What Happened at Cannes: AI, Creative Effectiveness, & The Work That Won
I’m wrapping up the week at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. This week was a wonderful clash of things that are parts of this industry every day: Creativity and technology, art and science, inspiration and exhaustion. Sweat. It’s a week that feels very long and yet not long enough. Based on how much the topic of AI dominated this year’s discussion, artificial intelligence and human experience is yet another clash to be added to the list.
As the Head of VidMob’s Client Organization, I spent my time at the Festival with many of our clients who attended, listening to them about their business and where they are putting creativity to work right now. Here’s what I heard:
- Effectiveness: It’s not uncommon for our industry to celebrate creativity because it’s bold, it uses new innovative technology or maybe because it conveys a deep sense of purpose and resonates with us. This year, there was an intense focus on creative effectiveness. Brands with high self-awareness are well positioned to capture attention and connect deeply with people, enough to drive measurable business outcomes. Those brands took center stage this week with case studies that have put creativity to work and made a significant impact on driving brand growth or increasing market share.
- AI: It was undeniably the hot topic this year, but the role for AI among marketers right now depends on which marketer you ask. For some, it’s a space to watch closely for now, but for others, they are going all in on AI. The one thing everyone seemed to embrace is that it’s not as new as it sounds, it’s been all around us for years (VidMob has been using AI for over five years). There were some incredibly powerful examples of generative AI put to use in the work brands are bringing to market and those ideas were all powered by human creativity. Prompt writing is a new skill to build among teams and standardizing the ethics of AI needs more urgency. I’m optimistic about what these new tools make possible for human creativity. We may be shocked by what we see on this front in just one year’s time when we return.
- Insights in Action (Still) Make Magic: It’s easy to get distracted by what’s new: New technology rolls out here, announcements are made and more behemoth activations show up on the Croisette.
I spent the early part of one morning in the lower level of the Palais, walking the aisles of case study after case study from the work being recognized this year. I was a student of the work, reminded of what I learned in my first days in advertising: when a truth about people and a truth about a brand find the right tension, and the story of it is told beautifully, it will move us to think, feel and act.
I saw moving, award winning work that inspired action like Dove’s #TurnYourBack. Coca-Cola’s “Create Real Magic” was built by humans around the world, equipped with generative AI and the brand’s own distinct assets to inspire new artists who earned over 300 million impressions for the brand.
Much of the work I’m still thinking about as I leave was often the simplest:
- IKEA’s “Proudly Second Best” captures in fewer than 40 characters, a heartfelt truth about the role that its products play in our lives.
- Heinz’s “It Has to Be Heinz” breaks so many rules that brands are told to respect, but does so while calling out its own dominance of the category.
Those are insights put into action that drive results, which is what every marketer I speak with is looking for creativity to do right now.
One brand, whose story I took in while there, will be on massive display later this summer. I heard Mattel President & COO Richard Dickson review the 64 year history of Barbie. To hear him tell it, the brand has never been stronger than it is today, and its latest success in the past several years has come from these same lessons from the work on display. Tapping into truths about people, embracing self awareness as a brand and putting insights into action, that’s how Barbie managed to double its share in 5 years. There was only one build I have to offer on what I heard from Mr. Dickson.
He proposed a definition of Creativity; “the ability to imagine better.” The teams behind brands like his haven’t just imagined better, their ability doesn’t stop with imagination. The creativity on display this week is the ability to imagine better and then deliver it.