Cannes Lions Festival: Celebrating Creativity Technology and the Ultimate Challenge

Besides the late-night parties on the beach, gossip about what Sir Martin Sorrell is up to next, and inspiring examples of world-class advertising, Cannes is a great place to get a sense for the latest trends and priorities in the marketing landscape. Like the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference does for pharma every January, Cannes brings together the global advertising leadership to commiserate, pontificate a bit, and hopefully leave with a more confident sense of how to serve their clients better.

Having participated in numerous workshops, presentations and awards shows, I walked away thinking about three key themes that are worth exploring more deeply with my team at closerlook.

Building Memories

Perhaps it’s a visceral response to all the attention that marketing data is getting these days, but there was a lot of passion around emotion, memory and storytelling. 

One group that had analyzed 174 million social posts on cancer observed that among the top three reasons patients turn to social media is that they want to be inspired. Learn about their disease and treatment options, of course, but it was very clear that people are looking for emotional stories that inspire and encourage. 

This is a call to remember our roots in creativity and memorable storytelling.

Is Sonic Strategy the next frontier in brand experience? Voice search with Alexa and Google Home is certainly hot, but at Cannes there was a lot of talk about the role of sonic in the brand experience. 

Building a sonic strategy includes unique brand elements such as sonic themes, a sonic anthem or sonic logos. The brain processes sound faster than the other four senses.
Research shows that sound is actually very effective in triggering memories and emotion. 

Creating Culture 

Emotion is also an important ingredient in building a culture of creativity. To successfully build and sustain a culture of creativity requires finding self-motivated people, or as Dan Sullivan would say, people who come with “batteries included.” 

Talented people aren’t good enough. Smart people aren’t good enough. Hardworking people aren’t good enough. What you really need to find are people who inherently are self-motivated. They get the work done and you can’t stop them.

But once you have your self-motivated team, how to you keep them? You appeal to their aspirations, their dreams. 

There’s me and then there’s my “dream me,” and there’s always a gap between me and my dream me. 

The gap is where the opportunity exists. If you can help high-performance employees reach their dream me, why would they leave? 

Advertising and Blockchain

Of course, you didn’t really think there would be an advertising festival with major sponsorship from the major consulting firms like IBM, McKinsey and Accenture without a few sessions on blockchain, did you?

The presentations on blockchain all began with the requisite admission that there’s still a lot of hype and not a lot of understanding. Unfortunately, the speakers didn’t do much to shed any new light on the mechanics or the application of blockchain to marketing. 

A major presentation by one of the world’s largest technology companies was a waste of 45 minutes. Is the technology inherently opaque, or is it still so early that no one has designed a practical application beyond bitcoin? 
There was talk about blockchain rewiring the programmatic media space, but even there, the people that are doing it admitted that they’re still in alpha version and it may be years before blockchain is actually effectively bringing transparency to media buying. 

Note to Cannes Lions organizers for next year: don’t give up on blockchain yet, but bring us real-life examples (from articulate presenters) that we can use. 

Will AI be a Creative Game Changer?

Machine-learning gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. 

One presenter put up a slide with eight gorgeous photos of what looked like Hollywood actors. He asked the audience to raise their hand if they recognized any of these Hollywood stars. A few tentative hands went up and then the presenter revealed that none of the apparent celebrities are real. They are all AI-generated images in which a computer pulled the best features from numerous real Hollywood stars and created fake headshots. Hybrid stars, if you will. 

AI and machine learning have become a very effective and fast classification tool, but the time is coming when its ability to do pattern recognition will lead to pattern creation. AI will become a co-creator of images, music and even narrative. 

What will that mean for the marketing and advertising industry? There’s no question that production work will eventually be handled by machines, but we will need to learn how to harness and leverage the power of AI to uncover unique insights and create powerful images and stories. We’ll need that partner if we want to remain competitive.

Award-winning work

In the Cannes Lions Pharma and Health and Wellness track, there were numerous worthy awards, particularly in the category of craft. More than half of the Lions awarded this year were given to excellent craft, whether photography, animation or graphics. However, there was no Gold Lion awarded this year. 

The consensus of the jury was that there was no one submission that demonstrated the integration of creativity and technology in a way that took the advertising discipline to the next level. 

No one had integrated the “big idea” driven by consumer insight with the ability to use technology or use data-driven multichannel in a sophisticated personalized way. The conference left us all challenged with the realization that we have yet to raise the bar in the industry. 

On my flight back to the US, it began to sink in that the gap that needed to be filled is exactly the area where closerlook lives. We live at the corner of creativity and insight. The analyst and the artist. Data, technology and creative storytelling.

If there is one agency that I think is equipped to rise to this challenge, it’s closerlook. 

As you might expect, a gathering of the world’s top healthcare agencies would reflect the major communications and business themes that we all think about every day. Creativity, culture, technology and marketing effectiveness supporting innovative and mission-driven companies and the healthcare professionals and patients they serve. 

Add to that a good dose of futuristic thinking to keep us from becoming complacent, and we had an inspiring few days on the beach at Cannes.

Related Thinking

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David Ormesher, CEO

Founder and CEO of closerlook, a recognized leader in creating innovative relationship marketing solutions that help pharmaceutical companies get closer to their most important customers. Learn more about closerlook here.


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