2017 to build off of this is entirely up to us.

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