Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Cannes 2016: seven key takeaways

We're now coming to the end of the 63rd Cannes Lions festival, and it's been another whirlwind of great work, great people and great programming.

Cannes 2016: seven key takeaways

Even before the dust has settled, there are already some very clear themes and takeaways, which we’ve mapped out below.

1 Quality over quantity (or speed)
Conde Nast mega-force Anna Wintour took to the stage on Wednesday, and echoed many of the speakers’ desires to find better ways to understand their audience better.  She spoke of the ‘pressure to produce’, encouraging those in attendance not to get distracted by the speed of today’s digital world, and invest more time in quality, credible work.

"We live in an age that prizes authenticity. Just look at our current Vogue cover girl Amy Schumer whose success is built on a raw, unfiltered and very human person. Bringing personal experience and emotion to the table resonates with audiences … audiences respond to people who dare to be different."

2 Ad blocking is still scaring people
An incredible focus for this year’s festival, with a whole range of events dedicated to this topic. Everyone from Piers Morgan to AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong had something to say. 

Largely though, the opinion is the same; world-class creativity will obliterate ad blocking (the actual name of the panel the Internet advertising Bureau hosted on the matter). Native will help, but we’ve got to get better at ensuring sponsored content is labelled correctly and clearly.

As agencies, there’s a key role to play in terms of collaborating with publishers on how to approach and handle this. And they’re asking for our help. As McCann chief Harris Diamond, rightly stated "It’s not deadly for us, but it is deadly for them." 

3 Purpose gets a shot of reality
An evolution of the focus on brand purpose last year (and in fact, a few before it as well), there was lots of chatter about taking responsibility. And just getting on with it. 

Airbnb founder Briand Chesky spoke about the company’s recent Mankind campaign, saying that the desire there was to create something that would represent the brand’s belief that people are fundamentally good, and that whenever you go, wherever you go around the world, you shouldn’t be an outsider.

When asked about Trump’s idea to create a ‘giant wall’ to separate the US from Mexico, Chesky was quick to rebuff it. "Increasingly we’re seeing people want to be global citizens. Anyone who tries to put up barriers against culture is going to be on the wrong side of history."

Will Smith continued the theme; "Smoke and mirrors in marketing and sales is over. People are going to know really quickly and globally whether a product keeps its promises." 

4 Snapchat is still everywhere, but not everywhere
The platform of choice for teens the world over truly lived its brand values by taking the biggest, most impactful ad spot (the entire front wall of the Palais) and not doing much else. As they did last year, they turned the side of the building with Snapchat-yellow, with the Snapchat icon to coincide. And that’s about it. 

Combine this with no less than 10 unique location-based filters, and a prominent Snapchat Story providing live updates, it’s the ultimate representation of the brand’s belief in high value paid media spots that have a high impact.

Also, given that the fastest growing segment on the platform is now 25-35 year olds, there are probably a fair few brands leaving Cannes considering new options for disappearing content…

5 VR is still the shiny new thing
What we learned from the VR sessions was simple; you can’t show off VR without a VR headset. There was much of this on the programme, and while VR has so much potential for phenomenal creative work; without the technology to show it off properly, it’s very hard to do this justice on a festival programme. 

Undoubtedly though, we’ll see more of this next year, as agencies start to explore how to use VR to bring people closer to the brands they represent. And with the first Oculus Rift headsets delivered to consumers in the past few weeks, we’ll see more groundswell as people become more familiar with the kit they need to experience VR at home. 

Plus the continuing ‘is Facebook 360 even VR?’ debate still rages…

6 ‘Yay India’
Following last year’s launch of the Glass Lions (the awards for female empowerment and diversity), where Cindy Gallop took the role of inaugural President, she once again returned to the festival this year. 

Gallop was one of the industry legends to host a Tour of The Work session; which focused on this year’s Glass Lions winners. Her six top picks showed off a varied selection of work, but her key takeaway (and resulting quote above) was that the vast majority of winning campaigns across the Glass category came from Indian agencies, which she said were ‘hitting it out of the park’.

A key entry here was the Grand Prix winner; 6 Pack Band for Brooke Bond Red Label Tea, which saw Mindshare unite transgender women to form a band, focusing attention on them being ‘in a band’ rather than any other form of prejudice.

7 #WomenNotObjects
One of the surprise highlights of the festival was Madonna Badger’s heart wrenching and harrowing session on Monday morning. Titled Sex, Lies & Advertising, it told the backstory to her #WomenNotObjects project, which aims to draw attention to the objectification of women in advertising. 

Badger’s decision to share the devastation of losing her three daughters, and both of her parents, in a fire at her home, was one of most brave moments ever seen on the Cannes Lion stage. And her decision to create the project so that she could create a legacy on behalf of her children, and remain connected to them through it, was nothing short of awe inspiring. 

Pitched beautifully, we were reminded of the responsibility we have to shape the views, decisions and actions of so many, and that this should be treated with the respect it deserves.


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