Plus ça Change

Plus ça Change

Cannes Lions’ changes need to go further to keep pace with industry evolution

Cannes Lions’ revamped Festival of Creativity is underway, and as I’m about to board a cramped easyJet flight into the heart of the rose-fuelled madness, I’ve been thinking about what the festival will hold this year, and wondering if Cannes Lions’ shake up this year will set it up to remain relevant for our industry in the future.

Representing an independent social creative agency gives me a slightly different perspective from people traveling under the steam of the global holding companies, mega-brands, and tech conglomerates.

For me, the festival is about the chance to award creative campaigns and ideas that are driving change in the industry, setting the standard for those of us with the ambition to evolve how we work and what we can offer clients.

But is Cannes still the best place to find that inspiration? This year I’ve found myself as meeting clients at rival festivals including SXSW, Mobile World Congress, CES and Kinsale Sharks as much as in the south of France, all with strong reputations for being leaders in technology and building a following for doing things a bit differently, where you can look to the future of society, rather than an ad man’s idealised version of it.

This week, we’re all looking to Cannes for inspiration and innovation, but will the festival come up with the goods?

The 2018 Cannes Festival will see a number of changes, including some new categories brought in, and some of the more irrelevant ones dumped. There are also changes to the entry system that mean that entries will be capped to six Lions categories, so one piece can’t be entered for an absurdly high number of awards, hopefully allowing the best work in each category to stand out.

No one will mourn the loss of the Cyber, Integrated or Promo & Activation Lions, but for me, the new categories, including Creative eCommerce, Social & Influencer, Industry Craft, Sustainable Development Goals and Brand Experience & Activation don’t go far enough, in terms of providing the inspiration that we crave and giving Cannes the scope to keep up with how fast the industry is evolving.

At Honey, we’ve been working with influencers and in social creative marketing since we formed the agency nearly four years ago, and the campaigns that we’ve created in that space for clients as diverse as JBL, Cheetah Mobile or F1H2O have been not only incredibly effective but creative as well.

For me, categories celebrating social are going to do little more than big up the platforms that Cannes is courting, such as Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and Spotify. Similarly, ones celebrating purpose or e-commerce are great ways of connecting with people and deserve a spot on the awards roster, but look to confirm the status quo rather than shake up how we currently work.

I fear that these changes have been brought in to encourage and placate holding companies such as Publicis, who threatened to quit the festival last year, but have been talked into showing up, or to make sure the social platforms who will buy up the ad space on the side of the Palais or host a party on a prime private beach get the recognition they want.

It’s up to the judges to look beyond that, and to contenders to enter creative ideas that can genuinely impact how we work and show clients new ways to connect with people, not remind them about the platforms and opportunities that – for many of us – are simply part of our day to day.

As any decent marketer knows – once you start to lose relevance, it’s hard to get it back. Cannes will only maintain its place in the industry if it’s at the forefront of where we are heading, providing the inspiration and innovation that curious marketers constantly crave. These changes seem like the festival is on the back foot, forced into change because the industry pushed back, rather than trying to set the tone for the industry.

Mark Terry-Lush