Lions In Rear View  

On location with our Senior Marketing Manager, Georgia Cross
Featured image: Open Art

Ah Cannes Lions; the creatively infectious, week-long conference where the world’s best marketing minds gravitate to meet, get inspired and mooch over a Whispering Angel in the sun. 

Its 70th live year, the festival is quickly becoming the breeding ground for bold discussion within the creative community. Content tends to shine a spotlight on the biggest challenges of the moment, with conversations and new connections serving as a platform for inspiration and change. 

Every year, many talented folks from our own agency descend onto the South of France to build and deliver world class brand activations along La Croisette. More to come on that in the very near future. This year, we had our brightest strategists listening in for the latest trends in content, experiential and culture, as well.  

Here’s what we heard at Cannes Lions 2023: 

Ad World has a love/hate relationship with AI 

And they aren’t alone.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, AI dominated the conversation at this year’s festival, specifically highlighting ongoing concerns around the ethics, responsibilities and creative ownership of AI-supported work. Some sessions at Google Beach leant into the benefits of AI, while others focused on the potential long-term effects on the creative industries and society at large. Ethics and regulation will be key topics of discussion in the next six months, as all creative sectors decide just how deeply they will dive.

Disclaimer: this feature image was produced by AI in Open Art

Creators are the new celebrity  

As the festival has evolved, so has the perception of fame and celebrity status, and brands are recognising that shift. Enter the era of the Creator. 

While traditional celebrities still hold influence, the rise of Creators reflects the changing dynamics of fame in the digital age. We saw that in full flux this year where creators like Alex Cooper (host of the Call Her Daddy podcast), and Emma Chamberlain (Youtuber, Podcaster, General Internet Legend) were competitive ‘celebrity’ draw cards for CMO audiences. The rise of creator and influencer fame follows a growing trend in Millennial and Gen Z audiences, who expect a more intimate, honest and relatable connection, compared to traditional celebrities. Social media provides that intimacy and content creators are benefiting well beyond the brands they are working with. 

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The role of the CMO is changing, fast 

We’re hearing more and more that emerging audiences are savvy, cynical and have greater expectations from products, brands and experiences (we wrote about Gen Z here). The direct result on marketing divisions – or more pertinently, CMOs – is an expanding role with even greater pressure. Cannes Lions shone a torch on the role of a CMO in 2023, which includes increased responsibilities around user experience, purpose, brand nuance, emerging technology, boycotted platforms, and hyper-speed shifts in culture that could make or break a marketing strategy. 

CMOs in 2023 (and onwards) will toe the line between leading reactive teams that can keep up with the pace of consumer culture, and a clear and robust strategy to satisfy the rest of the C-Suite. Interestingly, agencies are likely to play a greater role in the CMO wider support network in the future. 

Humour won hearts again

“We choose laughter over lectures.”
Christina Bauer-Plank, Global Brand Vice President
Hellmann’s and Dressings, Unilever

Comedy has always been a driver for ad recall, retention and purchase behaviour but in the past few years, brands have shied away from giggle campaigns. We’re starting to notice a shift ‘back to the funny’ and some interesting pollination within the purpose space. 

Sustainability and value-driven work has seen similar success with audiences, capturing the other side of the emotional spectrum. Will we see more marketing and communications that blend purpose and entertainment? Can sustainability actually be funny? 

Delegates want different

Deeper experiences and stronger connections; a new wave of audience is fighting the ‘snack culture’ of social media. They want to make better use of their time and are seeking higher value brand moments through experiences; again we saw that in play at Lions 23′. 

Inspired by roman amphitheatres, Stagwell’s Sport Beach stadium activation offered a wholly immersive brand experience where guests could rub shoulders with elite athletes, play a game of pickle ball, help themselves to a coffee and try wine produced by NBA legend, Carmelo Anthony. As the partner agency to Sport Beach, we harnessed ‘Play’ as a gateway to disarm the audience and break down traditional networking models. Content became discussion, 1:1 meetings became shared on-court experiences, and delegates from all walks of life engaged in a new way at Cannes Lions. It turns out, sport is the ultimate icebreaker.

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