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Lessons to Advertisers from Cannes Lions 2019

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

Cannes is one of the highlights of the global advertising calendar, as a chance for the industry to discuss the issues of today and the future. What were the top five lessons for advertisers from this year’s event?

While ANZA wasn’t in attendance, we were represented by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA). So we asked the WFA’s Will Gilroy (Director of Policy and Communications) to share his thoughts on the key themes for advertisers from this year’s event.

Five important lessons from Cannes

As with the events in the past, there's always important lessons to take away from the Cannes Lions advertising awards.

Following the close of the 2019 event with time for the dust to settle, several motivations for ongoing chatter and change in the industry remain.

1. More emphasis on diversity and inclusion

Talk of positive gender and diversity portrayal has become a central focus to the advertising festival as the talk of positive gender and diversity portrayals that happened around the fringes of last year's festival moved more main-stage.

Throughout the advertising awards it became evident that there’s been more emphasis on diversity, and conversations have been extending to reach deep into inclusion for all.

We saw a variety of efforts to address and express this inclusion – both in the line-up of speakers held daily by Cannes Lions Beach, and new Jury Guidelines for the award themselves that had been expanded to directly address more equal representation of social groups. Add to that the much fêted adidas 'Billy Jean King Your Shoes', the inspired 'Viva La Vulva' from Essity, Nike’s 'Dream Crazy' and IKEA's ThisAbles and we witnessed a conversation fast broadening beyond gender diversity to ethnic diversity and inclusion.

2. Brand safety

With the online platforms reeling from a year of well-publicised scandals, it was little surprise that there was a lot of talk about the need to create a sustainable online advertising ecosystem that puts people and society before itself.

Leading global brands and the WFA teamed up with agencies and platforms to launch the Global Alliance for Responsible Media to address digital safety. The WFA State of Advertising research shows that 67% marketers agree with the statement that “the industry had become too obsessed with its own problems to the detriment of putting the consumer first” but there was no suggestion from anyone in Cannes that this isn’t a problem that urgently needs fixing.

3. Purpose in the crosshairs

"Has purpose gone too far?" asked one Economist editor wryly, reflecting a new WFA research on the State of Advertising, indicating that 65% of marketers agree that most examples of brand purpose fail to resonate with consumers thanks to a lack of authenticity. Despite so many Lions winners being 'purposeful', it did feel like 'purpose' was more under the microscope than before with Alan Jope, Unilever's new CEO, warning of 'woke-washing' and P&G's Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard calling on marketers to be more 'precise' when trying to infuse their marketing with purpose.

4. But not so much on data

The Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who exposed Cambridge Analytica, lamented that the ad industry seemed to be ignoring the fall-out from the scandal. In interviews with industry leaders, the Economist executive editor Andrew Palmer probed Google's Matt Brittin and Facebook's Carolyn Everson. Tough questions were handled deftly and all the right assurances were made but there remains the lingering perception that the industry hasn't sufficiently taken on board the looming spectre of a potential consumer backlash against an industry fueled, in large part, by peoples personal data.

5. Advertising is more than just adverts

While CMOs generally disagree with the premise that in five years time there will be no traditional advertising, there was enough on show in Cannes to see where things are headed. P&G's Marc Pritchard talked about reinventing advertising, working with creative partners and influencers citing SK-II as the poster child for where P&G is taking its marketing budgets. The most awarded campaign this hear and winner of the much coveted Titanium Lion was Burger King's subversive 'Whoopper Detour', which surprised many by ending up with more awards than Nike's Dream Crazy.

At ANZA we like to help our members make smart advertising decisions. Get in touch if you're after current advice on the industry.


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