Thought Leadership

Marketing lessons from this year’s Cannes Lions

Can Cannes really drive change? A look back on the winning work and key themes from the festival.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


‘Can Cannes really drive change?’ This was the question posed by Collette Philip Founder and Managing Director of Brand by Me. It is also an apt starting point to reflect on the key themes and trends from the festival and with the spirit of that change and progress in mind here are a collection of key takeaways and award-winning work from the festival. 

Inclusion is not a trend

Inclusion is not a trend; it is a fundamental shift in business and society; one which demands more than just a panel discussion. For whether it's sipping a warm white wine in an office, or rocking up on a beach in the South of France, the fiction implicit in raising awareness at a time when the need for action is so clear is increasingly acute. As Philip explained eloquently it's time to stop simply talking about diversity. She says: “Focus instead on facilitating and promoting equitable action. If people say they can't find senior talent, create opportunities to matchmake. Connect brands with businesses led by founders from minoritised communities. Let's stop focusing on intent and start creating impact.”

Pass the mic to tackle the climate crisis

‘In the Metaverse no one can hear you scream.’ This was the straightforward warning from Media Bounty’s Jake Dubbins, who pointed to the fact no amount of wanging on about the Metaverse can distract from the urgency of the climate crisis. 

The importance of questioning who isn’t in the room and who doesn’t have the microphone was underlined by the fact that it was Greenpeace protestors, as opposed to conference speakers themselves, who garnered the most headlines. The climate crisis demands more than a singular award-winning campaign. As Lucy von Sturmer, founder of The Humblebrag and Creatives for Climate organiser explained: “Once your eyes are open to the climate emergency; the choice to use your craft, creativity, platform and influence for 'good' is a very urgent and personal mission.”

Cynicism is the enemy of creativity

Of course, it is all too easy to be cynical about Cannes. But as our Cannes diarists, MSQ’s Young Lions Annalise Valentino and Emma McKernan reminded us so beautifully cynicism is the enemy of creativity. There is power in being inspired not just by the work, but the stories and striving of the people that strive to make the industry better for everyone. As they wrote: “The most striking thing of our Cannes experience so far is the sheer number of amazing women to be inspired by. We kicked off the festival with Cindy Gallop, an absolute powerhouse who wants us all to rethink and redesign the agency model.”

This commitment to learning and active listening demands both being open-minded and embracing the everyday belief that regardless of where you sit within an organisation you always have something left to learn. A progressive leadership mindset embodied by Gabrielle Ludzker, CEO at RAPP UK, who shared her people-focused learnings from the festival. As she wrote: “Our teams need psychological safety to embrace change and they need to trust us as leaders to back them, support them and take them on this journey.”

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