Cannes Lions 2018: 5 Major Takeaways

Exciting conversations and major takeaways from Cannes Lions 2018.

A great way to process everything that’s happening across the constantly changing week that is Cannes Lions is to actually (sort of) unplug for a moment and write down what stands out.

In between announcements and meetings — and, OK, maybe the occasional beach party — I’ve been rounding up what I believe matters most to digital marketing here at the 2018 International Festival of Creativity.

The following five items should get you in that headspace, too. Read on, these are some of the exciting conversations and major takeaways from Cannes Lions, so far.

  • More Female Voices in Senior Industry Positions. The most important announcement at Cannes Lions has been Procter & Gamble planting a flag for women across its campaigns: they want 50 percent of their ads to be women-directed by 2023. Everyone in marketing — and everyone everywhere — should stand up and applaud P&G. This just a start, though. While women account for 49 percent of the sales workforce, fewer than 1/4 of the VP positions in sales were women-held during the past half decade, and the gap widens at the executive level. Women with the word “chief” in their titles hold just 23 percent of C-level positions across the top 1,000 US businesses by revenue (except for chief human resource officers; women command 55 percent of those jobs). We all have to do our part. In our case, we’ve hired Erin Madorsky to be our CRO; she joins our direct sales team, which is 100  percent women-led at the VP-and-above level. These are just the steps one company is taking among the many more that our industry needs to take overall. And one more thing: these steps have been shown to drive profitability and value. Make it happen!


  • Blockchain is Moving into the Marketing Spotlight. Blockchain is not going away and it is going to change how people do business. Now, it’s about timeframes and first iterations. Here at Cannes, IBM is clearly pushing to lead that conversation and I’m listening. There’s a lot to learn, but here’s what we can say for sure: when the company announced its new blockchain pilot with Unilever, Kimberly-Clark Corp., Pfizer, and Kellogg, the clock started ticking toward a new phase for blockchain in marketing. We can probably expect to see initial offerings — ones vying for digital media and payments, I suspect — gain traction as early as 2019. One of the most promising use cases will be around protecting and preserving consumer privacy; blockchain is going to give us another way to ensure the responsible and ethical use of consumer data.


  • Audio Marketing is Evolving: Are We Listening? One Pandora VP out here actually referred to the rise of audio in the user experience as the “death of the screen.” Let’s just say that prediction is greatly exaggerated (and, let me tell you, I’ve made some big predictions along the way myself … so, guilty!). That being said, voice and audio are absolutely competing for digital-ad spend: ad revenue in digital audio increased 42 percent in 1H 2017 (and it capped 2016 at $1.1 billion). Companies like Pandora and Spotify are only going to push that envelope harder, bringing more ad dollars to their side of the room. Digital marketers, and especially mobile marketers, need to push and learn as well, otherwise we’re missing out.


  • The Next Generation of Video Campaigns is Being Born: What YouTubes New Marketing Toolkit Tells Us. Cannes Lions was YouTube’s stage to debut The Creative Suite, which will put video-ad tools in the hands of brands and agencies. This is part of a new wave of in-video approaches that the big players are rolling out — in line with Facebook’s polling and gamification moves in its Live offering, for example. This is a fresh call to action for all of us: put self-service, innovative, in-video offerings into your development mix. The future of video creative is going to be hands-on, but the days of the white-glove solution are changing into a more complex and tiered scenario. Your best-in-class marketing partner must offer a platform that packs proven engagements via innovative video products; if they don’t, find the ones that do.


  • Old Lessons are (Still) the New Lessons: Marketing Cant Outsource Authenticity. Here at Cannes, we watched Unilever call out Influencer marketing as a problematic space: about 20 percent of the followers that Influencers in the mid-tier category claim they reach … faked! There’s fraud out there. The bottom line for marketers and brands is still the same: build and nurture trusted, transparent partnerships. It’s all about partnerships in this game, and by that I mean partners that place the highest priority on quality — first-party data that drives insights and defines audiences, first-class creative experiences, and measurement approaches that highlight what the advertiser is actually getting from their mobile powered consumer connections.

Still more of the festival to go, but those are initial major impressions.

This is a highly worthwhile space to visit each year. There’s so much to learn, but everyone here is committed to the learning. Good work, and thanks to all the people who make Cannes Lions happen.


Tom Kenney is Verve’s CEO.

This story first appeared at GeoMarketing.

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