Grounded insights from Cannes

A shift towards common sense and fact-driven analysis was evident at this year’s Festival

David Clasen, IPA Finance Director, dips into his Cannes' highlights and shares observations from his visit to this year's festival.

It was good to be back in Cannes in real life this year.  The atmosphere on the first morning of the Cannes Lions Festival of International Creativity was like a coiled spring (which then went off).

Immediately striking was how much bigger the sponsored yachts seemed, now that the Russian and Russian-adjacent monsters that used to park up at the entrance to the port have been hoiked off into the sanctions sin-bin.  Other changes were in who had taken the yachts – more adtech and digital, fewer agencies – and the fact that one or two of them made sallies out to sea with their panels and guests.  (Novel, but not for moi; I don’t even have the sea legs for a bit of wake when the things are moored.)

The first person I bumped into, outside the Palais pass pick-up pavilion, was Peter Field and the last, as I was nursing my final hangover with a wander round the shaded ruelles, was Les Binet.  From an IPA perspective, a literal and figurative Alpha and Omega.

Between those totemic bookends, my main takeaways from the week were on the cohesions and tensions between profits, sustainability, and inclusivity; and the growth in appetite for accuracy, honesty, and collective action.

There was a shift towards common sense and fact-driven analysis. 

  • A TV presenter spoke about getting improvements in carbon footprint across a very broad spectrum of people and businesses, rather than beadily seeking perfection from a few. Championing and uplifting a large number of positive but more marginal efforts may be more effective than public bullying about shortcomings of selected poster children.   #NotAllGreenwashing
  • There are some circumstances in which trees are not an environmentally good thing, I learnt: cutting down some of those in Siberia may save the permafrost there and thereby ensure dangerous volumes of methane remain trapped.  The associated comms challenges are better addressed with more accuracy and honesty, not less, to deal with the counterintuitive complex narrative.  #NotAllTrees
  • Likewise, manufacturers of branded goods were exhorted to go into detail on their tangible claims about their products. If a soap is 98% biodegradable within a week, make sure the consumer knows that this claim is not just about the packaging, how and why the speed is significant, and that the producer plans to keep researching until the remaining 2% is sorted.  It’s effective.
  • There were plenty of metaverse and web3 castles in the air. These were pinned down by some insightful and sober reflections, emphasising the importance of gaming and gamification, however it shows up.  (Thank you Mary Keane-Dawson and Jonny Shaw.)

Measuring was another theme of the week.

  • Leading work by UK agencies on the measurement of CO2 emitted by different media channels, coordinated and promulgated by the IPA for Action 3 of the Advertising Association’s AdNetZero Plan, is already allowing planners and buyers to add this metric to their thinking. At Cannes, this was built on further with a more sophisticated release of the carbon calculator and a global roll-out both mooted.
  • The calculator may yet be taken into micro-opportunities e.g. the impact of an ad served at 4pm (when sustainable energy sources are called upon) is lower than that of one served at 8pm (when the ad is more likely to be coal-powered).
  • De-duplicating and avoiding bombardment is increasingly seen through a green lens, as well as for trust enhancement and financial efficiency.

The FT Lunch with Yannick Bolloré of Havas felt comparably thoughtful and modern.  Pace Succession, listening to Monsieur Bolloré makes the case for family-control and the way it can allow space for consideration and balance in business.  I’d happily have dinner with him too.

Finally, at Google’s Pride event, I was lured to the end of the jetty, where, without third-party pushies, I found myself in the sea.  An effective way of cooling down.

David Clasen is the Finance Director of the IPA.

Last updated 01 May 2024