Cannes Unpacked

The photographer’s view. Julian Hanford

Issue 44 | September 2017

There is a witty bit of banter going around agencies at the moment - "Don't worry, there's a Cannes Lion award for every creative working in advertising".

On the face of it, there would seem to be some truth in this. Cannes Lions have expanded their award base to include every slight permutation of media, it would seem. Want to win a silver lion for 'best use of Helvetica on a free blue promotional pen' and I'm sure they've got a category for that somewhere. And if they haven't, they will definitely have it next year.

The reason, of course is expansion and profit. Cannes Lions is now a publicly listed concern. The only way forward is growth and dividends for its shareholders.

My sixth year at the Lions started with these thoughts playing on my mind. How big can this monster still get? It's already creaking at the seams.

A hefty blow

I suppose, as a simple photographer, plying my trade here, I should not be bothered by the politics of the festival, but, working in the Palais and listening to the talks in the auditoriums and the conversations in the press room, you can't help but surf the general vibe.

It was against that background, then, that halfway though this year's festival the Lions were dealt a hefty blow below the belt. In an unprecedented move, Publicis Group released a statement that they were withdrawing from next year's Lions entirely. This was followed by similar rumblings from the WPP camp (although this might have just been the sound of Sorrell's stomach digesting another Carlton lunch).

Predictably, the Lions share price went into free-fall. There must have been some really stressful management conflabs that day, particularly in the middle of trying to manage the festival itself – an added piece of dramatic timing by Arthur Sadoun, CEO of Publicis.

The reason cited, particularly by Sorrell, is the size and spread of the festival away from its original remit. And you can feel and sense that here. The advertising industry now plays second fiddle to tech companies, media companies and entertainment companies.

Irrelevant stars

So, back in the real world, who did I point my lens at this year and did they really have any valid reason to be there?

First up was Sir Ian McKellen, brought to us courtesy of the Brooklyn Brothers London. Whilst I love this man very much, his talk about his life's journey as a gay man, though fascinating, wasn't really terribly relevant to a marketing audience.

Supermodel Karlie Kloss told us about her coding school and all her college degrees. Whilst interesting and inspiring, again, not a hugely relevant contribution.

Even Simon Le Bon was there, selling his soul for some ad synch work to keep him in Bollinger for the next few years.

Dame Helen Mirren and L'Oreal, though, delivered a refreshingly powerful message on the need for inclusion and diversity in advertising – not before time, in my opinion.

Speaker of the week

One of the highlights for me was Professor Dan Ariely, courtesy of the excellent BrandOpus, who got right to the heart of human motivations and how marketing should embrace behavioural economics.

And guess what? He was talking about the sort of creative thinking that still brings so many people down to Cannes to be inspired. Well, the advertising people anyway.

So here's to a more creative and human Cannes Lions Festival in future years. We can only hope.

You can view some of Julian's work at:

Submit Your Work

Send us your work for the next issue of Directory using our submissions form


Inspiration monthly via Email

Sign Up

Current Issue

Issue 62