Storyhunter’s Director of Partnerships Hubie Pilkington attended Cannes Lions — the marquee conference in the advertising, marketing, and media calendar. Here’s what he learned.
Many leading platforms, publishers, agencies, brands, and other media professionals convene in the French seaside town of Cannes to celebrate great creative work from the year prior, share knowledge, network, and forge partnerships. As one attendee said to me this week, “Cannes Lions marks the beginning of the new creative year.” Read on for the key themes and insights I gleaned from the global gathering.
There were many discussions and presentations around the environment and how the media and advertising world has a big responsibility in changing the habits of consumers and companies alike. We sometimes hear about how sustainability has become a real marketing buzzword for brands. Refreshingly, this year it was clear that many campaigns were not just “all talk.” Some of the most notable and award winning campaigns included Corona’s Plastic Fishing Tournament, Sheba’s Hope Reef and P&G’s Tide #TurnToCold campaign.
But there is still visible discontent that the ad-world is not doing enough. While attending a meeting with the WPP team atop The Martinez Hotel, I witnessed Greenpeace protestors storming the WPP beach to call for a ban on advertising for all fossil fuel companies. They also scaled Le Palais building, hung a banner between the masts of their yacht in the bay, and dressed up as dinosaurs to remind us we’re on the path to extinction.
We sometimes hear about how sustainability has become a real marketing buzzword for brands. Refreshingly, this year it was clear that many campaigns were not just ‘all talk.’
The overall message is that we must continue the work to be a greener industry. This feeds down to our professional day-to-day lives too. Had a good conversation with Maria Evrenos, global content manager at Wavemaker, about how reducing video file sizes can save energy. We asked the question: are we requesting 4K footage from production teams unnecessarily? If something is always going to be a digital asset, then why not cut down on the footage quality and save energy in file transfer?
Diversity, Inclusion, and Authenticity
Another core theme of the week was diversity and inclusion. Much of the programming brought diverse voices to the fore and a large number of the awards winners came from a broader global community than before. Indeed many executives I spoke to said that they saw more new faces at Cannes this year than ever before.
On this topic, Issa Rae spoke about how “Our stories come from our skin”. She reminded us to not lose sight of the reason for diversity and that it should be treated equally on the local level. She used the example that if a music video is being filmed in Harlem then the production company should be from Harlem (not just New York) or should at least have members of the crew from that locale. Understanding the history of the community you’re filming in is the most effective way to create authenticity.
Companies themselves are also trying to create a more inclusive attitude to the event. TikTok, as an example, has a policy of bringing junior employees to the event to give them exposure and help them grow their industry knowledge and networks. But, more than that, the TikTok executives in attendance were explicitly told that the junior employees were not there to be their assistants. This ensured that they could experience the event without the stress of an overbearing workload — they could engage in the creative freely with space.
For the general population, the metaverse offers a new form of creative identity. Avatars are another form of self-expression. Communities can form and brands can engage with their like-minded audiences through all sorts of activations, promotional “skins”, or by building new metaverse worlds for users to explore.
XR creator Don Allen Stevenson III outlined the main human benefits of the metaverse with five “I”s:
- Improves mental health: allows humans to find their space to be who they want to be
- Improves social interaction: allows humans to find their collective
- Inspires us: provides boundless creative options
- Integrates us with nature: brings us to places we may never have been able to go
- Increases likelihood finding our best self: broadens our horizons to a bigger world
From the sessions and conversations I attended, it’s clear that generally all companies and advertisers are already seeing the opportunity available to them through the metaverse. The gaming, sports, and education industries are some of the earliest adopters. These digital worlds will allow humans and brands to engage in a completely new way.
Custom Content Creation and Unique Audiences
GDPR rules and loss of 3rd party cookies means ads can’t be targeted using data as they used to. Instead first-party data has to be collected directly from customers in order to market to them. This highlights the value of owned marketing channels, specifically digital. We are seeing more and more brands putting resources in building their own social channels and curating content in order to nurture their audiences.
Additionally, brands can collaborate with creators who have already built their audiences. Part of the reason TikTok, Instagram, Youtube, and other creator-orientated platforms will continue to be so successful is because the creators now have the audiences that the brands want, often on a smaller but more engaged scale. These platforms allow brands to partner with creators that match their required audience. Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential spoke about how TikTok and Instagram enable creators to build passion points. This in turn creates niche and loyal audiences.That, in partnership with the creator, then gives brands the opportunity to hyper-target a creator’s audience and market a relevant product to them.
We are seeing more and more brands putting resources in building their own social channels and curating content in order to nurture their audiences.
Creators don’t have to wait until they have hundreds of thousands of followers. They can start building brand partnerships at 10,000 followers or less if they have one of these loyal and niche audiences. The important thing to remember is that it’s “your voice, your choice”. Creators must remind brands that you know what’s best for your own audience, don’t bow to their pressure to follow their ideas/script, and stress that you are in creative control.
What’s the Future of the Media, Advertising and Marketing Industry?
Sir Martin Sorrell, of S4 Capital and Media Monks, highlighted that the current total size of the entire media business is around $750 billion USD. Of that, digital makes up around $450 billion USD. That’s almost 60% of the total business and it will grow to 70% by 2024. For this reason, agencies and brands need to have a more agile approach to their digital marketing. Moreover, in times of inflation brands and agencies particularly need to have efficiency. That could be through faster turnaround on campaigns, relying on more creative collaboration to maximize genuine reach, or being early adopters to new technology such as the metaverse.
Speed, agility, and efficiency was something that Ryan Reynolds also spoke about in Cannes. At his company, Maximum Effort Marketing, they champion (i) putting the product front and center, (ii) speed, and (iii) less resources for campaigns. He says less time and less money helps creativity thrive and not stagnate!
The growth of portfolios of celebrity storytellers like Ryan Reynolds, Issa Rae, and Paris Hilton (all spoke at Cannes Lions) highlight the increasing value of “the individual’s” voice and influence as a marketing tool. Brands can tap into this same philosophy by fine-tuning their own brand voice and audience alignment with owned channels. They can create content that speaks to the interests of their customers and nurture loyalty. Additionally, a renewed focus on hyper-targeting and activating niche or “local” consumers (as illustrated by Ogilvy’s “Shah Rukh Khan My Ad” campaign for Cadbury) offers great opportunities to connect on a more personal level.
From Storyhunter’s perspective, it was very reassuring to hear brands, creatives, agencies, and platforms all validate our place in the marketing and content sphere. Our global network of creators, production companies, and freelance creatives (i) helps reduce carbon footprint of productions, (ii) enables diverse and authentic storytelling, (iii) matches clients with experts of their field including in new tech like metaverse, (iv) can introduce brands to creators with existing audiences, and (v) overall empowers teams to create an agile, scalable, and cost-efficient model for all forms of content. Look forward to continuing to help our clients and creators alike navigate the shifting sands of the story economy.
By Hubie Pilkington, Director of Partnerships