Cannes Lions: Industry takeaways and comments

cannes-lions-2024

Thousands of advertising, media, adtech and creative people took over the French Riviera resort of Cannes last week for the 71st Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

Even Elon Musk was in town, hoping to mend fences with the advertising world after a bit of a falling-out last year.

But billionaire tantrums aside, we were keen to find out what the brands, adtechs, agencies, marketing and creative people have taken away from the annual power week that is the Cannes Lions.

Spoiler alert, AI may feature heavily…

Lena-Arbery-tripadvisorLena Arbery, Associate Director Sales Tripadvisor 

“The key lesson from Cannes Lion 2024 is the importance of consistently, innovating while staying true to your brand’s core values, and putting consumers at the centre of your brand.

“In a crowded market, advertisers must prioritise their end customers, who are the heart and soul of the brand, to effectively target and retarget them through every step of the funnel.”

Paul-Wright-uber-advertisingPaul Wright, Head of International, Uber Advertising

“Anecdotally, we heard that out of a week of highlights at CannesUber Advertising’s late-night pizza giveaway on the Croisette stood out as especially welcome.

“When our team was helping serve them they were certainly warmly welcomed by the event’s attendees!

“In terms of key topics, the rise of commerce media and commerce networks was undeniably dominant.

“Prominent brands across verticals, from our own platform, to  airlines to banks, all came to highlight their commerce media offerings.

“Last year, the focus was perhaps more on pure retail media, but this year’s Cannes showed that commerce media offers distinct advantages.

“It can effectively steer consumers along their purchase path and empower brands to amplify their message across upper and lower funnel.”

Melis-Adiguezel-Tripp-Creative-Director-Copy-Jung-von-MattMelis Adiguezel-Tripp, Creative Director Copy, Jung von Matt

“Do you remember the old days? When you could win a Grand Prix with a woman holding a newspaper? Or with a manually built “square meter” of housing? When simple black-and-white images were the “Magnum” opus of everything?

“No? Then you weren’t at the Cannes Lions 2024.

“Because these and many other (magnificent) works are not relics of days long past. They found their way onto the big stage at a time when the whole world—and especially the advertising world—was actually talking about nothing but AI.

“It is almost astonishing that virtually all the Grand Prix winners managed without the highly praised tech magic formula.

“On the contrary, some works, like those for Hornbach, are provocatively analog.

“But if you’re expecting a farewell to AI, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you. Because what could be a better proof that we are truly dealing with a disruptive, world-changing technology than the fact that even the trend-sensitive advertising industry suppresses its natural reflex to turn every little technology hype into a case-study extravaganza?

“No, AI is here to stay. And that’s why no one is in a hurry to jump on the supposed bandwagon.

“At the Cannes Lions 2024, things unfolded refreshingly differently compared to other technology trends like the metaverse, blockchain, or—who could forget—NFTs.

“One could almost say that the engagement with artificial intelligence was mature and grown-up. And the works that did deal with it were surprisingly – thoughtful. Or with other words: Refreshingly un-trendy.

Patrick-garvey-we-are-piPatrick Garvey, Founding Partner, We Are Pi

“Humour and artificial intelligence were among the most talked about themes of the week and they still pose a huge question for the industry – can they co-exist in truly powerful advertising?

“It’s early days for Generative AI and jokes, but there were some examples this year that showed that AI can be more than a cost-cutting tool and can be used creatively – for example Orange’s WoMen’s Football film or Pedigree’s clever AI outdoor campaign featuring shelter dogs.

“Another takeaway for me is that indie agency presence at the festival is waning – while there were a few, like Rethink and of course Wieden+Kennedy that shone, smaller agencies are feeling squeezed by the economic realities of entering Cannes and the big networks with deep pockets are dominating.

“Yet brands need the power of creativity and the bold, original ideas that independent agencies bring, so perhaps Cannes Lions should be thinking about ways to encourage them back.”

Mike Khouri-CEO-Tactical-cropMike Khouri, CEO, Tactical 

“This year’s Cannes Lions festival was dominated by media platforms and AI, highlighting a potential de-prioritisation of traditional creative storytelling in favour of these emerging technologies.

“Despite some valuable insights into AI’s potential for disruption, I missed a deeper dive into how this technology can be harnessed to enable what Cannes Lions is all about – creative excellence.”

“With AI at our fingertips surely the real opportunity for creatives is to capitalise on its input and automation to free up more time for the industry’s greatest strength – human creativity.

“From a networking perspective though, Cannes continues to offer unparalleled access to thought leaders and tastemakers, providing a window into what great looks like today as well as what trends and topics matter most to the industry.”

Alexander-Igelsböck-CEO-AdverityAlexander Igelsböck, CEO, Adverity

“Industry players are still enthralled by the potential of GenAI, but discussions are moving from theoretical concepts to practical value.

“Businesses eager to bolster their productivity levels are actively exploring where advanced models can be applied to streamline time-consuming jobs, allowing talented people to focus their efforts on higher-value strategic tasks.

“There was also, unsurprisingly, a lot of buzz about AI’s scope to act as a springboard for marketers to amplify and enrich creativity.

“But as new avenues of smart innovation are explored, it will be important to ensure they are built on the right foundations of high-quality, relevant data to craft resonant narratives that forge genuine connections with audiences.”

David Shaw, Co-Founder and CEO of CedaraDavid Shaw, Co-Founder and CEO, Cedara

“Sustainability was the hottest topic at Cannes this year, with the release of GARM and Ad Net Zero’s Framework pushing the issue back to the top of ad industry agendas.

“There has been a clear absence of standards or guidelines for tracking and reducing carbon emissions, but this Framework has changed the game.

“It’s set a new standard for accountability, which will prove invaluable in motivating the entire ecosystem to take responsibility and prioritise sustainability in its strategies and practices.

“However, in order to drive meaningful change, it is essential that brands ensure all vendors, including ad platforms and publishers, measure and reduce corporate emissions according to these unprecedented standards.”

55-Pierre-HarandPierre Harand, co-CEO of Fifty-Five

“What really struck me this year is the lack of actual case studies from Generative AI.

“ChatGPT was launched in 2022, and last year everybody had brilliant opinions and plans for GenAI. One could have expected tons of case studies this year.

“Does this mean that GenAI is just a fad and will soon be forgotten like Metaverse is today? Absolutely not. It’s just that GenAI is bringing an immense change to the creative industry, like how programmatic has transformed media. And the industry needs time to adapt.

“Brands and agencies willing to take a head start with GenAI will benefit from a significant competitive advantage.

“They might want to check out Pencil Pro – a SaaS solution to generate ad creatives for digital channels.

“It generates amazingly good creative 10x faster, and for half the cost of traditional methods. It’s already been used by over 5,000 brands for $1billion+ worth of media campaigns.

jason-warner-sbsJason Warner, Director UK & EMEA, SBS 

“Disruption always provokes change, and this was evident in the omnipresence of AI at Cannes.

“This year, discussions around the technology amongst industry leaders were serious and grounded, with conversations about how AI tools can be utilised to enhance programmatic trading capabilities, but not replace it.

“With the deadline for cookie depreciation inching closer – barring another delay from Google – it was interesting to hear how AI will play a key role in helping to bridge the attribution gap.

“The conversations highlighted how these tools can be a game-changer for independent agencies. If they are to continue to deliver on their client’s advertising goals in an efficient way and stay competitive, then embracing automation and curation tools will be key.”

Csaba-szabo-iasCsaba Szabo, Managing Director EMEA, Integral Ad Science

“Beyond the general buzz, this year saw marketers grappling with the concrete opportunities and hurdles that AI will bring to the industry.

“Driving efficiency and productivity was top of mind for many, but so was the threat of misinformation and deepfakes. It was therefore encouraging to see the excitement around what the next generation of brand safety solutions will look like.

“Fraud and viewability are table stakes for marketers now. Dynamic and innovative brand safety solutions using real-time data and delivering proven business outcomes are what the industry craves, and AI can play its role in delivering these tools.

“It was also really pleasing to see the industry’s continued commitment to sustainability. I spoke to people from across the industry spectrum that are embracing the importance of decarbonisation and striving to be at the forefront of making advertising greener.”

Christine-Cook-bloomberg-mediaChristine Cook, Global Chief Revenue Officer, Bloomberg Media

“This week brought sustainability back into the conversation in measurable ways, with discussions on the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) and Scope 3 emissions.

“Bloomberg’s theme this year, ‘Good Business’, underscored the positive impact that business has the power to make.’

“Educational activations highlighted an industry desire to continue learning and stay ahead, amidst constant changes in the digital landscape.

“The ANA Global CMO Growth Council offered valuable insights as part of Bloomberg Media’s programming, while our workshops provided hands-on experiences.”

Andrea-Ching-bloombergAndrea Ching, Global Head of Integrated Marketing, Bloomberg Media

“This year was a pivotal moment for the industry, emphasising the importance of both nurturing and training the next generation of marketing talent.

“AI was a standout theme, in particular leveraging the technology to achieve more with fewer resources.

“This aligns with Bloomberg’s theme of ‘Good Business’, highlighting how innovation can drive a positive impact on global societies, systems and trends.

“The battle for audience attention was fiercer than ever, for example with the inclusion of live music at almost every beach event.

“This underscored the rising importance of creative and effective approaches to increase engagement, as attrition increases year-on-year.”

Julia-Beizer-bloomberg-mediaJulia Beizer, Chief Digital Officer, Bloomberg Media

“There was crucial discussion about the health of the Open Web, focusing on protecting it through investing in premium publishers.

“As synthetic content floods the digital space, and signal loss reduces measurability, safeguarding integrity becomes more important than ever.

“Incorporating this perspective highlights the necessity of responsible business practices, to move the dial on from business to practising ‘Good Business’.”

Philip-Acton-adform

Phil Acton, UK MD, Adform

“This year the buzz of Cannes was the best it’s ever been. It seemed like everyone was in a positive mood to do business. Several themes stood out.

“AI (obviously) was the name of the game and a lot of our clients were keen to understand the short-term opportunities.

“Similarly, Google’s cookie deprecation was peppered amongst the conversations – The consensus of most of these was that we shouldn’t wait, especially when there are solutions now, such as Utiq and ID Fusion.

“What I did notice was not as many conversations I was having included ESG,  but having spoken to peers about this they assured me they didn’t see that which was reassuring to hear.

“One ESG highlight however was the GARM framework announcement.

“CTV has been a big contender during 2024 so it was unsurprising to see TV OEMs, such as LG Ads Solutions and Samsung Ads have a decent presence.

“Roku, Disney+ and SambaTV all put CTV on the agenda and people were talking about budgets and activations as much as they were talking about strategy.

“Finally, I took part in a roundtable at Maison NDA, where topics such as curation, SPO and Retail Media also sparked debate.

“What’s clear from all of this is that Cannes put the spotlight on moving the industry towards solutions, rather than paying lip service to the problems.”

Mateusz-Rumiński-rtbMateusz Ruminski, VP of Product, PrimeAudience

“This Cannes, a lot has been said about audience curation – which seems one of the most promising ways to help advertisers buy more qualtiative audiences without compromising user privacy.

“Unsurprisingly, Generative AI is repeated virtually everywhere. However, I would expect more sophisticated uses of Generative AI technologies in advertising, than those that were presented, giving new entrants more opportunity.

“People are tired of hearing about cookieless. At the same time, industry leaders are quite convinced that brands are significantly underprepared and will get a shock when the plug gets pulled.

“Finally, measurement remains a challenge, in particular, how to understand the campaign results holistically, considering that individual targeting tactics rely on different targeting and measurement tools and there is no easy way to reconcile it all.”

Emma-Newman-CRO EMEA-PubMaticEmma Newman, CRO EMEA, PubMatic

“Sustainability really took the spotlight at Cannes this year, with more serious discussions taking place around environmental impact.

“There’s a growing emphasis on not just the media we buy but how we buy it. How can we reduce our carbon footprint and ensure our practices support the planet?

“Once again we’re reminded that this isn’t just a passing trend; it’s a vital shift in how we operate.

“Agencies are also increasingly focused on supporting minority-owned media and ensuring their purchases are ethical. This means working with verified publishers and fact-checking news sources, guaranteeing brand safety and transparency to promote a healthier media environment.

“It’s a challenging yet exciting time, and it’s inspiring to see the industry come together to tackle these important issues head-on.”

Stacy-Bohrer-openxStacy Bohrer, VP of Buyer Development, NA, OpenX

“Cannes this year highlighted several key themes that are shaping the future of the advertising industry, with curation, transparency, CTV, and the elimination of made-for-advertising (MFA) sites taking centre stage.

“Curation is bringing together quality inventory with high-quality audience data, enabling more granular and impactful advertising.

“Transparency in CTV is a growing priority, with the abundance of CTV inventory necessitating greater clarity and collaboration between buyers and sellers, particularly around the specific content, ratings, and genres of inventory.

“The elimination of MFA sites is also an increasingly significant step in building trust and quality in digital advertising.

“By focusing on genuine audience engagement, the industry is moving towards more transparent and efficient marketplaces, serving both advertisers and consumers better.”

James_Hill_EXTEJames Hill, Chief Commercial Officer, EXTE

“This was the year of Responsible Cannes. Cannes has so often been tarnished with tales of over-indulgence but encouraging others to call out inappropriate behaviour is a critical step in creating a more inclusive, collaborative and constructive ecosystem for all.

“And it feels like we have made a big step in improving perceptions and maturing as an industry.

“Responsible media is something that EXTE strongly advocates to support premium publishers and quality advertising, so it was great to see the industry and businesses alike, visibly and vocally championing this.

“The other key takeaway is the confusion that abounds over Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it is referred to in the market.

While AI in general presents an exciting opportunity to streamline processes and capabilities, there needs to be more clarity around the nuances between Generative AI and Narrow Intelligence (Machine Learning), so the benefits of each can be exploited appropriately and effectively for marketeers.”

Nick-Reid-doubleverifyNick Reid, SVP & MD EMEA, DoubleVerify

“The market opportunity for Artificial intelligence (AI) was, of course, a key topic of discussion at Cannes this year, alongside burgeoning media channels such as retail media, connected TV, and the continued growth of the complex social media ecosystem.

“We now need to move away from the buzz attached to these topics and focus on how they can be used effectively to maximise brand-specific KPIs and Business Outcomes on the baseline of responsible media investment.

“AI will continue to be a critical underpinning strategy here. In particular, it can be applied across solutions to analyse a plethora of available data signals, including context, creative, environment and attention, at scale in a variety of channels to meet tailored outcomes.”