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Cannes Lions 2024 – Innovation and Inspiration: Canada’s Standout Success at Cannes Lions 2024

“This is the most fascinating time in all of history. Enjoy the ride!” These words from Elon Musk perfectly capture the excitement at the Cannes Lions Festival 2024. 

We find ourselves in a world of advancements like AI and immersive tech, set against a backdrop of pressing environmental challenges, societal issues, and a dynamic political landscape. Media continues to shape perceptions, influence behaviours, and redefine cultural and societal norms. At the Cannes Croisette, award-winning work and spirited discussions highlighted both the opportunities and responsibilities we face as leaders in the advertising industry. 

This year’s festival also introduced a touch of humour, providing a refreshing break from the weighty issues of today. Here are some of the key themes emerging from the festival:

Journalism, News, and Politics
The Journal House
The intersection of journalism, news, and politics was a critical topic, especially in this pivotal election year, with over half of the world’s population, four billion people, casting a vote in 2024. Conversations and campaigns focused on the role of media in shaping public opinion, the importance of journalistic integrity, and the impact of trusted content on audiences. Both the WSJ House and The Trade Desk emphasized the importance of journalism in advertising, highlighting how trustworthy news sources are crucial for effective and ethical ad placements. WSJ publisher Almar Latour pointed out in a morning session to advertisers, “Journalism is under assault. Your support is essential.” Jeff Green, CEO of The Trade Desk, an advocate of local media, reiterated the need for the publishing world to invest in technology + talent, alongside content, and focus on monetizing it. 

What does this mean for Canada? With the implementation of the Online News Act and Meta’s restrictions on news content access, all eyes are on Canada. Advertisers are increasingly investing in local media and news platforms that offer brand-safe environments and strong performance. In the tech, brand, and publishing sectors, as well as within our CMDC industry association and the Canadian Manifesto, there’s a growing recognition of the need for collaboration. By working together, we can develop a sustainable Canadian media ecosystem that supports businesses and promotes an engaged, well-informed society.

AI’s Rise: Talk to Action

The difference this year from last is striking. AI isn’t just a topic of discussion; it’s now witnessed in application. Our media industry has been using AI for over a decade, enabling greater precision in media planning, buying, optimization, and personalization ‘at scale’ for brands. At Cannes, the application of AI was awe-inspiring in its scope, scale, and impact.

Generative AI is empowering talent with new capabilities, from conducting in-depth research in seconds to innovating and measuring success. In a standout session titled “Building with AI: From Hype to Reality,” Google’s Vidhya Srinivasan and Alexander Chen highlighted how AI tools are enhancing the creative process.

One of the most talked-about sessions, was WPP CEO Mark Read’s interview with Elon Musk. Musk’s vision for AI is not just about enhancing human intelligence but also amplifying creativity. He remarked, “The most likely outcome of AI is abundance, where everyone has everything they need. And then the question becomes about personal meaning. If AI can do it better than us, people will have an existential crisis.” Musk stressed the importance of teaching AI to be truthful and curious, predicting that within the next five years, there could be 20 billion humanoid robots, like today’s smartphones. His influence is deep and words have a profound impact on markets, as noted by Dell’s stock nearly doubling.

Agencies are making significant AI investments, launching their AI labs. Havas introduced ‘Converged,’ WPP partnered with Nvidia to launch an AI-enabled studio, Publicis with Core AI, and Adobe announced AI-generated content for TikTok. Additionally, a conversation on the Croisette with the startup Alltold, which measures inclusion in ads using Responsible AI, is set to inspire new ventures. 

What does this mean for Canada? AI is projected to contribute $315 billion to Canada’s GDP by 2030, creating new economic opportunities, fostering creative ventures, and strengthening Canada’s competitive edge in the market. This is our moment to lead and innovate.

Sustainability & Power of Partnerships
water sustainability score


The release of GARM and Ad Net Zero’s Framework has reignited discussions on sustainability and carbon emissions within the ad industry, pushing the issue back to the top of our industry agendas. This framework is set to establish global standards for tracking and reducing carbon footprints, marking a significant step forward in our commitment to environmental responsibility.

Brands at Cannes showcased their dedication to sustainability with ethical practices. For instance, P&G highlighted their ambitious goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across their supply chain by 2040. 

P&G was again praised as a ‘Force for good, force for growth.’ At the Act Responsible session on “Sustainability as a driver of growth,” Kenneth Cukier, Deputy Executive Director at The Economist, discussed key drivers—from data and distinctiveness to organizational health and trusted partnerships. He emphasized sustainability’s pivotal role in fostering growth that is both socially responsible and economically viable.

Additionally, in the work, The Water Sustainability Score (above) serves as a global benchmark, revealing the true water sustainability of brands and organizations, helping consumers understand the impact of their choices.

Partnerships were also a hot topic at Cannes Lions 2024, highlighted by collaborations with industry associations like WFA, ANA, and 4As. These partnerships show a united front in tackling global issues and opportunities, such as the cross-media measurement to climate action.

What Does This Mean for Canada? For Canada, this momentum towards sustainability and strategic partnerships is a powerful opportunity for brands and agency partners. By committing to better ethical practices, we can build a thriving, sustainable media ecosystem that benefits all Canadians.

Commerce, Media, and Creativity Unite 
R/GA - 1The rise of commerce media is undeniable. As traditional tracking methods like cookies decline, retailers are harnessing first-party data and forging new strategic alliances to support seamless omnichannel experiences. This shift, alongside the democratization of commerce, is sparking a new era of creativity where distinctiveness, dialogue, and connection are pivotal for success. For our industry, creativity and innovation is central to the future of commerce solutions to drive brand differentiation.

In the session “Commerce x Creativity: From Transactional to Inspirational” by R/GA and IPG, Gen AI emerged as a transformative force in customer-centricity, reshaping traditional commerce tactics and platform strategies. Highlighting their long standing 20+ year partnership with Nike, the session showcased future possibilities in commerce, offering access to Nike’s full spectrum of assets— from its rich brand history and sports science insights to R&D breakthroughs and influential ambassador connections. And the good news is, using tennis as the example, the future looks incredible with instant access to court times, shoes based on court surface, workout regimes, and even insights on improving your swing speed. I’m ready.

This case study underscores the crucial role of brands in developing and leveraging their unique assets to stand out and differentiate themselves in a competitive marketplace. The session also underscored three crucial areas for brands:

  1. Dialogue With Consumers (DWC): Moving beyond passive tracking, brands that engage in meaningful dialogues with consumers build trust and loyalty.
  2. Omni-Modal Experiences: Seamless integration across all channels ensures a cohesive and user-friendly journey for customers.
  3. Build-Together Approach: Empowering consumers and partners to co-create experiences, setting new standards for customer-centric innovation.

What does this mean for Canada? With retail media ad spending projected to exceed the C$3 billion milestone by the end of 2024, the shift towards inspirational commerce is not only a global phenomenon but also a local one. 

Canada Strong 

As Canada continues to climb the ranks at Cannes Lions and beyond, this success serves as a testament to the talent, creativity, and innovation that defines the Canadian media industry. 

Securing 66 awards, our brand and media leaders shared their inspiring work and perspectives on stage. This achievement is greatly supported by The Globe and Mail, who have been pivotal partners of Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity for 19 years. Catch up on the celebration highlights here if you missed them.

Canada ranks #5 out of 52 countries at Cannes Lions and is on a trajectory towards the top. Additionally, we hold the #4 spot in the 2024 Warc Creative 100.

Thank you to The Globe and Mail, the Cannes advisory board, the Canadian jury, Young Lions, and all the agencies and marketing talent who contributed to this remarkable success! 

Canada, you’ve made us immensely proud!

– Shannon Lewis, President, CMDC

Cannes Lions, Highlight

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