The editor's view

Cannes in 360

Issue 48 | September 2018

So, this was the 'new-look' Cannes Lions.

The festival, we were promised, would be shorter, cheaper (apparently), more focused on creativity.

This was a response to the bombshell dropped a year earlier when CEO Arthur Sadoun chose to announce at the festival that Publicis would not be entering any awards for a full year.

Terrible thing to do to Ascential, owners of Cannes Lions, to choose their own party at which to knife them. Their share price dived immediately.

Good move for Publicis. In claiming to be investing in AI with a client-focused platform called Marcel, the group suddenly looked smart and modern to Wall Street.

By contrast, WPP began to look weary and traditional and its CEO seemed to be over the hill.

More of Sir Martin in a minute.

Sneakily, Publicis still managed to get 399 campaigns entered on their behalf by clients and production companies.

That's having your croissant and eating it.
As for Ascential, they knew they would take a hit.
In 2017, the festival generated $87m income.
In 2018, there were 25% fewer delegates and 20% fewer

entries, down from 41,170 to 32,372. So they had to make some cuts.


It wasn't just that there were no goodies in the goody bag they hand out to every delegate.

There was no tee-shirt.
There has always been a Cannes tee-shirt.
It's what they gave you in return for your €3,000.
That was the deal.
Not any longer.
On the plus side, the Palais was less crowded though the queues for the major seminars were as long as ever. The bars and lobbies seemed emptier too. So there weren't just fewer delegates, there were fewer hangers-on. But these things are relative.

We're still talking about 12,000 people all turning up. And all turning up for different reasons.

Last year, Cannes Lions was four very different festivals masquerading as one. It meant there were four very different kinds of visitor, each wondering why the others were there.

This year, for some reason, Cannes was still four different festivals – Health, Advertising, Innovation and Media.

Not that they gave them those names.
They talked about nine 'tracks'.
All the same, there were four very distinct communities and they pretty much avoided each other.

The Health and Pharma folk were given a day to do their thing.

The Advertising people had Tuesday to Friday and the awards to concentrate on. They buzzed around the Palais, went to the talks, looked at the work.

The Innovation lot had their own hub behind the Palais and kept to themselves.

And the Media people had their yachts and cabanas or, if they were Google, Facebook, they had their own beaches.

The accountants are taking over

The new kids on the block, belonging very much to the Media crowd, were the consultancies.

They used the word 'creative' a lot while meaning something else altogether.

Silicon Valley calls the engineers the creatives.

And that's what Accenture, Deloitte and IBM seem to mean too. Creativity is the application of technological know- how to create business solutions.

They were in Cannes talking about digital transformation, AI, programmatic and "solving transparency issues with blockchain.

All important stuff for the clients who were there.

And important for Cannes Lions too because the consultancies (c'mon, they're accountancy firms, aren't they?) have money, which agencies haven't.

So they were given the stage.
As, indeed, were the tech companies.
Facebook's Carolyn Everson, YouTube's Susan Wojcicki,

Tencent's Seng Lee Lau and Alibaba's Chris Tung were all given time and space in which to explain themselves.

But perhaps to the wrong people.

The audiences in the Debussy and Audi theatres were mostly from adland.

At the beginning of The Economist's 'Big Debate', the crowd was asked to vote. Did they see the big tech platforms as being a threat or an opportunity for the creative industry?

68% voted opportunity, 21% for threat.

Carolyn Everson failed spectacularly to convince the hall that Facebook was serious about fake news and data protection, the numbers being reversed.

At the end of the session, the votes were opportunity, 44%, threat, 53%.

She would have been better off talking to the client community.

But they were round the back, at Innovation Central, where they were mingling with start-ups and looking for adtech and martech solutions to their problems.

They also spent time thinking about Content.

And maybe hoping to meet the Olympic athletes, sports stars, film stars, supermodels, TV personalities, musicians and film directors all there on someone's behalf.


The fact of the matter is, they weren't looking at the ads. Because their customers aren't looking at them either. 800 million people worldwide have adblockers installed on their devices.

They zap, fast-forward or simply ignore the stuff that was being celebrated in the Palais as the world's best advertising. In morphing into a festival in which ads are less and less important, Cannes Lions is simply mimicking the world beyond.

But advertising is never going to go away.

The irony is that the digital platforms that promised to be irritation-free are now irritating the hell out of viewers.

Unskippable pre-rolls on YouTube, sponsored content in your Facebook timeline, new formats on Instagram and Snap.

In other words, if brands are to continue to mean something, anything, creativity is vital.

So, while my kind of creativity is no longer what Cannes is all about, it does still justify the week – through the awards.

And that's what makes Cannes Lions unskippable

If we ad guys are now in a minority, there are still several thousand of us there, inspired and excited by the ideas we see.

It remains the single most important show of the year, if only because of the sheer volume of awards.

1,186 Lions dished out. 284 fewer than last year but still one heck of a lot of metal.

And some fantastic work.

(It's heartening to see how much of it featured earlier in Directory. Our last cover came from AMV BBDO's "Trash isles", which went on to win two Grands Prix.)

Other views

Cannes Lions' importance is now in its breadth and depth.

If its constituencies have become more diverse, then that is no bad thing.

It is a week in which all who come have a chance to get outside their niches and see what is happening elsewhere in "the attention industry".

Over the next few pages, we have asked a spread of people with very different interests to share their expectations and experiences of Cannes 2018.

Perhaps Michael Tomes (on page 25) gets it spot on when he says the festival is what you make of it. Cannes Lions simply provide a date in the calendar and a venue.

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