In a few months, the advertising world will once again convene in the south of France to dole out awards and accolades, glean inspiration and -- of course -- partake in plenty of rosé. But as we look ahead to this year's festival, the insights gained from the 2013 event still loom large. Data, purpose and storytelling dominated the discussions/dialogue at the 2013 Festival. As I reflect back on these themes, it's interesting to see how many continue to drive conversations today. I also can't help but be curious about what factors will emerge between now and June, when we make the trek back to the Palais des Festivals.
Working for a purpose-led organization myself, it's no surprise that the theme of "purpose" continues to drive conversations amongst agencies and marketers. During a Cannes Lions themed panel earlier this year, 2013 Cannes Lions Juror Jim Elms, CEO of Initiative, forecasted that going forward "we're going to see award-winning ads that have that do-good components over selling things like chocolate bars or Tide detergent.''
This past year has been all about the story, as the appreciation for engaging storytelling, a key theme from Cannes Lions 2013, continues to flourish. Beyond the conversation in Cannes, there have been a number of brands that have brought this idea to life -- whether it was Bing's "Heroic Women" campaign, Pantene's "Whip It" campaign, the continuation of P&G's award-winning "Thank you, Mom" campaign or Budweiser's adorable puppy-infused Super Bowl commercial, the fan favorite amongst USA TODAY Ad Meter participants -- advertisers are crafting messages that tell compelling stories. They are marketing to our emotions, and inspiring us consumers to make decisions based on how interesting the stories are. Given the momentum of the trend over the past year, I think these types of effective and emotional narratives will be a big focus at the 2014 festival.
Data was another standout theme last year. Brands have always needed compelling content that connects with consumers on an emotional level, but the ability to deliver the right message within the correct medium is becoming far more important. At a recent panel of Cannes Lions superstars, moderated by USA TODAY's media columnist Michael Wolff, 2013 Cannes Lions Juror Trish Wheaton, CMO of Wunderman/Y&R, said, "In the past you would not have heard the word data floating around the festival and you especially would have not heard it after hours on the Croisette, but this year you heard it everywhere." Let's see if data continues to make its way into the conversations in France once again.
I caught up with Phil Thomas, CEO of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to ask him about expected themes for this year and how those may be different from last year. Phil said, "I think storytelling will develop in two ways. Agencies will become even better at producing genuinely world-class entertainment for brands, but at the same time other storytellers -- movie studios, TV houses, production companies, media companies -- will add to the competition to tell stories for brands. Either way, storytelling will become more important, and much, much higher quality. I also think we will finally see the breakthrough in the genuine link between the four-letter word DATA and the four letter word IDEA. So far at Cannes, the creatives haven't been excited about data and what it can really do for them. Give it a year or so more, and that dam will burst."
What I'm really excited about in 2014 is what we haven't heard about yet, both from the established superstars, as well as the millennials who infuse new energy into the event each year. Look for the 2014 U.S. Young Lions competition to be better than ever this year. This year we selected non-profit advocacy organization ONE as our featured non-profit partner for the competition. Some of the best and brightest young creatives will submit campaigns for ONE to consider using in their advocacy efforts. The winning teams will be sponsored to attend the Cannes Lions Festival in June 2014 to participate in the global Young Lions competitions as "TEAM USA" against teams from all over the world. The Young Lions program offers young creative minds a platform to showcase their talent globally. But more than that, it's a great indicator of where these innovative thinkers - the best of America's emerging talent – are taking our amazing and ever changing industry in the years to come.
About the Author:
Sandra Micek is the Senior Vice President of Marketing at USA TODAY. USA TODAY and Gannett are the official U.S. representatives to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, a partnership we have enjoyed since 2000. Inspiring creativity is at the heart of Cannes Lions and Gannett is honored to celebrate and further insightful discussions with creative leaders across the U.S.