4 Themes from Cannes Lions 2021

By : Kevin Zeno


Last week marked the return of the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity after its 2020 cancellation. While we may not have been on the Croisette with our Ray Bans and a glass of rose, VidMob was in attendance. For the first time in its 15 years, Cannes Lions hosted a fully virtual festival; although we missed the south of France, we are thrilled that a digital experience allowed for a more accessible festival with live and on-demand programming. In case you haven’t tuned in, we narrowed in on four recurring themes that have us excited for the future of creativity.

1. Relatability

It’s no surprise the unprecedented events of the last year drove the advertising and creative industry to evaluate the tonality of video ads. According to Kevin Allocca, Head of Culture and Trends at YouTube, audiences are steering away from glorified, seemingly staged depictions of daily life, and are instead opting for more mundane, realistic portrayals. He noted how important it is for brands to prioritize relatability and become fluent in the language of video that consumers use. Allocca states that informal video ads “conceptually grounded in the most ordinary bits of daily existence” can bring comfort during a season of collective uncertainty.

“In place of more formal entertainment, these creators and their formats represent a kind of extreme authenticity or radical relatability; it’s the natural progression as YouTube’s successful creators continue to optimize for greater connection with their audience,” Kevin Alloca, YouTube.

2. Sustainability

Environmentalism is a collective crisis that requires a collective solution. For that reason, sustainability has become a relevant topic across all industries and was front and center last week. Cathy Taylor, U.S. Commissioning Editor of WARC, shared how consumers are increasingly resonating with campaigns that address and tackle environmental issues, such as Finish’s #SkipTheRinse campaign. In collaboration with Havas NY, Finish asked Americans to do away with the daily habit of pre-rinsing dishes before running them through the dishwasher. Using various platforms to share the message and frame a call-to-action, Finish increased sales, purchase intent, and awareness of the water shortage crisis.

“[Part of the campaign’s appeal] isn’t just making grand gestures or sweeping statements, [but] actually encouraging small changes that add up to a big difference,” David Tiltman, WARC.

3. Brand Purpose

Brand purpose is no longer a “nice to have” for Millennials and Gen Z consumers — it’s now a key factor in their purchase decision-making. While communicating purpose can be challenging for brands in a world that is increasingly polarized, recent trends indicate that brands should absolutely take it into consideration in a very intentional manner. Tati Lindenberg, Vice President of Marketing at Dirt for Good, suggests that brands properly frame an issue and their campaign objectives, and then stay the course to create long-term impact. Audiences are becoming more drawn to campaigns that demonstrate sustainable action rather than performative messaging.

“Purpose is going to become more like the part of a marketing mix, and it will, in a few years, no longer be a choice but a requirement,” Titi Lindenberg, Dirt for Good.

4. Immersion

Worldwide lockdowns have raised the demand for immersive experiences to an all-time high. Gerardo Zavala, Associate Director of Content Partnerships at Publicis Media, showcased that brands have an opportunity to capitalize on this demand, whether it be a collaborative livestream where viewers can tune into the same content in real-time together, or a first-person VR experience with interactive content. Corsodyl, a pharmaceutical dental brand, ran video ads stylized as gaming content during recent livestreams and saw a 131% increase in brand recall and 55% increase in purchase intent. As restrictions ease and the world continues to open, brands can continue to utilize immersive digital tactics to establish innovative connections with consumers.

“[In the future,] the key will always be to balance physical and digital in customer experience,” Chiara Manco, WARC.

At the core, this year’s conversations laddered up to one overarching theme: connection. Relatable content, sustainability, brand purpose, and immersive experiences all serve as ways to connect us when the world is segmented. As restrictions ease and people unite, brands shouldn’t let go of this concept.

If you missed out on the chance to tune in last week, we’ve narrowed in on our favorite sessions and films, including the ones referenced above. All are available with a Cannes Lions digital pass:

To learn more about what VidMob was up to at Cannes Lions, be sure to watch “It’s a Revolution, the Era of Intelligent Creative,” our short film on Cannes Lions Live. Check out the follow-up panel discussion here. For any questions, visit vidmob.com/revolution.