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Craig Hepburn

Cannes 2014 – my week

Posted by June 24, 2014
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As the creative industry returns and recovers from the hangover of another celebration of media at Cannes and drags themselves out of the Gutter(bar), I have had some time to reflect on my week in attendance representing our Microsoft partnership along with the opportunity to speak at the famous Audi theatre. I thought I would take some time to write down my thoughts from the week, share some key takeaways and highlights of the event.

More tech companies & startups this year

My first thought after returning this year was just the epic scale of the event in comparison to previous years probably compelled by the ever increasing number of Lions categories to enter but also the increased presence of technology companies and startups in attendance this year. Cannes Lions, famously a very media focused event for pure creatives, has evolved into a mixing pot of tech, brands, agencies and investors all trying to network and pull off the biggest parties in town. Probably biased but I would say the midweek Microsoft party with Calvin Harris at Carlton Beach trumped all others but hat-tip to the Vice team who also nailed an amazing event as you would expect.

Key themes: real time; short form storytelling

I had the honour of attending with my new employer, Microsoft. We took a bigger presence this year with the overarching theme #MomentsThatMatter, our belief is that brands are increasingly focused not only on big ideas and creative advertising above the line but jumping on opportunities in real time to amplify your brand. This was certainly a big theme of the discussions both at the sessions in the Palais but also on the terraces of the Carlton as the increase in short form storytelling becomes a new skill set for agencies and creatives.

As we increasingly move from multi-million dollar month-long production TVCs lasting 30seconds to 6 second vines being produced by young amateur creatives with a few thousand pounds – this shift in creative focus from big and expensive to agile and real time was a major debate as you can imagine between the traditionalists vs the social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram but also many hundreds of the new startup tech companies looking to get investment on their new creative platforms.

Brand/creative relationships

For me the debate is a good one and also was the major topic of my session at the Palais on Thursday afternoon sponsored by TalentHouse. Our session, titled “Brands as patrons of the Arts”, was very apt for the Lions festival and featured myself from the brand side, Maya Bogle co-founder of talenthouse and – most importantly – a young creative artist called Charlie who was attending his first Cannes festival with us and had the amazing opportunity of taking the stage to discuss his experience as a young hungry creative trying to make a living in a very tough industry.

Ironically this session really represented the big discussion of the week which was how brands, tech companies and the creative ad industry need to work closer together to evolve the business models of advertising while also appreciating the increasing scale of content required to operate in an always on & always connected mobile world. For some time now I have been feeling the increase in pressure to deliver more content for our business with the same resources and budgets, this has forced us to evaluate new ways of working and seeking out direct relationships with creatives.

So as tech companies start to infiltrate and host the biggest parties on Le Croisette and young creatives seek out direct relationships with brands it’s only a matter of time before you see media companies forced to become smarter about collaborating with the new wave of social networks and content tech companies. This was highlighted by Kanye West who took the stage at Cannes this year to discuss the intricate creative details of his wedding to Kim Kardashian and explained how they spent 4 days planning the Instagram wedding shot and then now famously saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day; the internet is our new Rome. Empower the best content creators or f—k you!” Which, apart from being typical Kanye creating a reaction to benefit his own fame, also highlighted a core theme of the Palais sessions.

The misses

There were also some tough lessons for some speakers this year namely Marissa Mayer CEO of Yahoo who took a twitter heckling for taking the stage and being badly advised to overly “hard sell” yahoo to a creative audience of media folks…as you can imagine this didn’t go down well with one tweet saying “Yahoo CEO at Cannes – am I at a sales pitch.” Ouch! We then heard that Marrisa turned up 2 hours late for an important dinner with ad executives claiming to have fallen asleep. Probably a year she along with Yahoo will probably want to forget.

The hits

However for me the great news of the awards was that Volvo’s Epic Split video received the Cyber and Video Grand Prix and very well deserved too. This also was a huge win for the creative industry, proving that an amazing idea, brilliant execution and well chosen soundtrack can still win hearts and minds – emotional connections with content are still driven by creative genius rather than tech automation or social networks themselves.

I was also happy to see the British Airways “Magic of Flying” billboard receive a Lion for direct advertising as a superb mashup of technology, creative and physical billboards. Certainly not new but one of the best examples to-date and most likely will drive a bigger demand for these types of executions in the year ahead.

One Cannes, two events

For many attendees there are 2 Cannes events happening in parallel – the one at the Palais for creatives and the one around La Cotes d’Azur on the islands, yachts, restaurants for the business executives. However no matter what side of the line you work within both have a huge impact on each other, in my mind there is no doubt we will see more convergence consolidation with advertising, media and tech as the demand from brands to focus on digital creativity and all the measurement and data that will bring.

As most people will tell you – convergence already happens every evening after midnight at the famous gutter bar by the side of the Martinez where the creative minds and the business executives regularly come together and drink themselves into the next morning. I can tell you from experience that’s where you find out the real stories of the week…unfortunately I have run out of time and word count to share these here so will have to save these for the next Podge Lunch with Mr Jones!

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  • Free Range Web: Looks like a great night was had by all. Congratulations to you and your team
  • Lucy Hastings: I have been following your teams progress and I must say I am impressed. Lots of luck to you.
  • Lauren Goodenough: Fab night guys! thanks to you all at BIMA and al of the sponsors too! Next year if Despark are...
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