Purpose In The Palais: 5 Trends To Guide Your Cannes Lions Experience

Where do you start? With partner meetings and parties, award shows and more than 600 speakers across 18 stages, it’s easy to get caught up in the swirl of choices on how to spend your week.

This year, it’s time to break a few traditions. Flip partner lunches on their head and meet with a start-up or two instead. Trade out one of your three breakfast meetings for insights from an Inside the Jury Room judges panel.

And, as much as we all love movie stars, scour the agendas on the secondary stages, where you’ll find some of the industry’s most inspiring and provocative topics.

Yet, even with this road map in your back pocket, we can tighten the focus even more to align with the five big trends that might just help you earn a trip to the Cannes Lions award stage next year.

Break the code
The Festival is awash in content about technology. With 20+ sessions on the topic, you could spend the whole week learning about little else. So when choosing, gravitate toward those that make programmers heroes: Apps. Games. Mobile.



Technology growth and interest is migrating from platforms and hardware to software to code. Need proof? Fast Company reports one-third of the top jobs in the U.S. are now computer programming related. Meet those people.

Consumers craving original idea-driven solutions are forcing this shift. We’ve already seen a peek at its power with last year’s deceptively simple Vodafone app that addressed domestic abuse in Turkey. So, don’t shy away from a little code. Better understanding its power can make your brand more powerful.

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Hear me now
Start listening, and unlock the power of audio. It is the last bastion of the consumer experience that’s yet to near its full potential.

Ironically, although the Festival doesn’t have an audio category, its program is full of sessions that speak to its growing influence. According to Google, 41% of U.S. teens use voice search daily and 60.5 million Americans (20%) will talk to a virtual assistant at least once a month (eMarketer).

We’re moving way beyond the draw of music. It’s podcasts and audio branding, voice shopping and voice search. Yes, the sheer immersive wonder of virtual and augmented reality still is in growth mode too, but it’s audio that is showing signs of long-term impact for brands.

Perhaps it’s because we’re so overloaded with visual content on every screen and through social media, our senses are screaming. Audio’s simplicity transports us to different places quickly and holistically. Its promise is in its functionality, in its storytelling and user experience. So seek out sessions that show you how to engage your consumers’ ears.

Humans vs. machines 
The industry’s infatuation with data appears to be in retrograde at the festival. IBM tells us that 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years alone. Although overwhelming, we can all now see its power we need to accept its limitations. (For a real-world reminder, pick up the book “Shattered” about how data analytics in a vacuum failed the Clinton campaign.)

With the AI market growing from $8B in 2016 to $47B in 2020 (IDC), there is a growing tension between humans and machines. Some predict that latter will be smarter than us within the next 20 to 30 years. But is smarter better? And, how far can we trust data’s next big wave to solve our brand’s problems before bringing intuition and emotion into the equation?

Look for sessions that speak to how data can enhance a larger idea – like storytelling or the use of humor – or how to reconcile our left and right brain marketing needs. In 2016, for example, ING Bank used data to analyze Rembrandt’s works and recreate a masterpiece. Why? Wouldn’t we have learned more by applying that data to further human interest, creating a new Picasso painting in Rembrandt’s style that shows the DNA of an artist’s mind?

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea — but let’s not let data cause us to lose sight or miss a more compelling opportunity.

Hold up a mirror
Here’s one place where the Festival of Creativity is far ahead of its Cannes counterpart. Cannes Film Festival jurist Jessica Chastain recently made headlines by calling the lack of women represented in its work “disturbing.” We head into a week where our festival has more than doubled its number of women judges to 43%.

The same holds true for social empowerment. After last year’s festival, the six top agency holding companies formed the Common Ground UN initiative and established sustainable development goals – from climate change to health to gender diversity.

It will be exciting to see what happens because of it. Our hope is that it’s part of a bigger trend of inclusiveness and social empowerment celebrated at award ceremonies.

This year, you have access to talks on everything from how creativity can change the world to how to attract a diverse talent pool. Seek out ways to continually scrub insensitivity out of a brand’s message at every turn. Less Nivea/“White is Purity” more of Ben & Jerry’s same scoop campaign to fight Australia’s ban on same sex marriage.

The fifth ‘P’
Kellogg School’s Phil Kotler, considered the father of modern marketing, has added a fifth P to the four Ps of Marketing – Purpose – for good reason.

Authenticity and brand purpose go hand in hand with how to create a lasting bond between consumer and brand. Whether it’s Dove’s connection to women’s self-esteem or Swedish Tourism’s irreverent “Talk to a Swede,” we need to continue to look for inspired, non-contrived ways to bring a brand’s value to life. There’s now always a higher order beyond product benefit.

Unilever has quantified it with research that says its sustainable development brands grew 50% faster and accounted for 60% of the company’s growth in 2016. It defines those brands as ones with a strong social or environmental purpose.

As you navigate your week at Cannes, think about your consumers’ growing expectations of what your brand can do for them. Look for ways that software, audio, data, diversity, and brand purpose can inspire you to create your own Lions-worthy work next year.
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