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That’s a wrap: Five takeaways from Cannes Lions 2023

Every year, when the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity ends, it’s the ideal opportunity to decode the trends in culture, technology, and creativity and analyze how they will affect business in the year ahead.

Karen Howe, founder of The Township Group serves on the Cannes Advisory Board for Canada, shares her highlights from Cannes 2023:

It’s already here

While we are busy wringing our hands about the role AI – specifically ChatGPT – will play in our lives, AI is already very much the thread that runs through much of the awarded work. Smart brands are harnessing it in numerous ways: MealVision uses it to track senior nutrition, while Nike captures the genius of Serena Williams for future generations in its AI-informed “Never Done Evolving” campaign.

But the sessions at Cannes revealed that the tension is one of intent. Will AI be the path to exponential creativity, as musician and entrepreneur suggests, or a data-driven replacement for entire creative departments? All eyes are on this in the year ahead.

Untethering from cause

Brands have spent several years over-vectoring in the purpose arena. It’s no small surprise, given the wake of climate change, Covid, and a war in Eestern Europe. But purpose fatigue is our post-pandemic reality. We are all just so tired of earnestness that many brands, such as Mini, Ocean Spray and Doritos with its Triangle campaign, have turned back to humor and entertainment. I expect more brands to follow suit.

Crack the code

Media innovation continues to thrive: Figuring out how to use a media channel to its greatest potential is advertising magic. TikTok has found its rightful place in marketers’ hearts with “The Ad You Stay In” for Hilton Hotels. It showcases TikTok stars like Bomanizer and Paris Hilton and is delightfully long, because you stay in it, just like the hotel, and it works.

But I also saw the wonderfully clever creation of a new “media channel”: Skoda turned the backup cameras of its competitors into parking-lot deployed mini-billboards.

Samsung’s “Flipvertising” caught my eye because its genius is a competition awarding free phones by courting online tracking.

The age-old dilemma

The Cannes sessions continue to champion diversity and inclusion, as exhibited by the topics and speakers. Ranges of racial, gender, and sexual orientation are now well represented, as are those whose physical or cognitive abilities are compromised.

However, in the sea of work I reviewed, I recall but one case that addressed ageism, and it was Dove’s #KeepTheGrey. Given that we have an exploding and wealthy greying demographic, it remains the most overlooked opportunity. Smart brands, take note.

Oh! Canada!

A final note. What a glorious year for Canada. We won the most Cannes Lions ever, shattering the record set in 2019. And the next generation seems ready to claim its place on the podium, as our Young Lions claimed Gold, Silver, and had two shortlists – remarkable, given they competed against 444 teams from 70 countries. Let’s all take a quiet moment and pat ourselves on the back. Well done.

– Karen Howe

Sign up for the official Cannes Lions wrap-up report here.

Book Decoding Cannes Lions

“Decoding Cannes” is a fast-paced, one-hour presentation that offers equal parts insider intel and inspiration by Karen Howe – a Cannes judge, winner, and member of the Cannes Advisory Board for Canada. Karen brings the best of Cannes back to you and decodes how it will drive business in the year ahead.

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