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Beyond Awards: Cannes Lions Learning


The Youth Lab at THINKHOUSE, The Youth Marketing Company, explores key Cannes Lions 2022 takeaways for creatives and marketers

Beyond Awards: Cannes Lions Learning

In the creative communications and advertising industry, there is one annual event that brings together the global community to celebrate and reflect on the state of the industry - The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.  What did it tell us about the direction of travel for our industry? Looking beyond awards, this 52INSIGHTS examines the conversations and ideas shared during this year’s Cannes Lions through the lens of Planet, Transformation, and Fame (our 3 core THINKHOUSE services).


The sustainability conversation at Cannes was elevated more than ever before. Not only did purpose-led sustainability campaigns - like Heineken’s ‘Unwasted Beer’ - shine bright, but the conversation around industry transformation was more progressive than ever (for a short intro, check out these interviews by WFA):

● Tools, frameworks and principles were launched and platformed to the entire industry - AdNetZero and AdGreen were front and centre of conversations.

 There was protest - Greenpeace interrupted the opening ceremony, gatecrashed a rosé-fuelled agency beach party with ‘This Is Fine’ signs, and more - to encourage the industry to cut ties with fossil fuel. Youth activists from groups like Clean Creatives also made their voices heard at events - asking brand CEOs tough questions.

 The subject of greenwashing was high on the agenda too - check out Greenwash Watch by Creatives for Climate which highlights the importance of not getting overly enthusiastic about one claim and making things seem bigger than they actually are.

 There was more provocation and surprise on the main stage - the secret speaker headliner was none other than Lisa Merrick-Lawless from Purpose Disruptors, who highlighted the crisis of imagination the industry is having on climate change. The invitation left to the audience was to redirect imaginations to creative positive visions of our future - one not fueled by consumption. Read key takeaways here and visit GoodLife2030 for more.

“Advertising plays a pivotal role in climate change. On one hand, advertising defends the destructive oil and gas industry, greenwashes brands and drives consumption… But on the other hand, the power of creativity and storytelling could change the course of climate change…The creative industry must pick a side.” Solitaire Townsend 

 The connection between climate and creativity was reinforced time and time again in refreshing ways. At the Creatives for Climate meet up there was discussion on how ‘discomfort’ in the climate and sustainability space can be used to solve the industry’s ‘crisis of creativity and talent.’ From a place of discomfort we can become more open to doing things differently and be cutting edge.

“These actions at Cannes highlighted how pressure from the inside and outside is part of transformational change. Sustainability is not just one ‘topic’ with incremental impact on work. The framing of creativity as our core product (part of brand supply chains) is a useful way to understand how core it is to a real industry shift toward Net Zero. The most compelling creative challenge laid out to us is how the discomfort brought by the climate challenge can open our imaginations up in new ways - to serve life rather than ‘industry’. As the dust settles, it’s clear that there’s a hunger to do more and respond to these mental shifts and invitations with mainstream realisation and action.”

Laura Costello, Strategy Director, Purpose & Planet, THINKHOUSE


The commercial creative bubble burst open in other ways too, addressing political and social issues beyond brands (and yacht parties). The invasion in Ukraine was a part of the programming, with the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, sending a message calling for support from the creative industries. “I believe that the power of human creativity is greater than the power of the nuclear state, that is stuck in the past..”

One winner that caught our eye was the Back-up Ukraine Unesco PolyCam, a camera with integrated 3D, created with Virtue Worldwide, with the aim of digitally preserving the country’s cultural heritage. The camera allows people in Ukraine to take high quality scans of buildings, artefacts, pieces of history at risk of being destroyed as the invasion continues, creating an archive of Ukraine that has been created by 150 locals and viewed by thousands.

“Greatness is not exclusive to those who cannot afford it. Greatness is not ageist. Because the more greatness we take in, the less shittiness we put out.” Quynh Tran & Toan Mai, creators 

Lauded in the past as an exclusive (and expensive) affair, often called out for lack of diversity and inaccessibility. Last year, two young creatives created an free-for-all archive on a platform called Love The Work More, poking fun at Cannes Lions’ own locked resource hub, Love The Work while sparking debate on monetized ad archives. This year, in a twist after submitting their own hack of the system, the creators Quynh Tran and Toan Mai were rewarded by Cannes Lions itself with a Bronze Lion in the PR category. 


Celebrity and Cannes go hand in hand. This year was no exception, bringing together experts in creating fame. Kendrick Lemar, Dua Lipa and Post Malone played at a party on the Spotify Beach. Paris Hilton wore great outfits and spoke on a panel about NFTs. Megan Thee Stallion spoke as part of a panel about her love of Flaming Hot Cheetos leading to her signing with Jay Z. The list goes on. 

Ryan Renoylds, actor and chief creative officer at MNTN, shared his thoughts on brand storytelling and how to make ads fun. He also launched an initiative called Creative Ladder, a new non-profit designed to help lift aspiring creatives from under-represented groups: “There is so much talent out there. We’re missing the opportunity. It’s totally selfish: I want better stories, and better stories are told through diversity, complex and unique perspectives and opinions. “This is a means to create generational wealth, which so many have been excluded from. These are incredible jobs, from marketing ads all the way through to production. Otherwise, how can we continue to tell stories that are relevant if they’re only relevant to a few?” Others in attendance reinforced how nurturing young talent will impact a brand’s future success - “They will offer you a new perspective on the world, a brand, or a way of working that may just pay off for you and your clients next year. It’s our duty to foster their talent,” Gemma Regrave, via AdAge.


Take some time and get inspired! - It can be overwhelming to know where to start when you haven’t been at the event or following along. Simply watching this year's speakers, winners and nominees will spark something or start a conversation. Here’s a round-up we enjoyed. One of our favourites was the Channel 4 Tokyo Summer 2020 Paralympic Games ‘Super. Human.’ trailer, bringing all the feels. 

New perspectives create greater understanding and even better ideas - As we continue to witness changes and consider the impact of the creative industry has on the continued safe existence of people and the planet, it’s important to listen and learn rather than jumping in headfirst with considering what needs to be done. Two young attendees, Annalise Valentino and Emma McKernan, put it like this - “It’s very easy to think we immediately know the answer to everything and it’s understandable that some people are restless to get there. But in fact, we need to spend time really understanding the intricacies of a subject, to truly get to grips with the problem if we’re ultimately going to impact any change.”

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THINKHOUSE, Fri, 01 Jul 2022 13:32:38 GMT