The next big thing for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity may be attracting the startup and venture capital community as enthusiastic participants.
Unilever brought to Cannes its Foundry50, the world's top 50 marketing-tech startups, and the festival partnered with R/GA to run a Start-Up Academy giving 10 startups guidance and a chance to present to brands and agencies. And the two-year-old Innovation Lions category includes tech entrepreneurs as judges.
"Startups have not been to Cannes before in any numbers," said Philip Thomas, CEO of Lions Festivals. "The early adopters are here and I think they'll go back and spread the word."
Several startup execs said they find the more informal setting and ratio of clients to startups make Cannes a better way to reach prospective clients than the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Some who had only a modest presence are already talking about how to increase their visibility next year.
Innovation juror Alex Gurevich, a partner at Javelin Ventures Partners, said he's been coming to Cannes for three years and believes the festival will be the next big thing for startups. Of course, it's a matter of perspective. Jeremy Basset, who runs Unilever's Foundry effort, said CES for now remains more fertile ground for marketers to hunt for startups because of their far greater numbers there.
No big new categories are planned for the 2016 festival, after the addition of Glass Lions and Creative Data Lions this year.
One of the biggest complaints every year is that the same work is entered over and over in different contests, because of the way the 21 categories are defined, or not clearly defined. Mr. Thomas said "We're going to do a big piece of work after the festival about a deep dive into categories, and clearing them up and trying to improve the clarity."
Is it direct marketing, media or PR? Many top campaigns, such as "Ice Bucket Challenge" and "Like a Girl," won big in all categories because they included tactics from all of those disciplines.
This was the direct marketing jury's dilemma. In the digital age, what is direct marketing? A campaign that targets individuals without the use of paid media could be defined as social media or PR, for example. So the jury spent three days defining direct marketing in this day and age before they could start deliberating on a winner. It came down to a porn company's effort to keep its customers' hands on their keyboards and Volvo's Super Bowl interception on social media. Volvo prevailed.
With the notion that every type of agency can now do everything, agencies also continued to cede wins in their own categories. The Media Grand Prix, for example, was for work entered by a creative agency's Turkey outpost. The media agency was listed under support, but didn't necessarily come up with the original idea, nor did it enter the work.
The PR Grand Prix went to Procter & Gamble campaign "Always #Likeagirl: Turning an Insight Into a Confidence Moment." Publicis Groupe's MSLGroup entered the campaign with sibling shop Leo Burnett, the agency that originally came up with the winning idea.
Cyber Jury President and Isobar Global CEO Jean Lin said they debated on what cyber is in 2015. The category was founded in 1998 and since then, "digital has become the connector of everything," she said. So "you ask yourself, 'If digital is everything, what are the Cyber Lions?'"
Even in a new category, like the Data Lions, no Grand Prix was handed out because the jury spent the bulk of its time working out definitions.
"We felt this was year one, and that in a category with 11 subcategories that were quite different -- from the notion of data integration to enhancing a story -- we just didn't feel adequate" to identify a Grand Prix winner, said Jury Chair David Sable, Y&R Global CEO. "We felt there wasn't anything that was representative of everything."
Anti-Uber Taxi Strike Disrupts Festival
French cab drivers' anger at Uber exploded during the festival when the taxi union protested with a strike on Thursday and part of Friday. Typically, thousands of attendees arrive and depart the festival via taxi after landing at the nearby airport in Nice, but as word spread of cancelled flights and (somewhat exaggerated) "Max Mad"-esque scenes of mayhem at Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur, sunbaked adlanders scrambled to make alternate travel arrangements. One buzzy exit strategy: using UberCopter, an option opportunistically added to the Uber app; initially priced at 160 Euros ($179) for a Cannes-to-Nice trip, high demand briefly drove surge pricing of over 800 Euros -- and then, most of the time, a persistent "No Helicopter Available Now" message.
Fishy Grand Prix
Festival Freeloaders: Buy a Networking Pass
Where but the Cannes ad festival would Martin Sorrell and Kim Kardashian West be spotted deep in conversation? Cannes is the place to be, but the festival isn't thrilled that in addition to 13,500 paid delegates, a similar number create an alternate Cannes, hanging out along the Croisette for the week and taking advantage of the festival audience without paying to register. This year, the festival started offering a Networking pass, a $2,000 opportunity to visit the festival beach where seminars are now held, attend galas, and get access to the database of registered delegates. No entree to the Palais, though. Takeup the first year was in the "low hundreds," the festival said.
Millennials Aren't Broke Forever
Speaking at The Economist panel on the Cannes Lions Beach, Mark Pritchard, Procter & Gamble Co.'s global brand officer, said in response to a question about whether marketers are wasting time chasing "broke" millennials, that they won't be broke forever.
"The last I checked, a lot of the broke millennials had wealthy parents," Mr. Pritchard said. "If nothing else, millennials will grow up eventually to have money." He added: "I think millennials is one of the most overused and under-defined terms, and I really don't find it that helpful."
Unilever Gives Women Equal Shot at Marc Mathieu's Job
Speaking Wednesday at a WeberShandwick event supporting the HeforShe gender-equality program, Unilever Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Keith Weed said he has instructed recruiters to give him an equal slate of five men and five women to interview for the Senior VP-Marketing job vacated by Marc Mathieu earlier this month when he left for Samsung.
"We very much want the best person for the role," Mr. Weed said. "I think absolutely you can have five great women and five great men for the job. What we're saying to the recruiter is we want you to try harder to find those women. You need to try harder. And surprise, surprise. They are out there."
Later Mr. Weed said he plans to start interviews the week of June 29, but has no timetable to fill the role.
Microsoft Offers Cannes Attendees Peek at 'Mixed Reality' With HoloLens
Some agencies this year were buzzing about Microsoft's HoloLens, a "mixed reality" device, according to employees demoing the product at the company's space on the beach. The device differs from virtual reality headsets in that users can still see everything around them. Right now, it appears to be similar to Google Glass, but with a larger screen that looks like a cross between a visor and sunglasses and allows users to see images on top of their surroundings. Commands include using eye movements, selecting items with a finger motion and talking to the device. HoloLens is still in test phase and employees at the demonstration said that the company does not have a roll-out date set. Agency execs said that Microsoft had been courting agencies with it, showing them the creative possibilities of the device.
Content Partnerships Make Waves at Cannes
Cannes this year saw a number of notable partnership announcements in the content space: The Daily Mail, WPP and Snapchat launched Truffle Pig, a separate agency dedicated to digital content. The differentiator, they said, was that it's a one-stop shop that will include digital production, media planning and analytics. The Daily Mail also announced the launch of Daily Mail TV, starting with a show starring Dr. Phil, while Pinterest, Vice and Bank of America said they were testing a new offering from Pinterest called Pinsights Labs. Execs from Vice, BofA and Pinterest said that Pinsights is a more focused set of market research and data mined from Pinterest's user base that is helping inform the content of a new web series by BofA and Vice called the "Business of Life," which aims to educate young people on how to start thinking about personal finances.
Health Lions Roar
It was a big year for the U.S. in the second year of the Health Lions award festival that now precedes the established Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Last year, there was no pharma Grand Prix and the U.S. did poorly on the shortlists for the two categories -- pharma and health & wellness -- compared to international healthcare agencies. This year, there was a top winner for pharma and it was a piece of work from Digitas U.S. -- for client AstraZeneca -- indicating that pharma marketers can be creative in one of the most highly regulated regions in the world.
Major Players, But What Do They Own?
Within 30 minutes of each other on separate Cannes stages Wednesday, Mondelez CMO Dana Anderson and Unilever Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Keith Weed noted Uber, Airbnb, Facebook and Alibaba becoming major players in their spaces without actually owning the assets, products or content they sell -- or sell ads against. Procter & Gamble's Global Brand Officer Marc Pritchard said in an interview later that he's not sure of the implications for packaged goods, since manufacturers still have to have assets to make and move products. But Nestle VP-Digital Pete Blackshaw noted the similar impact of delivery services linking restaurants with people putting pressure on frozen food brands, and other small CPG manufacturers growing fast while selling products made by contract manufacturers.
More, More, More
There were a lot more ad-tech companies spending big on Cannes parties, yachts and bigger teams that included more junior staffers. Last year's heightened presence of ad-tech and digital media companies in Cannes also led to more traditional media companies bringing larger sales teams this year to scout out business and babysit clients as marketers shift dollars to digital media, according to media owners and agency executives.
With the promise of more ad-tech people, startups and VCs next year, expect (even) more of the same.
Unless the bubble bursts.