By Richelle Robbins. Published on July 14, 2015.
If you’re in the marketing, advertising, media or tech world, chances are you have heard about the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. With the event held in the South of France during the beautiful summer month of June, what professional wouldn’t want to grow their career while playing in the sun? For 2015, I was one of five students selected by the American Pavilion to attend the Festival. With the American Pavilion’s credo, I was granted a Student pass that allowed me all-access into the Festival’s seminars, networking functions, workshops, and award shows. In addition, my pass got me into many of the popular hotspots including the Facebook and Google beaches.
Of the seminars I attended, there were two that really stood out. Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles of Cosmopolitan interviewed Evan Spiegel, Co-Founder and CEO of one of the world’s largest social media apps, Snapchat. With the seminar entitled, “The Millennial Mind: Creativity & What It Means to the World’s Largest Living Generation,” Coles asked Spiegel questions about the history of Snapchat, its current position in the marketplace, and where he saw it going in the future. Although she was a tough and thorough interviewer, Spiegel remained calmed and seemed genuine in his responses. When asked why he chose Snapchat’s signature ghost logo he replied, “I drew it in my dorm room.” Likewise, when asked why he chose yellow as Snapchat’s background color he replied, “My friends and I noticed not a lot of other companies use yellow.” In describing Snapchat’s differentiators in the social media market, Spiegel referred to Snapchat as telling a story from the beginning to the end, whereas competitors like Facebook and Twitter organize their content from newest to oldest. Also, he spoke about advertising on his social media as something owners can opt-in to as they choose whether or not to open an advertiser’s story; unlike Facebook, however, where advertising messages are constantly mixed in with organic user content.
Another seminar that left questions in my mind was “Sentience: The Coming AI Revolution” with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, developer of the World Wide Web. In his seminar, he spoke briefly about the importance of privacy, the ownership and control of artificial intelligence, and the possible benefits and dangers of human robotic technologies. One quote I vividly remember him saying was that, “Data is more important to me than it is important to you.” I believe he meant that individuals can benefit more from their own personal data, such as with health statistics and life behaviors, than large advertising companies can by holding and selling all of this data. People will be willing to give up privacy if they have a product that can use their personal data to change their lives for the better. While Sir Berners-Lee envisions AI as having personal assistants connect and communicate with each other, he believes that AI can be controlled by forces as big as militaries and as small as criminals. “We will program the very core of their nature” he said, which should send shivers up your spine as it did to mine. He ended the seminar with his thoughts on how AI could hurt human existence in the future: “If robots get the same rights as human beings, we have gone too far – [that will be] the red line.”
Other seminars that piqued my interest included: Marilyn Manson’s interview about the importance of personal branding (behind sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll); renowned chef and restaurateur Jamie Oliver’s perspective on “Innovation: When New Just Isn’t Enough” and the alarming number of unhealthy and malnourished people in the world; Emilie Baltz and Billie Whitehouse’s ideas of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to create and experiment with completely new mediums; and Keith Reinhard’s interview with Mark van der Heijden, known as the Backpacker Intern, where they explore creativity through different places and cultures around the world.
Besides attending the seminars and learning from some of the industry’s most innovative leaders, I also had the best networking opportunities on the beaches and at the awards shows. The Google Beach had a relaxed atmosphere where you could “code” to get free drinks, design your own Android at the water bottle station, and play volleyball in a week-long tournament. The Facebook Beach was much more business-oriented as the food spread was professionally crafted, the daily talks were hosted by most of Facebook’s own, and the design of the overall space was very trendy.
The award shows were my favorite part about the Lions Festival as you got to see the work that granted a Lion. Winners came from a variety of brands and causes, such as States United to Prevent Gun Violence’s “Guns with History,” The ALS Association’s “Ice Bucket Challenge” (which also received a standing ovation from the audience), Burger King’s “Proud Whopper,” and many others. The most prominent trend I saw from these and other award-winning campaigns was that they sought to address a large social issue. In fact, the Festival created a new Lion this year called the Glass Lion which was awarded to “work that implicitly or explicitly addresses issues of gender inequality or prejudice through the conscious representation of gender in advertising.” Procter and Gamble’s Always brand was a Festival favorite for its campaign “#LikeAGirl” which won a Glass Lion, the PR Grand Prix, and many other Gold Lions.
Past attendees warned me that, “You can’t do everything in Cannes,” but I certainly tried my best.
Do you have a favorite piece of work that won a Lion at this year’s Festival? If so, leave a comment about it in the section below! For more information about the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, please visit their homepage here or feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn.