Thought Leadership

Can Cannes Drive Creative Curiosity?

Whether you are headed to the Croisette or chugging a coffee on your commute, industry leaders weigh in on how Cannes can drive creative curiosity this year

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


Cynicism is the enemy of creativity. Yet when it comes to the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, leaders moaning about their trip to the Croisette might find themselves out of touch with their teams. Appreciating your luck at being afforded the time and space to learn from the best in the business is a non-negotiable.

One of the biggest challenges for brands and agencies alike has been the growing sense of disconnection and overwhelm across the industry. Creating a culture where people can truly create their best work demands a more progressive approach than simply seeing a physical office as a salve for a broken creative culture.

Cannes has benefitted from a long tradition of global agencies using the festival as a moment in the collective calendar to bring globally distributed teams together.

A Cannes for Change

For an industry which is second only to the hairdressing industry for the sheer number of awards that it has, Cannes still stands out. While the festival still faces challenges when it comes to diversity and inclusion, women’s safety and sustainability, there is no denying its importance on the global advertising calendar.

While you can’t replicate those chance meetings and random connections that make face-to-face events so special, you don’t need to be there to be inspired by the melting pot of ideas, influence and work on show.

The advertising industry has come a long way on its ongoing journey to make work for people in the real world, rather than people in advertising. However, this doesn’t negate the pure joy and jealousy sparked by marvelling at the creative work that you wish you had a hand in making. 

The simple truth is that you can be chugging a coffee on your commute or coming to that awful, yet familiar realisation that you didn’t sweat-test your fabrics before stepping onto the Croisette, and still be inspired by the work and ideas being discussed at the festival.

With this in mind, we asked industry leaders if Cannes can drive creative curiosity. As well as asking them which trends and innovations they will be on the lookout for.

Emma Baines


Global Head of Creativity

Tony’s Chocolonely

I've never been to Cannes Lions. Yet, every year without fail, I find myself obsessively scouring the award-winning creatives online. Instead of mingling on the French Riviera, soaking up the sun and sipping rosé, I eagerly await the online summaries (The Drum is a personal favourite), refreshing my browser for live updates of the coveted Lions winning entries. Let’s not forget that is what it’s all about: the work—the crème de la crème of creativity in our industry, and it never disappoints.

Like any creative, I'm constantly seeking inspiration and devouring the latest trends and innovations. The creativity at Cannes feeds that hunger quite well. Last year, AI dominated the conversation; this year, I'm curious to see its applications, along with the rise of humour, which now has a category of its very own. The heartfelt work like Havas and Vanish's 'Me, My Autism and I', which resonated deeply with me personally, is the kind deserving of recognition, and I'm on the lookout for the next purpose-driven tearjerker. Work that does good. Work that has heart, takes courage and stands out amongst the noise. It's not a specific trend I'm after as such; it's a feeling—the 'I wish I'd done that' feeling.

Efrain Ayala

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Global Creative Effectiveness & D&I Director


Cannes Lions is the global stage to celebrate stand-out creativity and innovation. It's a chance to be humbled by the world's brightest minds, pushing the boundaries of brand storytelling and tackling pressing global challenges. The festival is rich with work and initiatives that prove brands can create positive change through the power of creativity. Creativity that has, does and will continue to change the world. It's why we're all here.

I am especially keen to dive into sessions on responsible GenAI – understanding how this transformative technology can empower creativity while protecting talent and communities.

As a WFA D&I Ambassador, I'm looking forward to leading the discussion on fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging within production. The future of our industry relies on these principles, and Cannes provides the perfect platform to collaborate and shape a more inclusive creative landscape.

Let's harness the power of creativity for good, together.

Will Hodge


Creative Agency Co-Chief & Chief Strategy Officer

Accenture Song

Whatever you might think about it, whichever way you experience it, Cannes is ultimately an exercise in perspective.

Creativity continues to be the much-used, sole preserve of our embattled industry. However, it’s at risk of becoming a weaker muscle in our memory.

Cannes shouldn’t inspire curiosity by being an authority on what great creativity looks like, but because it serves up a perspective that should inspire bigger, harder and more searching questions for us all.

It is impossible to have a perspective from nowhere so if the one you hold dear is limited to the four walls of the office you inhabit day in and day out, your curiosity is no doubt crumbling.

I hated the best Cannes I ever went to, but it lit a fire inside me that still burns today. The frustration of seeing the potential and power of the brilliant and diverse minds in our industry reduced to a single-emoji tweet has fuelled and furthered my ambition to deliver the value of creativity in the realms that make a meaningful difference to the commercial performance of a business.

It’s why I’m as excited to get out there this year as I’ve ever been.

Holly Ward

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Head of Consumer

Current Global

A Cannes Lion is one of the trophies every agency and creative wants in the cabinet, and with that comes responsibility. It must drive curiosity and stimulate debate about the things that really matter. Or else it’s just back slapping self-indulgence.

I’m a big believer in rewarding the idea rather than the distribution channel; there are myriad ways that ideas get shared but there are many ways to build campaigns and new technologies are a trend I’ll be watching. How we can use technology, including AI obviously, to make better work that will reach more people with a message that matters.

Adoptable by Pedigree, in India, is a great example. Taking standard dog shelter images and using AI to enhance them for digital ads to help end dog homelessness. AI as a tool to add to an idea, not to be the idea. Love it.

Personalization or rather making campaigns feel personal is something I’m intrigued about. How are brands reaching people and sparking a connection? There are always a few remarkable campaigns that do this, and they matter because they achieve the best results.

Ultimately though creativity must drive purpose. I want to see how the creative community is bringing visibility to the bigger issues, climate change, plastic pollution, homelessness. As a showcase of the very best in creativity, I’m really hoping some of it is being used to drive change. 

Of course I’m also excited to see the outliers, the impossibly absurd ideas that just work even though they break all the rules. That’s always fun.

Jessica Vo

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Global Lead, Marketing Orchestration


Absolutely, Cannes can drive creative curiosity. As a premier gathering of global creatives and advertising experts, Cannes is a melting pot of fresh ideas and groundbreaking content. For a Precision agency like ours, it's a treasure trove of inspiration and innovation.

The festival showcases the latest trends, techniques, and technologies, pushing us to rethink and elevate our creative and production strategies. It's not just about celebrating success but also about learning from diverse perspectives and pioneering works. Cannes provides an invaluable platform to network, collaborate, and draw inspiration from the best in the industry. And this environment ignites our creative curiosity, encouraging us to explore new storytelling avenues and deliver compelling, data-driven content that resonates on a global scale.

This year, I’m particularly excited to explore advancements in AI-driven creativity and personalised marketing. With AI technology rapidly evolving, I’m keen to see how it is being integrated into creative processes to deliver more personalised and impactful campaigns. Additionally, I’ll be looking out for innovations in sustainable advertising practices, as there is a growing emphasis on environmentally conscious marketing. Finally, the intersection of technology and storytelling, especially through immersive experiences like augmented and virtual reality.

Trin Basra

Trin Basra.jpg

VP Executive Creative Director

Freeman EMEA

Simply put, Cannes Lions is what you make of it. It is a magnet for curious creative minds. The event attracts the industry’s most creative thinkers, as well as emerging creative talent all with boundless ideas and inspiration - meaning the opportunities to be reaped are endless. I am inspired by the different perspectives that it attracts - setting itself apart from any other creative festival - nurtured by craft, experience and culture. If you’re willing to actively participate, connect, debate and contribute to the conversations surrounding you, there will be plenty to take away and innovate your practice when you return home.

With the aftershocks of the pandemic still being felt, the current global political uncertainty and cost of living crisis hitting consumers' pockets, purpose-led marketing will likely continue to be a prominent discussion topic at Cannes. Personally, I will be looking at how companies ensure their creative is empathetic and sensitive to people’s needs. Brands that strike the balance of commercial imperatives with purpose now extend into brands building trust through greater inclusivity and representation. As an event focused agency, we know that meaningful in-person experiences build meaningful brands, especially with consumer scepticism over AI driven communications. Authenticity, empathy and generosity go hand in hand and should be a cornerstone of brand strategy, keeping people connected and feeling valued.

Bhavesh Unadkat


Head of Brand and Content

frog, part of Capgemini Invent

In a word – yes. The beauty of Cannes is that it is a moment in time where some of the best creative minds from all walks of life – far beyond classic advertising – come together to discuss and explore the elements and external factors most impacting the industry. This degree of cross-inspiration is an incredible stimulus for the curious and can impact the creative direction of brands, from the next big idea to its execution. It is by bringing together the entire industry – with left-field or wildcard artists added into the mix to provoke, inspire and challenge – that Cannes really shows its worth.

The best creative inspiration always lies in the unexpected – and this crops up at Cannes in the fringe sessions as much as on the main stages, in the casual conversations as much as from the award winners.

I anticipate that this year AI and its impact on creativity is going to be the headline topic – approached from a technological and ethical perspective. It’s on everyone’s minds and across the industry, how are we as an industry working with our clients both on best practice and approach. But the wonder of Cannes is that we could all end up leaving with an entirely different topic filling our minds, spawned from debates, conversations and insights that cannot be predicted. It’s a cornucopia for the curious.

Tristan Cavanagh

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Creative Director

23red, part of Capgemini Invent

I once heard Cannes described as the ‘Haute couture’ of advertising. Shoutout to whomever that was – it’s a great way of looking at it. And, like high fashion, it’s both forward-thinking and indicative of where the broader industry might be heading. If you’re not curious about that then, even by advertising standards, you’re too cynical. 

One of the things that makes Cannes great is that it’s a global showcase. Forget that brief burning a hole in your desk for now and be inspired and illuminated by how other cultures and communities use creativity to solve unique problems. 

And be in awe of the sheer responsiveness required. The speed of social requires being able to jump on cultural moments at the drop of a hat and, after last year’s ‘Turn Your Back’ from Dove, things seem to have gone up a notch. Certainly at Rethink, who produced both Coors ‘Lights Out’ and the Heinz ‘Ketchup & Seemingly Ranch’. Seemingly with a magic wand and overnight more like. 

Also, let’s celebrate the return of humour and irreverence. The pre-Cannes build-up is full of work that’s unashamedly entertaining but also has a brilliant understanding of the role of audience participation.

Sure, everyone will once again be debating AI - I’m fascinated to see it not only being used to support the creation of the work but be challenged by the work too - like Heetch’s ‘Greetings From La Banlieue’ taking on the biases that can crop up within Midjourney.

And if that wasn’t enough there’s always the favourite purpose versus commerciality debate, so can’t wait to see more work that shows it’s possible to do both – like Ebay’s Preloved Island. 

Sachini Imbuldeniya

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House of Oddities LTD

For the last few years things have been quite isolating: remote video calls, remote working, remote (lack of) control… but this year it feels like everybody’s back in the flesh and ready for some real human connections. And I think that is so important to the health of our industry, the quality of our creative innovation, and even the bravery of clients. 

I know it’s kind of hard to draw a straight line between doing the Electric Slide at the Campaign Party with fifty strangers, drunken hobnobbing at the gutter bar while eating someone else’s pizza, or walking barefoot to an overpriced apartment with your ‘not so comfy’ flats in your hand, but since when has being creative been about drawing straight lines? These are just a few examples of the small, incidental sliding doors moments that can spark new relationships, and lead to new opportunities to do great collaborations. 

This year I can’t wait to hang out with my people of all stripes, and make friends with a whole lot more along the way! 

I think this is going to be the breakthrough Cannes Lions for underrepresented voices with more and more spaces like Inkwell beach, The Female Quotient Equality Lounge and the Empower Cafe cropping up. And after a wobbly couple of years where DEI started to slip down the client agenda, this seething mass of diverse talent will remind clients why different perspectives and different lived experiences are so crucial to better and more impactful creative work. And if I can do all that while accidentally bumping into John Legend (and then kidnapping him so he can perform a private concert for me on a desert island somewhere) then my Cannes will be complete.

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