Cannes Lions: Key takeaways

A quick summary of what stood out in conversations, on-stage and off-stage at the Festival this year

e4m by Noor Fathima Warsia
Updated: Jun 25, 2012 9:06 PM
Cannes Lions: Key takeaways

Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity manages to get all stakeholders of the international communication, marketing and advertising industry under the same roof. Result: intriguing thoughts exchanged on what is defining successful work for marketers today and what are some of the trends that will shape the communication of tomorrow.

For those who attended the Festival but not all aspects of it, and for those who were unable to attend the Festival at all, here is a quick recap of some of the key takeaways from the festival this year.

Marketers are interested in communicating to the industry, and to each other
Cannes Lions has attracted marketers such as Unilever and P&G every year. This year was no different but it was very clear that marketers are leading conversations at Cannes. Companies such as Nike, Coca-Cola, General Motors, amongst many others set the tone of discussions on the back of the kind of work that they have done over the years to keep their brand relevant in a consumer’s life.

Media marketers are finally paying attention to their own communication
One of the strongest trends that emerged at the Festival this year was media companies as marketers. Work from The Guardian and Canal+ was competing for the Grand Prix in various categories and even won in most. From India, The Times of India Group has perhaps seen a precedent in this given that the only Grand Prix India has won so far came from the Group. Media marketers were seen as the strongest categories for most Lions.

Marketing magic needs to be unlocked – consumers still believe in it
Marketing, when done well, creates brands for life. The thought had come across quite simply in the Unilever address but was heard all week-long in most other conversations. Despite all conversations of reducing attention spans and the sceptical consumer, all facts pointed to the simple truth that a consumer can be the brand’s biggest ambassador if the brand can play a role in his life. Nike+ leverages this one truth. Brands from companies such as Unilever, P&G, Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo that have been long lasting is also because of this one fact. However small it was, the brand was able to communicate to the consumer that it played a role in his or her life.

Advertising’s role for the good
The winning work from Chipotle connected back to the talk from Bill Clinton, where he urged advertisers to understand the role they play in communicating to people at large. Chipotle was talking about going back to the start and making a company statement of addressing issues of factory farming. For most members of the jury, it was the commitment and the manner of communicating this to the consumers that had much to teach to all marketers. Unilever’s sustainability promise is another example on the same lines.

The mantra has not changed – listen to the consumer, engage in conversation and innovate while at it
It is very easy for a delegate to feel, ‘Did I not hear this three years ago’. And they are not very wrong in thinking so as well. The same mantra continues albeit the application has become more competitive than ever. Innovation is an easily used word but whether the activity that appeared innovative really resonated with the consumer or not, would be known through very tangible metrics, including impact on the brand’s sales.

Idea and technology can be a potent combination as long as the order does not change
An idea can manifest into anything from a film to a wrist band to a concert but unless the final product, whichever form it takes, is not backed by a great idea, it would have no meaning for the consumer for more than a day. Technology is sexy but the problem with that is that it does not give it longevity. That can come only from an idea based on insight and knowing your consumer a little better than the consumers themselves and definitely a lot better than your competition.

Yes, a client can be an agency’s friend
They are ruthless and sometimes alleged to come in the way of creativity but the client is the closest relation an agency has. People such as Jeff Goodby and GM’s Joel Ewanick proved that like any other relationship, once trust was earned and a status of equality and respect was given to all involved, a client could be the agency’s best friend and together they could form a formidable team that would give the advertising business work that defines the business per se.

Content, content, content...
Will and always will be the king. Technology can be facilitator of content to the right target group and give it scale but if the content was not world-class, not many would stay around for long.

Holding Companies are competitive about awards
Agencies may be at each other’s throat when it comes to winning businesses or awards but the mother competition of it all came from the top. 2012 proved again that the highest honour matters to Holding Company CEOs and they may not be as reasonable about it as operating units.

The Media Lions row
Media Abby may be the most non-controversial and well executed category at GoaFest in India but it has proved to be interesting at Cannes Lions. For the longest time, there was debate whether it was fair for creative agencies to be winning Media Lions. And this year, WPP launched a complaint, an official one according to the agency, for unethical judging process. WPP officials say judging was influenced but a few others argue how could it be given the category had six WPP judges and six from Omnicom.

Have a few of your own to add to this or just want to comment on some of these takeaways? Write to

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube