Cannes Lions has long been a fixture on my calendar, but from a distance. With over a decade of experience in adtech PR, I’ve orchestrated or supported more Cannes campaigns than I can count, but I never attended until this year.
Did it live up to the hype? Definitely. And it proved both exhilarating and exhausting, as many told me it would. The whirlwind of meetings, parties, and party-meetings made for a wild ride, to say the least.
Despite the overall great experience, I believe we can improve next year’s event as an industry. As a first-timer offering an outside perspective, here are a few suggestions for Cannes Lions 2024.
The sustainability-themed discussions at Cannes were enlightening and held the promise of shaping future strategies. The turnout at many key sessions, however, was surprisingly low. The lack of an audience translates into missed opportunities for change, confirming the unspoken reality that sustainability discussions can be more PR than catalysts for real-world action.
Disappointingly, I also heard from event coordinators and programmers that brands withdrew from panels at the eleventh hour due to concerns of communications and legal teams about potential commitments that could arise from open dialogues on sustainability. These examples suggest that future sustainability discussions might remain tightly controlled, with a focus on conservative rather than substantial action.
It’s a regrettable reality that many adtech panels at Cannes continue to present an all-white lineup. While gender diversity is improving, ethnic and racial diversity remains significantly underrepresented. Often, our industry hosts diversity discussions featuring specific panels of ethnically diverse speakers. Yet in more general industry conversations – whether about supply path optimization or the future of TV measurement – we frequently see the same faces, predominantly white. I certainly felt this at Cannes.
A genuine commitment to diversity would result in more inclusive panels across all industry discussions, not just those centered on diversity.
Despite participating in and organizing gated events myself, I can’t ignore the discomfort caused by excessive exclusivity. Cannes Lions is by nature an exclusive event due to the high cost of attendance. There are also practical considerations for Cannes activations, such as capacity restrictions and the need for sales tracking, that necessitate gating.
However, the pervasive ‘velvet rope’ mentality felt, at times, unsavory and elitist. Consider, for example, the Spotify concert series, which felt excessively insular. While I don’t have a ready-made solution for democratizing certain Cannes events, we need to explore and address the undertones and work to make corporate Cannes activities feel less like a “let them eat cake” moment.
So, as we look to Cannes Lions 2024, the industry can study issues like sustainability, diversity, and inclusivity. Cannes has always been a platform for pushing boundaries and igniting change. Let’s ensure we harness this power to drive meaningful action, beyond merely paying lip service to critical issues.