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Beyond the Beach: Cannes 2022 Reunited and Challenged The Industry



Syn's Benji Compston sits down to share his Cannes Lions recap

Beyond the Beach: Cannes 2022 Reunited and Challenged The Industry

Since 1984, Cannes has hosted the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity - a week-long gathering of like-minded individuals from across the globe’s creative industries, with an equal dose of sunshine, celebrity guest speakers and Rosé. This year, after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the world descended on the South of France to celebrate some of the year’s most remarkable work, and take stock of some of the key challenges and opportunities in our industry. I had the privilege of heading down there in June 2022, bringing Syn’s own perspective on music and sound from Tokyo (via London) to ‘La Croisette’. 

With attendance for this year’s festival uncertain due to ongoing travel restrictions and last minute covid drop-outs, I wasn’t sure what I would find as I arrived at Cannes-Voyageurs train station, but was almost immediately greeted by familiar faces  which made it clear that Cannes Lions was in full swing. With global brands such as Meta, Twitter, Spotify, VaynerMedia and Pinterest lining the seafront of Cannes ‘Croisette’, my first port of call was to the Pinterest Beach, showcasing some of the site's most prolific content creators and examples of craftsmanship from their community. Content creators from the brand’s San Francisco head office were capturing the day’s events, and showcasing a commitment to the individual; a clear indication of Pinterest’s passion for local, upstart talent populating their platform. 

With midday temperatures soaring, I was grateful to spend the rest of the afternoon on the water with ‘Brand Innovators’, describing itself as ‘Bringing the brand marketing community together’, and hosting a collaborative event with WPP (Cannes Lions Creative Company of the Decade) at the Monaco Yacht Club. Guests were ferried by boat from Cannes to Monaco (passing the famous Hotel Du Cap-Ferrat on the way), and gathering together some of the industry’s leading minds in brand marketing. Discussing issues from sustainability in production (a key takeaway from Cannes 2022) to the lasting impact of the post-pandemic creative landscape, this event featured mostly US-based brands - from Social Media to Fintech and everything in-between - and showcased the breadth and reach of WPP’s giant network. Taking some respite from the happy chaos of Cannes, the event enabled guests to take stock and connect over shared experience and mutual challenges, in a stunning location overlooking Monte Carlo. 

A key feature of Cannes 2022 was environmental sustainability. It’s clear that brands now have a responsibility to be both sustainable in the operational output of their core business, but also in how they market themselves in producing sustainably created content. Spending time at various points over the course of the week at the LBB (Little Black Book) Beach, I heard multiple panels from industry experts including Green The Bid, providing insight to help productions and their partners transition to sustainable and regenerative practices in how they shoot content. This gathering of talent hosted by Madam and LBB was an unparalleled ensemble of creative minds tackling one of, if not the greatest, challenges in our industry and beyond. The LBB Beach Party later that night (complete with a live band warming up before their Glastonbury appearance) showed camaraderie and friendship among the British advertising industry. With Syn’s latest studio launch in London, this was a key moment during Cannes Lions 2022, connecting with fellow production houses, agencies and local talent.

Talking of seafront celebrations during the event, the VaynerMedia Yacht Party towards the end of the week was a personal highlight, hosted on the three-story motor yacht that the agency had been operating from during the week’s festivities. With attendees ranging from agency producers to advertising industry journalists, fashion designers to experts in NFTs and Web 3.0 solutions, this gathering was as diverse as it was luxurious. Overlooking the Palais Des Festivals (where the majority of the official panels was taking place), this evening was something of a review of the week’s events, and a look to the future of how like-minded creatives can continue to reconnect after the microcosm of Cannes ends. I particularly enjoyed spending time with leading communications team-members from US-based agencies (courtesy of VaynerMedia), understanding their roles in connecting their creative output with a wider audience and maintaining respective agency’s positioning in an ever increasingly competitive landscape. 

The Palais Des Festivals was the heart of the week's activities, not only hosting panels from around the world (including a few celebrity guests such as Paris Hilton and Ryan Reynolds), but also hosting the year’s leading work from festival submissions and award-winning projects. The quality of work was outstanding, again with a commitment to diversity, sustainability and marginalised voices being palpable. Individual computer booths filled the Palais’s basement, as well as larger print-based banners and murals with QR codes for further viewing. Residente’s music video for ‘This Is Not America feat. Ibeyi’ was a stand-out, winning a Grand Prix in the Entertainment Lions for Music category - a viscerally powerful representation of the underbelly of Latin America’s darkest past and present. A very different but equally intriguing example of musicians engaging with the Cannes Lions community came with Megan Thee Stallion’s panel alongside Margaret Johnson (CCO Goodby, Silverstein and Partners) and Jessica Spaulding (CMO PepsiCo Foods Canada). Discussing Megan’s Super Bowl collaboration with FritoLay’s ‘Flamin’ Hot Cheetos’, her energy and absolute conviction in her brand collaborations needing to be authentic for her and her fanbase was impressive and inspiring. Who’d have known that Cannes Lions would have had so many Megan Thee Stallion fans at the event? Her appearance definitely made a splash as she posed for photographers and received a thunderous reception from the audience.

A standout for me from the official Cannes Lions schedule was hearing Leo Burnett London CCO, Chaka Sobhani. I had heard Chaka speak previously at Ciclope in Berlin, and was thrilled to see her on the agenda for Cannes Lions at the Terrace Stage (an open-air tent on the rooftop of the Palais, overlooking the marina). Her down to earth directness, particularly on the topic of female leadership and empowerment within the industry, was as inspiring at Cannes as it was in Berlin. Drawing from her own personal experience growing up, as well as her belief in the next generation of future talent, she clearly demonstrated a belief in diverse voices and challenging the status quo. Of all the agency leadership insights shared at Cannes, this panel was most compelling at inspiring hope in the future of advertising, meeting the demands of a new generation’s expectations for brands to be more socially responsible and inclusive. 

I returned home from Cannes exhilarated and inspired (not to mention, a little sunburnt). One of the most significant takeaways for me was the power of human connection in an industry that ultimately strives to create impact and resonate with people’s emotions. The sheer volume of conversations I had during the week with people from all over the globe, often with very different roles within the industry from my own, helped build a clearer picture of the state of our business and gets closer to the heart of issues that make people tick. The endless virtual summits, online events and ‘proto-Metaverse’ experiences that have dominated the pandemic have been a substitute for in-person communication, but Cannes further emphasised that there is nothing like human-to-human interaction. Particularly when it’s combined with a stunning view, great food and an inviting atmosphere to seek out creative excellence and integrity. 

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Syn, Mon, 18 Jul 2022 08:29:38 GMT