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Kent Wertime's observations from Cannes Lions

Cannes Lions has a slightly different mood each year, often impacted by developments in the industry and the wider world, and 2019 has been no exception.  

There are always different aspects to Cannes – the Cannes of the work, judging and the awards, the Cannes of the industry presentations at the Palais and various sponsored venues (such as Google Beach), and the Cannes of meetings and socialising. 

With multiple streams and sessions running simultaneously each day, what you experience and take away from Cannes depends in part on what you choose to see or participate in.  In this regard, it is becoming more like all content in the world – slightly self-selecting.  But equally, part of the inspiration of Cannes is to see something that interests you, but is not necessarily in your day-to-day wheelhouse.  And some wider themes become evident from the work that’s up for awards, plus the schedule of speeches over the five days: diversity, transformation, creativity, purpose, AI, personalisation, and wellness – to name a few. 

Here are a few of my personal impressions of the big themes this year, along with some topline thoughts on implications for Ogilvy in Asia:

Sesame Street: A Reminder of the Power of Creativity as a Force for Good

One of the real hit sessions of the week was, unexpectedly, from Sesame Street. As they celebrate their 50th anniversary, the work that Sesame Street does, helping educate children and helping shape the world, is a great reminder of the power of creativity. 

Sesame Street is now in 150 countries – often with “localised” muppets.  This now includes an autistic muppet and now one for Syrian refugees.  The show is fun, but serious in its impact – even helping to persuade Afghani men to send their daughters to school.  Their call, at the end of their session, was for our industry to really use creativity to drive more positive social change. This is something Ogilvy Asia endeavours to embody with our #ForceforGood efforts, working across various markets on pro bono projects, and we need to continue these efforts and look at new ways to harness creativity to help worthy causes.

It’s MarTech and Creativity, Stupid

Both at a WPP and Ogilvy level, we continue to focus on the effective interlocking of technology and creativity. Many of the sessions at Cannes this year spoke to the importance of leveraging technology and creativity in new forms of storytelling, utility, and in creating new things the world has never seen or experienced before.  Some of the big clients were there sharing their stories of transformation.  Not surprisingly, many of the tech firms were also present, talking about various developments in AI and other new technologies.  Adobe was onstage talking about how to “future proof creativity”. 

There is no single answer or insight about this – other than it needs to be a central issue to continue to invest our time and efforts in bridging.  As we covered in our recent regional meeting in Danang, it’s vital that we continue to marry the worlds of technology and creativity, infusing both with better understanding of what new can be done or dreamed of in creating new client solutions.  

The Death of Genres?

The session from YouTube and others addressed the reality that formats and genres are more open and fluid – driven by influencers and content creators who truly see no boundaries.  That means there’s no longer a single “water cooler” definition of what constitutes hit content.  Teen content creators in particular are quirky and often unpolished; key contributing factors to their “raw” and “real” appeal. In fact, many are “anti-premium” and have a unique voice that finds unique audiences. There’s also more content that explains other content, e.g. gamer commentary. 

Lines between commercial and personal experiences are getting increasingly blurred, with a decrease in typical genres – it’s now hard to define content now with more crossover.  In this context, the culture of “ads” is not changing fast enough, so we need to push the boundaries of our work to be more open and less defined in how we create it, and not be afraid to involve more outside voices in our thinking about what makes great content today. 

Diversity Becoming Even more Diverse!

Cannes had a number of sessions addressing the issues around diversity, and the need to do better – both in the industry and more broadly.  Various sessions covered gender diversity, cultural diversity, and orientation diversity.  Non-binary gender fluidity shows up today as more of a topic and in more content.  There was also a good session (hosted by Tina Brown) on the “grey market” and age diversity and the issue of ageism.  They made the point that while many brands focus on millennials, they often don’t have the money!  Meanwhile, the 50+ market has incredible wealth and experience reserves to tap into, but are being overlooked or ignored by brands.  This is something worth considering more as some key markets in Asia continue to age. More broadly, the continued push for diversity and representation is critical to an open and creative culture.

The Consultants are here to Stay… and Compete

Nobody can doubt that consultancies are here to stay as our ongoing competitors.  Few could miss the enormous Accenture signage atop the Palais.  And David Droga was onstage with Brian Whipple, CEO of Accenture, discussing Accenture’s recent purchase of Droga5.  They are hoping to bring together their skills with creativity to offer new benefits for clients.  There’s a big question as to whether the culture clash of these setups can be overcome.  In the meantime, Ogilvy continues to support and develop our own consulting capabilities.  We don’t want to be like the Consultants – our unique mix of consulting,  capabilities, and creativity has got to give us a different leg-up for client interest. 

All’s Well

Lastly, one of the streams this year was around health and wellness – which is not only resonant with people but also a big business driver.  It is a great area of growing innovation and cross-over with entertainment, technology, etc.  Health and wellness was part of McCann’s awards haul this year, and shows the potential for the category.  Ogilvy has a variety of work in health and wellness in the region, which we continue to develop and build upon.

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