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Un-Cannes-Ventional: 5 Takeaways From Cannes Lions 2016

UNpredictable. UNstoppaple. UNexpected.

Wow. What a week. Cannes Lions 2016 felt like the biggest ever – with more speakers, parties, and awesome interactions that you could ever wish for.

There was also a hell of a lot learning going on by the seashore last week. In fact, with all that sunshine and rosé, you might have missed some of the festival’s biggest moments.

That’s why we’ve rounded up 5 key takeaways from advertising’s most glamorous event.

5. AI and creativity will come together!

Big data and artificial intelligence went hand-in-hand at Cannes Lions 2016. Where previously much of the talk suggested AI could never replicate true creative sensibilities, this year’s festival explored how the combination of machine learning and human experience might revolutionise the advertising industry. Two Grand Prix awards went to a project called The Next Rembrandt, a 3D-printed painting created by analysing all of Rembrandts works, and another went to Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo project, an artificial intelligence program which won a Grand Prix for Innovation after beating the world’s best Go player. Both of these programs showed how, looking forward, brands could harness the power of machine learning.


4. It’s time to be brave – Unilever announced Unstereotypes

Perhaps one of the biggest announcements from Cannes Lions this year came during Unilever CMO Keith Weed‘s speech on ‘The Future Of Brands’. During his keynote he addressed the fact that, in the past, Unilever was as guilty as any other brand in perpetuating stereotypes through its advertising. But, he said, that was all about to change, thanks to its new ‘Unstereotype‘ directive. The movement will aim to remove gendered images and tropes from any of Unilever’s brands, and falls in line with the prioritisation of social good in advertising, a sentiment echoed by P&G when they unveiled more female-focused emojis as part of their continued #LikeAGirl campaign.


3. Creativity is the only remedy for ad blocking

Opinions on ad blocking were fairly unanimous at Cannes Lions 2016. The key message here was, ultimately, ad blocking is the result of boring creative, and annoying formats. Some speakers went as far as to say it was ‘the best thing that’s happened’ to the industry, while everyone at least agreed that it was still the biggest challenge facing advertisers and publishers.


2. VR is here to stay.

VR dominated much of the conversation at Cannes Lions this year. Speakers from Facebook and Wired all hosted sessions and discussions about where the technology was heading. This commitment and focus seems to be a signal that agencies and brands are taking VR seriously, even if it’s still a long way off. One of the key VR takeaways was that ‘mobile VR’, rather than ‘tethered’ hardware such as the Oculus and Vive, would be the key to pushing the technology in to the mainstream – as the capabilities already exist in everyone’s pockets.


1. Know your purpose

The final key takeaway from Cannes this year was simple; clarity of purpose is key. Nowhere was this more evident than Badger & Winters co-founder Madonna Badger’s ‘Sex, Lies and Advertising’ talk. During the heartfelt keynote she discussed how personal tragedy had made her re-evaluate her priorities and commit to fighting the objectification of women in advertising. It was this singular purpose and determination that produced the #WomenNotObjects campaign and became the basis of her successful agency. Not only is the cause Badger fights for extremely important, but her conviction and strength stands as an example for all marketers to believe in their message and the story they are telling.