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BW Businessworld

The Week That Wasn’t

Crowded rooftops. All night parties. Cramped up beach houses. Noisy gatherings at ‘Gutter Bar’ with the party overflowing onto the Croisette. Raging Yacht parties. Jam-packed venues for live gigs…all these sights were missing from this year’s Cannes Lions

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While the industry seemed to be in reset mode, owing to agencies appearing to be under siege by their archenemy, the consultants, it was a much more impact-focused and action-oriented week in the Riviera.

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is often considered a reflection of a moment in time in the global marketing, technology and media industries. Here are my takeaways from my ‘pilgrimage’ to the Mecca of creativity.

The post-#TimesUp & #MeToo Era
There was a marked number of women representation in the juries this year — up to 46 per cent compared with 43 per cent in 2017, moving the festival closer to its goal of reaching a 50:50 representation in the jury rooms.

There were a lot more women speakers taking to the Palais stage this year, speaking, not in sessions that simply spoke of lack of women in the top order — thankfully that has changed — but in sessions relating to successful women to learn from and admire. No doubt the ad-world, known to never be the one missing out on a cultural moment to co-opt, aligned itself on the side of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement instantly, with several advertisers and agencies using the festival to announce a series of initiatives designed to push diversity, and in particular, give a thrust to gender equality.

Data’s marriage with creativity

This year’s Cannes Lions definitely brought creativity, and the good in it, back to the forefront, but it also continued last year’s courtship of data and creativity — the theme was made more prominent this year with a lot of chatter in the Palais (and beyond) on this subject with the advent of math-men in a world dominated by madmen.

Though this topic has left the industry in two factions: one claiming data kills creativity, while the other exclaims creativity gets better with data; the fact that this year saw over 500 entries in the Data Creativity Lions category indeed leaves room to believe that creativity and data can co-exist, and even thrive together.

Sessions on ‘Accelerating creativity in the age of AI’ (by Adobe & Pentagram), ‘What AI teaches us about creativity and the universe’ (by Sizmek) and ‘Great marketers: storytellers or data lovers?’ (by Diageo) were just some of the many sessions that kept this theme in the limelight this year.

With General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) having just been enforced, many executives present commented that ‘Data is bigger this year, than it ever was at Cannes’.

Sorrell @73: The lion strikes back
Possibly the most anticipated session of the festival this year was Sir Martin Sorrell’s interview of the renowned writer and author, Ken Auletta (or was it the other way around). By the end of it, it definitely was the other way around.

In his first candid conversation after his exit, the WPP founder and industry top gun addressed the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’, clearing the air on issues that had led to his exit. “I didn’t leave WPP, I was shot!” he stated, without mincing his words.

He also mentioned the gaps within the existing agency set-up and how he endeavours, through his newly created venture S4 Capital, to plug in these gaps through a lean agency model driven by automation, agile teams and innovation, before cool-ly firing a bullet in WPP’s direction by saying “S4 is a “peanut” in comparison to WPP… But I have to admit that some people have peanut allergies”.

A session that enriched the audience with the future of the industry, and left them in splits by the wit and sheer presence of the Ad King.

Not only about lions & rosé
It’s not always about attending every single session and grounding oneself in the Palais or being caught up with the glamour of the awards night, the Cannes Lions’ experience is all about those conversations in the beach houses, on the yachts and out there on the Croisette.

Owing to Dentsu Aegis Network’s global career acceleration programme The Route 500, I was presented with the opportunity to be one of the selected six to represent young talent of the network at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. While entrusting us with the responsibility to capture our experiences to empower our colleagues through our learnings, a large part of the experience was to mingle with colleagues and talent from other parts of the business in other markets of the network and exchange notes.

The programme presented a wonderful platform to foster cross-functional and cross-cultural learnings in the hub of global creativity and innovation. It was a great learning about how challenges are solved in other markets and how we can support each other through problems that we may have solved — of course over a glass of rosé.

One quote that said it all
“A number of things have happened in 2018. The festival is smaller. You could say condensed and concentrated. The industry swirl is arguable bigger. Martin Sorrell is now an underdog. Whoever knew? Marcel finally launched, all that AI and why they boycotted the festival but there are more Publicis people here and all their things are entered anyway.”– David Droga

And finally, we cannot end a Cannes Lions wrap up without talking about the best campaign. For me, and this was one of my predictions in my pre-festival write-ups as well, it was the ‘It’s a Tide Ad Campaign’ from Proctor & Gamble.

Au-revoir until we meet again!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Abhinay Bhasin

The author is associate director, Data Sciences at Dentsu Aegis Network, India

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