Does Cannes still matter to marketers?

The annual Cannes Lions Festival kicks off in France at the weekend. It has always been about celebrating creativity but increasingly it is also shining a spotlight on issues in the industry ranging from diversity to mobile advertising, offering marketers the chance to embrace new ideas and learn from the best in the world.

There are a lot of clichés that surround Cannes, mostly revolving around terrace parties and bottles of rose wine. What started off as a celebration of creativity has, for many, simply turned into a giant party that shows off the worst excesses of the ad industry.

Yet dig below the surface and there is still a lot for marketers to learn from Cannes. Creativity is still the most important part of advertising – even if it might go by a different guise now. Previously it might have been solely about the 30-second spot; now it is also about how to engage on mobile and delight with content.

That is reflected in the awards up for grabs. While some still celebrate good storytelling, many are focused on great use of new technology. In the mobile Lions section alone there are new awards for virtual reality, data/insight and connect devices.

“Creativity still plays the most important part in advertising because you need to make sure to adapt the creative to suit the device. Cannes gives marketers the insights they need to be effective creatively in this ever-changing media landscape,” says Graeme Lynch, director of business development EMEA at TubeMogul.

There are also practical reasons why Cannes is relevant. It is a time to get in that meeting with people you have struggled to get in the same room for the past year. And to take time out from the day-to-day job to be inspired by what is going on in the rest of the industry.

Neil Godber, head of planning at J. Walter Thompson, says: “[Cannes] is a place to be inspired by what’s possible when you follow creative ambition, and that makes the whole week very personal. For some clients it will be about being uplifted by the best creative work the world has to offer. Or it can offer a stage to feel collectively proud, to press on for the year ahead.”

For many marketers this might feel like a luxury they can little afford. What is happening in Cannes can feel removed from a marketers’ day to day role analysing data, forming strategy and dealing with relationships with agencies, procurement and finance.

Yet experiencing what the industry has to offer can rub off, leaving markets feeling energised and inspired.

Suki Thompson, CEO at Oystercatchers, explains: “All too often clients sit in their offices or get out to meet their own customers but fail to interact with an industry that can inspire and delight. There’s someone to meet from every country in the world. And where else can you see, speak and learn from thousands of people from every aspect of our industry?”

Cannes Lions is also increasingly tackling marketing issues head on. The introduction of the Glass Lions last year put the focus of discussion and creative thinking around how to improve diversity and challenge stereotypes. It rewarded standout campaigns from Sport England for This Girl Can and Procter & Gamble’s Like A Girl campaign for its Always brand.

READ MORE: Marketer of the year Tanya Joseph on the future of ‘This Girl Can’ and Sport England’s strategy for 2016

Marketers can also learn from what other brands are doing globally. Few UK marketers would have heard of Procter & Gamble’s Touch the Pickle campaign for its Whisper brand but winning the top award in the Glass Lions category thrust it onto a global platform and forced more brands to look at how they could use marketing for societal good.

Thompson concludes: “Industry and social issues have been raised at Cannes over the years and the industry benefits from this. “For clients, and most of us, Cannes is daunting and exciting in equal measure, but on balance a few days of heady focus on creativity, networking and mind expansion is a refreshing and often necessary change for brand leaders.”

READ MORE: Five things to see at Cannes

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