At Cannes Lions, Brand Activism Has Become A Central Discussion: A Sneak Preview For 2019

Written by Lauren DeLisa Coleman
Cannes Lions 56th International Advertising Festival 2009. Photo: Marcin Cajzer/Flickr

Creativity is what drives business in various forms and reach. And few can rival the massive celebration of such creativity, particularly as it pertains to advertising and brands than the festival that takes place annually in Cannes, France.

The upcoming 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity will be held this year from June 17 to June 21. Here’s a peek at what’s to come.

First, for those who might not be aware, this is the Super Bowl for anything and everything related to brands and culture. Held for the last six decades, Cannes Lions brings together the C-Suite of not only major advertising agencies worldwide but also brands, technology companies and various celebrated figures. 

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Simon Cook, managing director of Cannes Lions, said in a recent statement, “Every year we consult with the industry to ensure the festival reflects the current state of creative marketing and communications. We took the Tracks architecture, launched in 2019, as the basis of the awards and content program again this year to ensure the festival is easier than ever to navigate. Alongside the Tracks we’ve developed 10 key themes for the content program. We spoke to over 900 global industry experts who shared their concerns, insights and visions for the future of the industry to help us shape these themes.”

And as the festival unfolds, days will be jam-packed with formal on-stage discussions at the Palais de Festival, smaller talks beachside as various brands take over certain sections, private luncheons, dinners, parties  — a veritable head-spinning array of opportunity to learn, network and dealmake.

Pedro Pina, VP of global clients at Google, will be on hand to lead a session on inclusive marketing with diversity and industry leaders in the midst of Google Beach’s sea of demos, sunset socials and more.

John Harrison, managing partner at BBH, will be speaking on healthcare insights.

Ad agency of record for Samsung and many others, Cheil will bring out a number of its executives including Malcolm Poynton, Global CCO, Cheil WW, Pully Chau, Group CEO Cheil China, Atika Malik, COO Cheil India, Kate Oh, CCO Cheil Worldwide HQ to look at Asian women in advertising. Grey Advertising, Digitas, Adobe, Wunderman Ogilvy and GlaxoSmithKline will also have executives participating in various talks.

Of course, Twitter Beach and Facebook Beach will be in full effect vying for attendees who will also be yacht hopping as champagne is sipped during various intimate talks. The evening will offer a number of invitation-only parties such as that of WarnerMedia.

Celebrated figures add a particular sparkle each year, and this year will be no different. Slated to appear are John Legend, Kerry Washington, Laura Dern, Shonda Rhimes, Dwayne Wade and Lorne Michaels, among others.

All the activity in some way, shape or form will touch on the nine Cannes Lions Tracks which include communications, craft, experience, entertainment, good, health, impact, innovation and reach. Cook said that these pillars are an organizing structured reflecting the core disciplines that underpin the branded communications industry. The tracks recognize creativity through all parts of the creative process and structure the festival across the Lions awards and the content program.

There will be everything from efforts to connect connect female-led startups that are building consumer brands of the future with the global brand, marketing, and innovation leaders who attend the festival to analysis and examination of new advertising agency models, to the place of AI and blockchain in the space as well as IoT.

These tracks drive several key themes for this year’s festival, one of which is said to be brand purpose of brand activism, that is, a brand’s place in a socio-politically driven world where consumers now demand accountability and responsibility from all that touch their lives. Indeed, I wrote about how this would be a powerful and growing trend two years ago. Though initially doubted by many in the industry, now the festival has placed the discussion front and center.

As we look toward greater paradigm shifts in business overall, tracking and forecasting cultural narratives and their impact, particularly around social responsibility, has never been more important. How that intersects with the future of commercial, celebrity and technology brands is the heart of the next generation of industry. According to Cook, “Creativity is a positive force for business, for change and for good in the world.”