Creative Opinions on Cannes Lions 2018: Big Trends and Big Changes

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The big theme for Cannes Lions 2018 is change. Out with the old, bloated, elitist festival of old and in with the more svelte, measured and inclusive festival of new. The major changes Cannes Lions is instituting for 2018 are as follow:-

  • The festival will run for only five days (Monday to Friday, June 18-22) instead of the usual eight.

  • The cost of a Complete delegate pass is being cut by €900 to €3,249.

  • The festival is introducing nine content “tracks” that guide all festival programming as well as the the Lions themselves, which will be grouped under the tracks.

  • Three Lions are being retired (Cyber, Integrated and Promo & Activation), while five new Lions are being added and more than 120 award subcategories are also being removed.

  • A single piece of work can be entered in no more than six Lions contests, where before it was unlimited.

  • The points system is changing to prioritise winning a Lion over just getting shortlisted.

  • Lions Entertainment and Lions Innovation are being integrated into the main festival.

  • The festival has worked with the city of Cannes to offer cost-saving benefits including a freeze on hotel prices for 2018 and fixed-price menus at more than 50 restaurants across the city.

The vast majority of the changes appear to have been made to make the festival more inclusive and more affordable. There's also no getting around the fact that the festivities will be a much more contained this year, which will no doubt be welcomed by those that complained the festival had grown too big for its own good last year. Until now, Cannes Lions dragged out over an entire week, cost companies thousands to send their own employees and offered so many awards that one piece of work alone could potentially monopolise the festival. It was time for a change.

To the outside world, however, it's very much business as usual, so I reached out to a few choice industry insiders to gather their thoughts on what's changed, what still needs to change and what trends are set to heat up the French Riviera next week.


Sergio Lopez, Chief Production Officer at McCann Worldgroup


What’s next for Cannes?

Dissecting Integration is paramount to our industry. Award shows face the opposite challenge to Chief Production Officers. We are building integrated departments to produce work that is platform agnostic, while award shows are trying to separate the pieces in order to recognize the value of the creativity per channel and the quality of the craft in each one. The most awarded campaigns in the last few years have been omni-channel and use existing platforms in new ways. The real question now is how do we better reward creativity and craft in a channel agnostic world? Artificial Intelligence, Programatic and Dynamic Production are increasingly becoming part of our industry. They have helped win elections, build the public’s opinion and they are having a great impact on the way the campaigns perform, but how will award shows reward work that is not created by humans? It will be interesting to find out.


Olga Egorsheva, CEO and Co-founder of Lobster


Centred on creativity

This year’s Cannes will see several changes from the previous ones. The event is going to be three days shorter than usual, lasting only five in total. The format will be significantly different, with organisers making the festival more cost friendly and focusing firmly on creativity. Agencies can only submit work for six Lions this year, with the idea being that the best will shine through. It again points to Cannes desire to centre the event around creativity. Some events have also been removed and replaced by new categories. The big news is the absence of Publicis Groupe. The company withdrew from to focus on an internal AI platform. They have already confirmed that they will be back for the 2019 event, however.


There was plenty of light shed on the sexual harassment issues in Hollywood and the tech world the last year. Cannes Lions has the perfect opportunity to set the tone for diversity at this year, helping to champion the cause. It’s undoubtedly going to be a topic on everyone’s lips, and it will be interesting to see what kind of coverage it receives at the show. The role of artificial intelligence will be a topic of hot debate. Along with augmented and virtual reality, AI is evolving at a breakneck pace. It will be interesting to see how brands utilise the tech and what strides they’ve made from last year.


Neil Christie, CCO at Wieden+Kennedy


Campaigns over stunts

I have no idea what the Cannes juries will vote for this year. But I hope it will be focused on significant campaigns for mainstream brands rather than one-off stunts for worthy causes. The more that awards are handed out for work that’s only seen by juries, the more Cannes risks losing relevance to real life. (I can’t believe that I just typed the words ‘Cannes’ and ‘relevance to real life’ in the same sentence).


Natalie Hughes, Founder and Director of The Fashion Digital


Raw creativity at this year's talks and panels

I'm pleased to see this year's programme full of talks and panels dedicated to creativity in its simplest, rawest form. Sam Saunders' “Mine Your Mind” and Sanshui Lui's “Don't Be a Creative, Be a Creator” content sessions are dedicated to ideation, which is at the core of any digital marketing strategy, but is so often missed or overlooked where ephemeral (and algorithm-dictated) social media content is concerned. The topics of VR and AI have dominated previous festivals, though brands are still struggling to use these innovations in meaningful ways. Inition's session on biometrics in VR and Fjord's piece on ethics and AI will unpick these much-hyped areas and hopefully play a part in influencing the impact of future activations.


John Treacy, Executive Creative Director, Proximity London


Backing your own horse

My top tip for Cannes this year will be to watch out for CHE Proximity. And yes, I know that looks like I’m backing one of my own - but with good reason. They are on a total roll. The “AutoAds” campaign for Carsales that generates a high end personalised car ad for your rather crappy second-hand car was genius. But they’ll have a few more contenders besides. The “Inconvenience Stores” campaign for Swann Insurance that encouraged bikers to get out and ride their bikes for hours at a time just to pick up a pint of milk, is a great campaign done in a really tough sector. And the Cochlear “Hearprint” chrome extension that personalises the audio of all your digital content as well as tracking your hearing loss over time, is a brilliant innovation with real world application. And for me, that’s the secret. These are all real-world business problems solved by creativity. The absolute bread and butter of what we do. Not a ‘brand purpose’ in sight. Wouldn’t seeing these ideas win make for a refreshing Cannes?


Emilie Tabor, founder and CMO, Influencer Marketing Agency (IMA)


The power of the social influencer

We’re extremely happy that Cannes has given influencer marketing the recognition it deserves with the addition of the “Social & Influencer” category. Advertisers and brands alike can’t ignore the capacity for social media to drive meaningful dialogues with consumers. As well as what it’s done to democratise and encourage creativity. Influencers are creatives and powerful ones at that. This is a nod in the right direction for a new era of creativity in which human-to-human connections triumph.


Rafael Rizuto, co-founder and CCO at TBD Advertising


The end of monopolies

One of the main changes in the festival this year is the fact that a single campaign will be allowed to enter in fewer categories. We won’t be seeing a single piece of work winning thirty lions like we’ve seen it before. This will make the festival more democratic in my opinion, allowing a more diverse body or work to shine.


Richard Dutton, Chief Marketing Officer at Engine UK


The rise of the tech giants

Cannes has changed. It is no longer a playground for the networks. The tech giants have come to the party and are going to be leading the conversation and festivities from now on. I hope Publicis’ absence will have encouraged smaller agencies that feel they are usually on an uneven playing field to enter and win Lions. This hopefully will bring some brilliant work into the spotlight that we have not seen before. Aside from being a showcase for the latest tech innovations, I expect agency models to be a hot topic at this year’s Cannes. Martin Sorrell’s vision for his new nimble agency focussed on content, data and tech, highlights the fact that the old agency model is obsolete and needs to evolve. Cannes have said they are focussing on a return to creativity – I hope this rings true and we see some brilliant work and thinking that harnesses the power of creativity, technology and data.


Claire Billings, VP Marketing, EMEA, Merkle


The battleground of customer experience

When you look at the scale of change in the last 12 months - across our industry and in terms of attitudes to Cannes Lions itself - this looks set to be one of the most fascinating festivals in recent years. Changes to industry regulation, consumer preferences, media consumption and behaviour, creates a new set of challenges – and opportunities - for marketers. Customer experience is the major battleground, as consumer expectation around what personalisation means now is higher than ever before. I think one of the big topics will be how do you deliver personal experiences – and personalisation – at scale.


Ben Plomion, CMO, GumGum


GDPR shakes things up

GDPR and its impact on the industry is likely to be discussed, at length, during this year’s festival. Advertisers are currently navigating one of the biggest shake-ups to the way they collect, use and store consumer data. Many feel GDPR has pushed the digital ad industry into making some much-needed reforms. With behavioural targeting no longer the go-to tool for reaching consumers, there’s an opportunity for contextual targeting to make a huge comeback. Marketers are having to think more creatively about how to successfully engage customers online and restore eroding trust.

What brands, agencies and creatives have perhaps failed to appreciate thus far is the enormous amount of valuable insight that the web can provide about consumers, without the need to harvest any personal data. For example, image-based communication via social media has become more common than person-to-person interaction. Couple this with the billions of images uploaded and shared on the internet daily, and there remains a unique opportunity for advertisers to get to know their customers in the language they now speak: images. Brands are increasingly buying in to this idea, and exploring different ways harness the power of ‘image’ using computer vision to create contextually relevant, more effective campaigns.

To Cannes or not to Cannes?

Cannes Lions is a substantial commitment for both attendees and sponsors. The investment seems to be ever-increasing as attendees strive to out-do each other’s extravagant displays. Individual companies will find it more and more difficult to stand out as everyone tries to up their game. The fear of missing out that I regularly see as the only reason driving people to Cannes carries huge risks – namely opportunity costs and unpredictable ROI. It’s also becoming harder to reach the relevant audiences and the key decision-makers who will have a positive impact on the future of the business. Many of them are at a high seniority level with no time or budget to attend.

Because of this, we at GumGum commit to making Cannes accessible to everyone around the world, hosting our own exclusive yacht parties in various cities. This way, we get to host the stakeholders essential to our future on board yachts floating comfortably on Lake Michigan, the Marina Del Rey and the River Thames. As marketers, it’s important to differentiate ourselves rather than just conform to what’s been done before. That’s not to say we won’t be returning or that it’s a bad investment for everyone, but for now we’re excited about giving our clients and new business prospects another option for experiencing the excitement of Cannes.


Harry Hugo, co-founder at the Goat Agency


Influencer marketing campaigns can win at Cannes

Reactions to the new influencer category at Cannes Lions this year have ranged greatly. Some are outraged that the relatively new approach has been included – these are likely those still labouring under the impression that influencer marketing is a passing fad. They are holding onto traditional marketing channels for dear life while failing to see what Cannes is finally recognising; influencer marketing is a legitimate, reliable marketing channel.

But many more are responding positively. Influencer marketing certainly isn’t a ‘fringe’ part of the industry and it shouldn’t be a fringe part of the festival. Last year, 86% of marketers were reported to have used influencer marketing as part of a strategy to drive growth and engagement. It’s not going anywhere. People are, quite literally, building businesses on this. Take Boomf for example, they have built a product designed to be shared and create content online, using everyday people as their influencers. But of that 86% of marketers who used influencers, how many of them got it right? And not just right in the short term, but in the long term too?

As with any new form of communications people get excited, throw some money at it, see it as a “bolt on.” Or indeed, believe that engaging a celeb and paying them to pose with your brand a la Kim K, is the most effective you can be. It’s not. Influencer marketing is becoming a core part of marketing strategy that is delivering the best ROI compared to any others. It is here to disrupt traditional marketing channels, for start-ups right through to huge conglomerates. From our own research we believe it’ll take 20% of the total global marketing budget by 2023, meaning it will be worth between $75 and $100bn in five years’ time. But the difference between those getting it bang on, and those who are failing (detox tea anyone?) is huge. Influencer marketing is an art, they are so much more than just digital billboards.


Joel Edwards, Co-Founder at Evolve Studio


Old white dudes need to open up the clubhouse

Equality if going to be this year's top trend. If any old white dudes are still trying to keep others out of their clubhouse, that shit isn’t gonna fly. It’s going to be exciting to see who and what comes out of the unknown that there is a mandate to include a diverse offering of people & content. Seeing racial & gender walls falling is very encouraging. Hopefully over time equal light will also be shined on industry outsiders & no namers. Who knows; there’s probably some very compelling undiscovered work and counter cultural people out there. Either way, hopefully the exclusive cool kids club era is over.

Are we getting what we want from Cannes?

No doubt there will be some exciting work & news this year, but I must ask the question; do big festivals, like Cannes, provide the ROI attendees are looking for? Throw out the OOO time, travel, parties and booze, (though I cannot understate how important these elements are) and one does wonder; are we really getting what we want for the time & resource spent? Assuming everyone’s ideal takeaways wold be networking, exposure & potential business and creative opportunities; does Cannes deliver? It would be a great poll to see results on. I’ve read recently that most new deals (business relationships) are done based off internet research & digital communication. Perhaps it leans to the even bigger and societal question; is traditional business networking still working? But alas, I’m not a psychologist. I’m a filmmaker. So for the money, I’m feeling I could buy a new motorcycle or even better, fund a passion project and then post a savage Instagram story of me filming my passion project from my new bike. That’s legitimately becoming the best odds to get hired.


Alex Shifrin, Managing Partner at LP/AD


Cannes is no longer about agencies

As management consultants disparage the agency model all the while continuing to create what are in fact agencies to gobble up agency revenue, we in the ad agency world are hit with an existential crisis. Companies like PwC and McKinsey, who only four or five years ago still seemed out of place in Cannes are now taking centre stage, bravely teaching advertising to the ad industry. Cannes is no longer for or about the ad agency. How did that happen?


Charlie Johnson, VP, UK and Ireland, Digital Element


Evolve, diversify, innovate

The overhaul of Cannes Lions this year has been big news this year – from praise to skepticism, it’s been all over the press. But for an event of this scale to be in its seventh decade, change must surely be necessary to keep up with latest trends – especially in the creative and tech industries, where boundaries are designed to be pushed. For me, no change could be more welcome than Lions Innovation being integrated into the main festival. In a digital age where data-driven technologies fuel a huge variety of processes, creativity and innovation go hand-in-hand. Only by recognising the importance of data in the creative process – and using the very best technology to harness the huge amounts of information available – can we continue to disrupt, diversify, and develop as an industry.


Ty Parry, Managing Director, International at FreeWheel Advertisers


Collabaration across disciplines

This year’s Cannes Lions promises to pack in more content, connections and conversations over a week of innovation than any other. Previous award winners at Cannes, such as Burger King and Heineken, have once again set a high standard with their campaigns, and Spotify has already been named media brand of the year ahead of the event. We are also expecting great things from the McCann Worldgroup following their successes last year - taking four Grand Prix honours with Fearless Girl. Some of the standout candidates this year for accolades are KFC and Wieden+Kennedy or maybe even the Truth campaign by 72andSunny and Assembly.

Another prime example of technology expanding the boundaries of the creative process has to be GroupM’s MEC, now Wavemaker, who took away a Gold Lion for M Live: Marriott International’s Real-time Command Centre – if you haven’t seen it I suggest you check it out! There has never been a more exciting time for OTT, digital video or television – with more content being consumed than ever before, and this is likely to be another focus at Cannes. What we are now seeing are greater collaborations across disciplines, such as between broadcasters and advertisers, to capitalise on the opportunities the changing viewing habits of consumers present to the industry.


Itamar Benedy, Chief Executive Officer, Glispa


Diversity in creativity

Cannes Lions is all about creativity and how digital advertising is driving it forward. Conversations will be dominated by 2018’s power couple; creative and media. It will be interesting to see how strategies are being affected by the slow-burning merger between performance marketing and branding. The combination of measurement, optimisation and analysis offered by performance, with innovation and brand awareness by branding, is enabling forward-thinking companies to enhance their reputation and improve interaction with users. I can’t wait to see McKinsey’s session, which will focus on how the best performance marketing organisations are making creativity thrive.

No doubt the role of AR and VR and the opportunities and challenges each can bring to the creative industry will also be discussed at length. In today’s evolving ecosystem it’s essential for companies to keep up with changing trends, and take advantage of the value that technology, data and creativity offer in driving consumer engagement by enhanced user experience. Diversity appears to be an underlying trend across this programme. I am looking forward to attending the talk by Uber's Chief Brand Officer Bozoma Saint John, who will share her success story about the importance of taking risks in a male-dominated environment. It’s important for the industry to realise how significantly diversity contributes to company growth and innovation through the exchange of ideas.


Jody Allison – Founding Partner, Heads Up Production


Smarter thinking to fill the creative void

It is increasingly important these days to have strong directing talent in this changing creative world. I'm a huge supporter of the New Directors Showcase and think it's fantastic that it is still going strong with 28 years of supporting emerging directing talent across the world. The biggest trend that's been happening in production is that we have less money available and therefore smarter thinking is needed. This is a result of broader, more critical viewing audiences combined with the fact that many projects are operating without an agency or its structure. The creative void needs to be filled and I would say this is the age for this new directing talent to truly shine.


Constantin Bjerke – Founder of Crane.tv and Cult


Less attendees could give creativity more room to breathe

It’s about time this industry truly uses its creative, geographical and financial power to address some of the biggest issues our planet faces. I believe the “Can Creativity Save Our Oceans?” Panel on Thursday could be important. We're an industry with a young demographic so, theoretically, we should all care enough to pressure ourselves to do something that matters. I'm interested to see what the panel have to say.

Cannes came under huge scrutiny last year following the departure of Publicis Groupe for 2018. The ripple effect of their announcement also prompted strong criticism from Sir Martin Sorrell and the big networks. Many believe this will put pressure on the festival this year. It's likely attendees will be greatly reduced but there is a potential that these changes could actually allow creativity to breathe. The PR furore last year eclipsed some of the important creative discussions to be had. We hope this festival will put a stronger focus on desicion makers and creative innovation.


Tim Preston, Head of Production at MassiveMusic London


Cannes is still the perfect platform for celebrating big dreams

How can you deliver creative excellence to your clients if your creative team doesn't have the right incentive to do so? A gold Lion. The highest creative accolade you can earn. It’s the dog’s bollocks. The ultimate accessory on the Carlton terrace in Cannes. We all want to win one. It proves, without a doubt, that your work is the very best of its kind on the global stage. Dangle it in front of your prospective client and they will take notice.

But more importantly, winning a Lion is proof that you have invested in the creative individuals needed to make these big dreams a reality. The job ain’t an easy one as the best people are hard to acquire and even harder to hold on to. 2018. You've made a blazer of a campaign that is worth its weight in gold. But you aren't going to get the award because you've not been given the chance to enter. So, what will you do in 2019? We all do this because we love what we make. That should be understood, recognised and applauded, and Cannes is the perfect platform to achieve this.


Tera Miller, Partner, Director of Strategic & Creative Planning at Ketchum


Cannes 2018 in for a women's rights perfect storm

I think Cannes 2018 is in for a women’s rights perfect storm. Life is imitating art as agencies take a cue from award-winning client work empowering women and girls and apply that to our own lives. The Festival has a history of supporting the conversation – from Madonna Badger’s #WomenNotObjects campaign to the 3 Percent Movement and discussions of low numbers of women in agency creative roles. Add to this the recent #metoo conversation about sexual assault and harassment in the workplace and the ‘Time’s Up Advertising’ initiative launched in March, and I expect some serious conversations related to women’s issues in the creative workplace to happen formally and informally at Cannes.

At Ketchum, our Global CEO and senior creative leader are both women I admire; women who encourage diversity of thought across the agency. However, gender inequality is an issue all agencies must be aware of and regularly examine. I look forward to a day when the women and men we are mentoring today will look back and marvel that the conversation we are having around gender equality today was ever necessary at all. Cannes has the potential to be a moment in time when we collectively make this possible.


William Eccleshare, Chairman & CEO, Clear Channel International


The technological transformation of OOH

Out of home is undoubtedly one of the most creative mediums. Technology has fuelled its transformation into a truly digital media, giving advertisers greater flexibility to reach and target audiences. Creative thinking is now its only real limitation. Every year at Cannes, the bar for creativity gets set a little higher, so we’re eagerly anticipating the range of brands, activations and Outdoor Lions’ winners that are showcased on our screens at this year’s Festival.


For more on Cannes Lions 2018, keep your browsers tuned to Creativepool over the coming fortnight. We'll be examining more insider opinions in greater depth, exploring the major changes afoot this year and interviewing some of the industry's most respected talking heads on their Cannes predictions. We will also be on the ground in Cannes next week for some face-to-face discussions and to keep you up to date with all the major wins and all the hot gossip.


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