Cannes Lions 2016: Event Recap


The yachts, the rooftop panels, the extravagant beach clubs, private villas in the hills… and of course, the Palais. Another Cannes Lions drew to a close this past Saturday.

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is increasingly becoming a festival of superlatives, but the Cannes experience increasingly is not uniform for all. The festival and what one gets out of it varies greatly by attendee and industry segment. More and more, technology and creativity are merging with media and branding to make a new type of Cannes Lions festival different from that of five or ten years ago.

Cannes Lions 2016 beach lounge

In recent years, the rise of technology has fundamentally changed Cannes Lions. The Croisette has been taken over by technology giants, with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube setting up beach clubs filled with everything from all-day smoothies to innovation stations and coffee stands along the beachfront. A new “ad tech row” has emerged, which refers to the yachts behind the Palais that are sponsored by ad tech companies. Five years ago, such a trend would have been unheard of. In 2016, some of the best parties and meetings occurred along the gangplanks of yachts and on trips to San Tropez or the prestigious Hotel Du Cap. LUMA Partners, creators of the famous LUMAscape for the advertising industry, went as far as to create a LUMA “yachtscape” for Cannes 2016 based on the presence of companies such as DataXu, Rubicon, SmartAdServer and others all along the jetee.

DataXu yacht at Cannes Lions 2016

One specific conversation in particular during the week prompted me to reflect on how much Cannes Lions has shifted its focus over time from a pure celebration of creative work to reflecting the dynamic new data-driven marketing world in which we all live today. On Monday, I met a creative director from Mexico who was extremely excited about being in Cannes for the first time. His agency was shortlisted for one of the prestigious Cannes Lions awards. They didn’t win in the end, but he was so pleased to have gotten the chance to showcase his agency’s work in front of a global audience equally passionate about creative ideas and effectiveness.

This creative director was aware of the increasing need to leverage data and consumer insights, but he had never heard of any of the companies represented along “adtech row.” He was at Cannes Lions purely for the creative work and awards. However, in order for his agency’s work to get seen and to be as effective as possible, technology had likely been involved. His job may have ended post-production of the work, but the job of media and technology was only beginning.Cannes Lions 2016 beach
The happy marriage of creativity and technology was a key theme everywhere during this year’s festival. In a panel hosted by The Drum on “Data-Driven Creative: Where Efficiency Meets Emotion,” examples were mentioned of using weather data to enhance creative campaigns. More and more creatives use data and consumer behavior insights to confirm their hypothesis about the work or to validate their ideas, the panel made clear. Kathleen Hall, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Global Advertising and Media, confirmed that “it is no [longer] about innovation for innovation’s sake, or technology for technology’s sake, but [it is now about] how you can leverage technology and data and innovation.” Her implied conclusion was clear: creativity and innovation go hand-in-hand with data and technology in the new world we live in.

Cannes Lions remains the place to broaden one’s mind, experience excellent work from around the world, and listen to challenges faced by a wide array of players and organizations within the marketing ecosystem. Just make sure to get into the Palais and view some of the award-winning work on your way to your next glass of rose or yacht row!

Cannes Lions 2016 Coastline