Cannes 2016: Why Fewer Advertisers Are Treating Cannes Like Spring Break
Head of Integrated Production at Craft London, Sergio Lopez, discusses the evolution of Cannes Lions from pre-internet to tech playground. He shares his thoughts on the best ways to get inspired by global work, what he anticipates to dominate conversation in 2016, and how work will be measured in the new Digital Craft category.
Q> What are you most looking forward to at Cannes Lions 2016?
SL > I am most looking forward to seeing the new Lions Entertainment event. It’s great to see that we’re finally reaching a point where music and branded entertainment can be rewarded in their own category.
Cannes is going through a constant evolution in order to represent new creative platforms, so it’ll be very interesting to see who’s there, and of course, to see the work. It’s also going to be a competitive year. A lot of the awards shows I’ve seen have been very UK and US dominated thus far; some of the work that has been awarded regionally has not been recognised on an international level, and networks like McCann and Grey are doing incredibly well. So I’ll be interested to see what’s on show at Cannes.
Q > There’s a new Digital Craft Lions category this year. Do you think this category will adequately fill the void for digital production?
SL > It’s difficult to say. In video, film, and photography, the craft is something that is very easy to understand. By that, I mean it’s very visceral and something we are accustomed to. The creative and production community understands when things are well executed and well made.
With digital it’s a lot trickier. Traditionally, we have been rewarding the videos and images within a website, which refer back to content or assets. But to reward the digital aspect of these you need to look at the information architecture, the user experience, and the technology behind a website. It’s something that is really difficult to judge.
I’m happy that digital production is finally being recognised in its own right. This was long overdue. From a technical point of view, there’s real craft in creating digital assets and websites.
However it will be interesting to know how it is going to be measured. It needs to refer to more than the assets created for the websites or we will continue to reward only content - just in a different category. So, I’m very keen to find out what the process is and who will be awarded.
Q > Is there anything you think that isn’t adequately represented in the awards categories?
SL > Not really. The awards are reacting to changes in the industry every year, and I can see how Cannes is trying to reshape the awards structure based on those changes. I do think it will continue evolving over the next few years to better represent what we’re doing and use judging methodologies that are more aligned with the media. Some of the new categories – like long-established categories – are still being judged with case study videos, and that’s perhaps not the best way to assess them.
We reward film and television commercials with a lot more depth than longer-form content for social media, for example. When you talk about online video, there isn’t a best director or best production company category, yet media spend in some markets for those categories is bigger this year than the spend on television. Television as a channel is represented in every shape and form but there is no category for other online channels like Facebook and YouTube. It’ll be interesting to see how it changes over the next few years for social.
Q > Are there any speakers, sessions or individuals you’re particularly looking forward to see?
SL > It’s going to be an interesting year and there are a few topics and speakers that I’m looking forward to see. There are a few conversations that are very close to my heart, such as equality, virtual reality, content, data, etc. I’m glad to see that the themes are becoming more concrete than the last couple of years. It’s a shame I won’t be there to see Anna Wintour and Christopher Bailey though. I’m a big fan of both.
Q > Are there any topics you think will dominate conversation this year?
SL > I’m very interested to see the conversation amongst media agencies unfold. I’m looking for the conversations around programming, artificial intelligence, bringing them to media buy, and what that’s going to do for us.
Being able to talk about one of those things at a creative festival is possibly one of the most important things about having it. If you take a look at the presence last year, some of the biggest companies in attendance were Facebook, YouTube, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Those are the companies that are taking over La Croisette. It’s Silicon Valley Part 2… Silicon Beach?
Q > Do you think this new influx of tech giants will change who comes to Cannes?
SL > I think so. It has evolved a lot. When I used to go to Cannes, at the beginning of my career, in the mid-1990s, it was a place where the creative and production community gathered and shared knowledge. It was pre-internet; you weren’t able to get video content online, so going to Cannes was the place where you saw the work. You met production companies, you shook hands. I think it’s difficult for people to remember a time when production companies wouldn’t send you a director’s reel if they didn’t know who you were. It took days to find out if a director was interested in a project or not. Going to Cannes had great value – it was the place where you could acquire knowledge and make connections.
That has evolved massively. These days, the advertising community is a lot wider, and this has opened the door to networking in a much broader sense. You can initiate a lot of different conversations at Cannes now, with people you wouldn’t have even known existed twenty years ago.
What’s interesting about Cannes is that everybody who’s somebody still goes. So it’s a good opportunity to meet the people that you want to, from different channels. Will that change the crowd? Yes. The conversation has evolved from executional to more high level. As the years go by, I see less and less value in a junior to mid-level person attending Cannes. However, senior people from every organisation – creatives, production, account, strategy, clients and media agencies – should go.
Q > Do you think over the last few years the attendance of junior or young professionals has decreased?
SL > I think it’s a big commitment for companies to send their staff to Cannes now – not just financially, but from a time point of view. The festival has gone from being three days to effectively a week and a half. Senior management have to spend a lot of money to send a team there for that period of time.
I feel like the crowd is polarising: you see either very senior people that are registered, who are there to attend the festival, and be part of the conversation and network, or you see people who go by themselves, who are not really affiliated with advertisers. However, the latter tend to treat the week more like a spring-break party. They’re not really going to the Cannes festival, they’re just going to the side events that happen around it.
Q > What would your advice be for making the most of the festival?
SL > This might be an obvious answer, but actually go and see the work and meet people. There’s an amazing curation of work from all over the world to be enjoyed. It’s a great way to see where creativity is now, and what’s happening in certain regions - or globally. It’s beautiful to walk along the Palais and see all the work that’s been shortlisted and has won.
Personally, I find it so inspiring. I return to home fired up every year, wanting to push the boundaries of my own work. It’s exciting. It also gives a sneak peek of where things are going. It was clear last year that everything was going to be about virtual reality and 360 video in 2016. So, actually, going back to things that I’m looking forward to, I’m really itching to see the work people have done in VR and 360 video. They’re such technically challenging mediums that it will be fascinating to see what has been done creatively.
Q > Excluding Craft’s work, is there anything that you’ve seen that you think will do well this year?
SL > I feel that this year a lot of the interesting work leading to Cannes has revolved around multi-platform experiential campaigns. Similar to our Xbox Survival Billboard, I think Lockheed Martin’s virtual reality Mars Experience Bus will do well. Other than that I think we will see great work from all the usual suspects.
Q > Finally, it wouldn’t be a good week at Cannes without…
SL > The Little Black Book beach. I always meet great, interesting people, and I very much enjoy going there.
In fact, the Sunday and Monday following the festival are my favourite days to be in Cannes. Usually, on Sunday night, a group of us get together and have dinner. On Monday, almost everyone from the advertising industry has gone, so you get to properly see this magnificent French city, to wind down and reflect on what you’ve experienced over the past week.
Genre: Digital , Experiential , People , Strategy/Insight