“Heady cocktails, naked hedonism – but great content,” is how John Shaw, Chief Product Officer at Brand Union once described the Cannes Festival of Creativity.

Every year, advertisers, clients and platforms alike gather on the now infamous Croisette to swap war stories and celebrate Lions over endless pourings of Rose. This year Group XP was out in full force.

The festival opened on Monday and saw FITCH make their debut appearance in the official Forum with their talk What Are Memories Made Of?


“Every day is a flood of moments. And even the good ones can be swept away in the tide. If a moment is a sandcastle, a memory is a malleable rock: it becomes a landmark. It helps define who we are and it’s something we want to share with others. That’s a powerful thing for any brand.”

Senior creative strategist Dominique Bonnafoux led the interactive session that brought together an artist, a neuroscientist and a writer to explore what it takes to stir emotions and create lasting impressions.


Hear more from the FITCH panelists over Creative Pool.

But centre stage wasn’t the only space we occupied this year. Behind the scenes, where thousands upon thousands of entries are judged against the strict criteria of the carefully selected jurors, was Brand Union Digital Creative Director Marta Swannie. Having been officially asked to sit on the jury for the Design Lions, Marta was privy to 4,000 entries in the Design category alone, a category still vying to stand as tall as the more traditional communications categories. Even in 2017, “newer categories like Product Design only had 420 entries in total”, Marta tells us.

But the work spoke for itself. “There was a huge spectrum of work, the shortlist was spread across all the sub categories – however Sound Design, Motion Graphics/Video and UX were very strong. Areas like Packaging and Web Design were weak.”

And the projects that stood out to the design jurors such as Fearless Girl, Meet Graham and Refugee Nation, “dominated the festival talk and swept all of the awards”.

One of Marta’s personal highlights? “A little corporate identity project from Sid Lee in Toronto which I particularly liked, because it has so much personality. It feels warm and empathetic in an industry which is usually cold and transactional. I also like how the container device is used for storytelling.”

For more on Marta’s experience at Cannes, read her thought-provoking piece on diversity at the festival here.

When festival-goers weren’t attentively live-tweeting talks and congratulating award winners in the Palais, they were walking between branded beaches and agency events, riding the Snapchat ferris wheel, or returning to spend hours immersed by the pioneers of Cannes’ branded experiences, YouTube Beach.

Youtube Beach

Brought to you by the creative masterminds at SET Live, YouTube Beach continuously sets the bar for creating a highly interactive and openly inclusive environment.

Their challenge this year? To find more direct ways to showcase YouTube’s cultural influence and communicate new products and content. All this in a relaxed, non-confrontational beach club environment that’s open to everyone. Creative Director Harry Osbourne took us through this year’s agenda.

“We showed the power of their partnerships with a 360º Gorrillaz music video experience – complete with helta-skelta slide and ball pit. We showed how user-generated content intersects artist content in a uniquely YouTube way with a video jukebox installation. And we demonstrated the irresistible power of 6-second advertising with a tunnel of interactive screens.

Ice creams, smoothies and volleyball tournaments kept the atmosphere fun, whist a series of industry-led lightning talks and private agency nights allowed deeper conversations with key decision makers.

YouTube Beach Set Creative 2

Finally, an overnight turnaround allowed us to transform the beach into a giant rainbow for PRIDE on Friday. Talks from prominent LGBTQ creators, glitter artists, drag dance workshops, a silent disco and a night of live music helped close out the week with a bang.”

YouTube Beach Set Creative Pride

But branded experiences weren’t the only thing grabbing the attention of festival goers.

Waving the flags of Brand Union and FITCH throughout the week were Global Marketing Directors Christina Mannatt and Maeve O’Sullivan.

Maeve’s number one takeaway from the festival? “Know your purpose,” and who better to learn that from than a Hollywood legend.

“‘I’m a good actress.’ This was Helen Mirren’s stating the bleeding obvious, when questioned about how she conquers self-doubt, shared in conversation with L’Oréal’s Adrien Koskas.” Maeve took two things away from that statement; “First, don’t underestimate Helen Mirren’s quickfire wit, and second, life is much simpler when one is clear about one’s purpose.”

Helen Mirren Cannes Lions

For the audience learning about the All Worth It initiative, Mirren’s conversation with Koskas felt like a sincere move on the part of a brand to reconsider its own purpose – abandoning ‘Because you’re worth it’ for a more inclusive message through a three-year campaign partnership with The Princes Trust in the UK and Ireland, featuring a diverse group of high profile faces. This is sounds like a well-considered and admirable programme, but I can’t help but wonder what will happen in 2021? Is this a sign of a longer term shift in priorities for L’Oréal or canny use of purpose-driven marketing?”

We asked Maeve to take us through some of her Cannes highlights and weren’t surprised to see AirBnB’s Facebook Live We Are Here initiative, campaign make the cut. “It was an inspiring approach, motivating armchair and intrepid travellers alike to experience something new in real time.”

“For me, the Facebook campaign supports their campaigning side in a creative, engaging way that still communicates an inclusive message that is expressed more seriously through its efforts to support refugees and marriage equality.”

We Are Here Airbnb

For Christina Mannatt, this year’s biggest trend harked back to a memorable observation from this year’s SXSW, boredom. “Our smartphones now fill valuable moments in the day when we used to let our minds wander … Our phones occupy the white space and couch space and, as a result, our alertness is always on”.

And at Cannes Lions, ground zero for sensory overload, “boredom was the topic du jour. It was referenced as if it were some quaint relic from decades past like Polaroid film or vinyl records, the use of which is meant to reacquaint us with simpler, less digital times.”

This was the theme so prevalent throughout many of the festival’s talks. “Cheil Worldwide’s CCO Wain Choi hosted a panel called The Power of Boredom: How Ordinary Can Be Extraordinary. One of his guests, a Korean reality TV producer named Yungsuk Nah, had tired of creating shows wherein contestants vie to be Number 1. Instead, he decided to make a show about doing nothing.

WGSN’s Global Chief Content Officer Carla Buzasi highlighted Bored is the New Black, a movement which can be attributed to the loss of distinction between work life and home life. She also cited studies which suggest that parents are doing their children a disservice by scheduling too many extracurricular activities—today’s children never have time to get bored.”

But why should designers and strategists care about boredom? “In How Creativity is Born, MIT Media Lab’s Adam Horowitz described a state called transient hypofrontality, or the temporary slowing down of one’s prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that controls higher cognitive functions like systematic thinking and decision-making. This state can be achieved by meditating, exercising, taking a shower or daydreaming…you know, activities which preclude smartphone usage and are inherently less mentally stimulating. It is in these moments of transient hypofrontality where one’s inner critic and self-doubt are silenced and creative ideas can come to life. Speaking on a macro level, Horowitz illustrated how it is in the interplay between the engineering part of our brain and the artistic part of our brain where true creativity is born and thrives.”

Read more of Christina’s key insights here.

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