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Cannes Lions: Takeaways from the 2018 edition

Media and marketing executives, creative directors, and advertising salespeople gathered for the annual Cannes Lions Advertising Festival in the south of France. Hundreds of panels, meetings, and presentations were features where power players debated the future of the industry.

Duncan Painter, CEO of the festival’s parent company, Ascential, said he was happy to see less of a “party emphasis” at the event this year. The group that boosted their presence at the festival this year—in delegates, activations, and yacht berths were the consultancies. Accenture Interactive even won its first Grand Prix, a sign that the number crunchers can get creative, too.

At the beginning of the week, Unilever announced it would no longer spend any of its multibillion-dollar ad budget with social media influencers who buy followers, prompting a wider conversation about this relatively new marketing channel throughout the festival.

Despite the festival’s creative emphasis, this years’ 2018 edition was dominated by technology, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), blockchain and printing technology and its role in the advertising/media world.

The sentiment that has crystallized very quickly here at Cannes Lions, which is a relatively mellow festival, begs the question of why the presence of agencies has decreased and the presence of consulting and tech companies been stronger than ever – for better or worse,” said Nikos Acuña, Chief Visionary for Sizmek, a buy-side advertising platform.

Each year, the Cannes Lions are awarded to marketing campaigns that master the art of communication, execution and creativity in each respective field, with the very best, receiving the coveted Grand Prix. Among them, there’s a large number of pieces to feature.

Nike and Wieden+Kennedy London received the Social and Influencer Cannes Lions Grand Prix with its piece “Nothing beats a Londoner”. According to directors, Paddy Treacy and Mark Shanley “there was a feeling that Nike had lost touch with the real kids of London and our campaigns didn’t talk to them in their own language anymore”.


Meanwhile, Kingo and Ogilvy got their hands on the Product Design Cannes Lions Grand Prix. Backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, Kingo is a decentralized clean energy service for off-grid communities, and this project installed solar panels and batteries in rural homes at no cost.

Also focusing on the environment, the Palau Legacy Project with Host and Havas Sidney featured a case study. To help quell the environmental impact of tourists, Palau established a unique new visa entry process. Visitors were required to sign an environmental pledge stamped in their passports.

The Times of London with Rothco and Accenture won Cannes Lions Grand Prix for Creative Data, for a project that used artificial intelligence to analyze recordings from 831 Kennedy speeches. It built a database and used it to stitch Kennedy’s voice into the speech he had been set to deliver on the day he was killed

Apple was highly featured at Cannes, as this year represented one of their strongest showings in recent memory. The company took home two Grand Prix awards, while receiving recognition for Today at Apple – the company’s retail program – and the viral “Welcome Home” HomePod ad.

Cannes Lions reported a drop in entries for its awards programme this year with 32,372 entries received (down from 41,170 last year) as a temporary pull-out by Publicis and a restructuring of the event took their toll. This was despite an 84% year on year increase in the number of brands entering the awards.

These changes were followed by the removal of over 120 sub-categories from across the Lions platform which is estimated to have reduced numbers by 13%, despite the addition of two new categories – creative E-Commerce and Sustainable development goals – which between them added 1,166 entries.

Philip Thomas, Chief Executive of Cannes Lions, owner Ascential Events, said: “Last year we made the decision to press the reset button on Cannes Lions. We closed three big Lion awards and removed and combined many sub-categories. We did it knowing that this would mean a smaller volume of entries, but it was the right decision for the long term.”