Highlights – 2014 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity

Cannes Lions is more like a marathon than a festival. With over 48 hours of talks, alongside countless other workshops, screenings, exhibitions, award ceremonies and parties; the term “information overload” doesn’t even begin to describe the onslaught on your senses.

To try make sense of the stimulus, we’re going to take the Google approach, which, as chief business officer Nikesh Arora explained to the audience, is all about making the complex really, really simple. So here are the basics of this year’s Cannes Lions.

The entertainers
Advertising folk are often skeptical when it comes to celebrities. Probably because they like to think that their success stories are a product of marketing geniuses such as themselves, as opposed to you know, actual talent. But this year’s roster of celebrity speakers left even the most cynical festival goers (and trust me, they’re a cynical bunch) impressed.

Rapper Kanye West took to the stage to discuss content, creators and collaboration in today’s cultural landscape. He left the audience with a powerful message that is, to do ground-breaking work. He also gave us a bit of insight into the Kimye brand, how Annie Leibovitz pulled out as wedding photographer the day before the big event and how they spent four days retouching the wedding picture that then became the most liked photo in the history of Instagram. (He has retracted his remarks on Leibovitz later.)

Actor-musician Jared Leto charmed the pants off the audience and gave South Africa an epic shout out, adding that it’s one of his favourite countries in the world. Chief creative officer PJ Pereira said that in the age of content, advertisers need to learn to “behave like an entertainer”, and in this case Leto was the perfect teacher.

The innovators
Every year new technology changes the way we see and experience the world. But this year, the conversation around innovation moved away from technology for technology’s sake and towards a more human approach to its application.

Google inspired the audience with sneak peeks at their latest projects. From Project Loon, a series of high altitude balloons aimed to help provide blanket coverage to even the most remote places in the world, to Project Iris, a contact lens that will allow diabetics to measure their insulin levels without having to draw blood. The main message: don’t ask “Is this going to make money?”, ask “Is this going to be useful to somebody?”.

The 3%
Another big talking point at the festival has been the lack of women in senior positions in the media industry. Led by Lean In author and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, the conversation centered around the portrayal of women in media and how advertisers have the power to change stereotypes. Sheryl urged anyone who sees a little girl being called “bossy” to interrupt and say, “That little girl’s not bossy. That little girl has executive leadership skills.” Currently only 3% of creative directors are women. Check out How the media failed women in 2013.

The storytellers
By far the loudest buzzword at the festival, storytelling took centre stage. It seems like an obvious thing to tell brands that want to connect with their consumers, but often we forget that tech is not an idea and that if you want to break through the clutter the best way to do it is through an authentic human story. As executive chairperson and creative director of Ogilvy & Mather South Asia Piyush Pandey put it, “Advertising has gone from being literal to connecting with the heart”. Reunion by Ogilvy & Mather India.

The work
And finally, the reason we are all here: the work. The winning work at this year’s Cannes Lions reflects the major themes of the festival itself. The Goodvertising trend is still going strong with agencies taking away awards for work that didn’t just improve sales, but improved the lives of people as well. Probably the most hard-hitting example of this is Sweetie, a computer generated 10-year-old girl created by Dutch agency Lemz who was used as a trap to identify and track down over 1 000 child predators across the world.

South African agencies took home a fair share of metal as well as across a range of categories including outdoor, press, promo and activation, with Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg taking home the ultimate prize, a Radio Grand Prix for their Lucozade campaign.

Here’s a list of all the winners.

Kate Desmarais is a copywriter at Ogilvy Cape Town and creator/editor of Ogilvy Outfitter

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