Cannes Lions 2019

3 Key Takeaways from Cannes Lions 2019

It’s been a little over a week since we returned from the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, an event when the industry comes together to both look back and think about the future. While we spent most of our days listening to inspiring industry leaders, we also heard some of the best talent in the world—John Legend and Tom Odell, thank you for your beautiful voices—and had long conversations over dinner about what we heard and how it connected with our own creative shop.

Of course, once I disembarked from the plane from Nice, I got pulled back into projects (the creative shop life!), but finally I had the chance to sit down and pull together my thoughts. This was our second year attending the festival, and while we were definitely inspired last year, we found this year’s content to be even richer. Here are the three key takeaways you should know.

1.  You can’t take true empowerment and inclusivity too far. 

We all see that the industry has faced serious challenges with diversity and equality, but it seems like we’re heading in the right direction at last.

Empowerment and inclusivity can be so easy. It can be showing real people doing real things in your marketing and advertising. It can be letting all types of talented people—regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, or anything else—actually work. 

In one panel, we heard about the partnership between Getty, Dove, and Girlgaze to create stock images that more realistically depict women and beauty. Through their craft and unique perspectives, these talented female-identifying and nonbinary photographers are finally getting a platform to show that they are the best of the best. And the subjects, liberated from narrow beauty ideals, are allowed to define their own search terms within the Getty Images library. 

At another session, Colleen DeCourcy, Wieden+Kennedy’s global chief creative officer (CCO), was asked if she feels that we’re taking inclusion too far. Her response? “I don’t think you can overdo inclusion. You can’t do enough to undo all the images of women bending over in a push-up bra cleaning floors.” She makes a good point. We’re not only trying to showcase the world and people in it as they truly are, we’re also working to correct the industry’s past mistakes.

2.  Brands need to go beyond their mission statements. They need to take a stand…with sincerity. 

Cause marketing has been a hot topic for a while. And brands should take a stand—but they should steer clear of taking a random stand. BETC Paris’s president and CCO Stéphane Xiberras hit the point home with this perspective: “Sincerity is key. [You have to] do things for real.” 

Similarly, Troy Ruhanen, president and CEO of TBWA, said, “Every brand doesn’t need a cause. Every brand needs a conscience. People need to see brands standing up when they need to stand up. It’s more than just a mission statement.” 

Today, consumers don’t see brands as just an extension of their style. They see brands as a representation of who they are socially, morally, and ethically—so brands are expected to be more, say more, mean more, and do more for their community and the world. It goes beyond selling products or services. To succeed, brands now not only need to have a true brand story, they need to live it.

3.  AI requires the human touch to truly make an impact.

AI is everywhere, and it becomes smarter and even more ubiquitous every day. However, as we saw in a panel with Hulu and Stitch Fix, it requires the human touch to really make an impact. 

During the panel, online personal styling service Stitch Fix shared how its AI and human stylists work together to send clothing to its customers. AI does a lot of the heavy lifting with its data analysis, pulling a variety of looks that the customer may like based on its impressive algorithm and the customer’s answers to a questionnaire. It’s then up to the stylist to curate the items that will be shipped to the customer, enhancing the AI findings with irreplaceable human characteristics such as empathy for someone’s insecurities and curiosity to test new combinations. 

Hulu added that it uses its AI’s collection of viewing information to help come up with new show ideas. The AI generates the ideas, but the talented Hulu writers’ creativity and interest in the topics are what bring the ideas to life.

These takeaways will certainly be top of mind as I work with my team on new strategies for our clients, encouraging brands to create magical moments and infuse the global market with artistic experiences and creative storytelling. 

What I found truly exciting and inspirational is that so much of what we stand for at The Craftsman Agency—pushing for empowerment and inclusion, authentic experiences, and the importance of the human touch—is now being reflected back to us through these takeaways from Cannes. And I hope that they inspire you, too. You and I and our companies are where the change begins, from employing the most talented people, no matter who they are, to compelling brands to go beyond their products and services to really make a difference.