A view from Johnny Hornby

Don't Cannes it - make it a festival of the future

Cannes Lions is a unique time of the year when every corner of the marketing world comes together, but industry-wide problems must be dealt with...

Why go when it has become a "liberal worthy wankfest", as Rory Sutherland so vividly puts it?

Why go when every square inch of La Croisette has been colonised by the tech companies, adland NFI’ed?  

Why go and rearrange deck chairs on a well appointed yacht, when back home the industry is, if not actively sinking, certainly holed below the waterline?

As deeply coveted as those Cannes Lions are, the festival has always attracted some healthy scepticism among the ad community. Now we’re all busier, competition is greater, budgets are tighter; isn’t that jeroboam of rosé just a little harder to justify with every year that goes by? 

It might be, if the week continued to be a simple celebration of creativity high-spots from the previous year. These will never be beside the point – and I was as excited as anyone when we struck gold with our Lexus Hoverboard last week – but increasingly I see Cannes as an opportunity to look forward, as much as it is a chance to look back.

The future of our industry will rest on our ability to find big, fluid ideas that harness the power of all channels, old and new. These ideas will depend on agencies and media platforms, data and technology, customers and clients, all working together in new models, inventing in new ways, relishing a new culture of collaboration.

It was in this spirit that we made our way to Cannes this year, joining forces with clients like News UK and The Wall Street Journal, and tech partners like Unruly, to host a series of debates on everything from the future of video content, to the future of the ad agency, to Caitlin Moran’s take on digital media, to the future of Britain outside the EU (not great, concluded that last one). We found time for a little retrospective self-congratulation in between, but this was firmly a festival of the future.

Still looking forward, I hope that next year will see us come together to discuss progress on a few of those clouds that still blight our blue skies – brewing storms like ad fraud or the media rebate scandal just revealed by the ANA. They’re industry-wide embarrassments and until they’re dealt with properly, none of us should party with a clear conscience.

Nevertheless, Cannes is unique: every corner of our marketing world, brought together by sun, sand and some ill-conceived swimwear, in an atmosphere of goodwill and optimism. It’s the perfect environment to do more than herald our successes to date, but to set our collective eyes to the horizon and focus on a brighter – not to say fairer – future.

Johnny Hornby is founder of The & Partnership.