How to Make the Most of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2024: What to Expect, Do & Navigate

Kelcie Gene Papp
Founder & Editor
June 24, 2024
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Whether you took the 9:31 train from London St-Pancras, arriving in Cannes just under 10 hours later via Paris, or stepped off the 18:05 redeye from JFK direct to Nice, the destination remains the same: the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. Why do people go to Cannes Lions? This event has long been a mandatory rite of passage for the marketing and advertising elite. But will it stay that way?

Flashback to 2023: I was stepping out of the Ritz Carlton, wondering who might headline Spotify on the beach, when I overheard a bellboy whisper to a colleague: "Beyoncé and Jay-Z have just arrived." The Ritz's famed discretion slipped, adding more stars to the guess-who’s-here lineup. 

That year, ChatGPT had just become a sensation, with CMOs marvelling at images MidJourney produced from prompts (input by their teenage children) like "the future of pharmaceutical marketing." Fast forward 12 months, and Cannes Lions has recieved 26,753 awards submissions for 2024, requiring all entrants to disclose AI use in their work. The 2024 program features 11 AI-focused talks.

Here’s your breakdown, including the one you won't want to miss:

Monday 17 June

  • 14:00 - 14:30: When AI Challenges and Champions Human Creativity by OpenAI at Debussy Theatre.
  • 15:30 - 16:00: Creativity Unleashed: Bridging Minds and Machines by Neuro-Insight and Deepak Chopra at Debussy Theatre.
  • 16:45 - 17:15: The Contrarian’s Compass: Navigating Tech Hype by Stagwell at Rotonde Stage.

Tuesday 18 June

  • 14:00 - 14:45: Future Gazers: Gen Z in China, Viral Ads, The Power of Gaming by Cannes Lions at Forum.

Wednesday 19 June

  • 11:45 - 12:15: Exploring the New Frontiers of Innovation: Mark Read in Conversation with Elon Musk by WPP at Lumière Theatre.
  • 15:30 - 16:00: Paper Planes: Where Art Meets Science by Meta at Debussy Theatre.
  • 16:15 - 17:00: Redefining the Role of The Marketer in the Age of AI by LinkedIn at LinkedIn Rooftop, The Carlton.

Thursday 20 June

  • 11:30 - 12:15: AI’s Revolutionary Role in Redefining the Creative Process by Microsoft at Microsoft Beach House, Le Ondine Plage.
  • 14:45 - 15:15: The AI Era: Supercharging Marketing and Creativity by Google at Lumière Theatre.

Friday 21 June

  • 11:45 - 12:30: Future Gazers: Les Binet vs LesGPT, Advertising Has No Future, Cracking the Memory Code by Cannes Lions at Terrace Stage.
  • 15:30 - 16:30: Power Hour: Your Toolkit to Navigate AI’s Impact on Creativity by Cannes Lions at Debussy Theatre.

What’s the Best AI Talk to Join at Cannes Lions?

Wednesday 19 June

  • 11:45 - 12:15: Exploring the New Frontiers of Innovation: Mark Read in Conversation with Elon Musk
    Location: Lumière Theatre, The Palais

    Why Attend: This interview features Elon Musk, founder of xAI, an innovative artificial intelligence startup, among his many accolades, including Chief Technology Officer at X. Held at the prestigious Lumière Theatre, the session will delve into the transformative power of technological innovations. Musk will explore how AI is reshaping creativity, business, and society, while also providing insights into the future trajectory of X. An exceptionally unique opportunity to hear firsthand from one of the foremost pioneers in the field.

What is the Real-World Impact of AI?

As the Cannes Lions Festival explores AI's future, real-world applications are already making waves. A study by Warwick, King’s College London, and several NHS sites, funded by a Wellcome Trust Innovator Award, introduced X-Raydar, an AI that diagnoses medical issues from X-rays as accurately as doctors. This technology addresses the radiologist shortage in the UK, offering "the ultimate second opinion" by eliminating human bias and expediting diagnoses.

Professor Vicky Goh of King’s College London highlights the AI's potential to significantly improve medical efficiency. Innovations like X-Raydar showcase AI's transformative impact, reinforcing the importance of staying abreast of technological advancements discussed at Cannes Lions.

Can’t handle more than three session talks a day? Make these your priority. Here’s your day-by-day schedule to get the most out of your time at Cannes Lions.

Monday 17 June

10:30 - 11:15: CMOs in the Spotlight: Mondelez, Canva, Coca-Cola

Location: Rotonde Stage, Rotonde
What to listen out for:

  • Mondelez: Innovative snack marketing strategies and sustainability initiatives
  • Canva: Leveraging user-generated content and community-driven design
  • Coca-Cola: Global campaigns that integrate digital and experiential marketing

14:00 - 14:30: When AI Challenges and Champions Human Creativity by OpenAI

Location: Debussy Theatre, The Palais
What to listen out for:

  • AI in Creative Processes: Examples of how AI can generate creative content and assist in campaign ideation
  • Practical Applications: Real-world case studies of AI-driven marketing initiatives
  • Future Impact: Predictions on how AI will evolve and its potential to disrupt traditional creative roles

15:30 - 16:00: Creativity Unleashed: Bridging Minds and Machines by Neuro-Insight and Deepak Chopra

Location: Debussy Theatre, The Palais
What to listen out for:

  • Neuroscience and AI: How brain insights can be combined with AI to enhance creative output
  • Technology in Creativity: Techniques for integrating technological tools into creative workflows
  • Philosophical Perspectives: Deepak Chopra’s thoughts on the intersection of creativity, consciousness, and technology

Tuesday 18 June

10:30 - 11:15: CMOs in the Spotlight: Adobe, Lenovo, McLaren Racing

Location: Rotonde Stage, Rotonde
What to listen out for:

  • Adobe: AI-powered tools for creative professionals and innovations in digital marketing
  • Lenovo: Strategies for leveraging technology in brand storytelling and consumer engagement
  • McLaren Racing: Effective use of celebrity endorsements and partnerships to enhance brand visibility

12:00 - 12:30: Ready to Laugh Again: The Return of Comedy by VML

Location: Debussy Theatre, The Palais
What to listen out for:

  • Role of Humour: The resurgence of comedy in advertising post-pandemic
  • Trends in Comedy: Current trends and techniques in comedic marketing
  • Successful Campaigns: Case studies of campaigns that effectively used humour to connect with audiences

15:30 - 16:00: Paper Planes: Where Art Meets Science by Meta

Location: Debussy Theatre, The Palais
What to listen out for:

  • Art and Science Integration: How Meta blends artistic creativity with scientific precision in their campaigns
  • Innovative Technologies: New technologies Meta is using to enhance advertising effectiveness
  • Practical Applications: Examples of successful campaigns that leverage this integration

Wednesday 19 June

11:45 - 12:15: Exploring the New Frontiers of Innovation: Mark Read in Conversation with Elon Musk

Location: Lumière Theatre, The Palais
What to listen out for:

  • Elon Musk’s Vision: Insights into Musk’s vision for AI and innovation across different sectors
  • Technological Trends: Future trends in technology that could transform industries
  • Creativity and Business Impact: How cutting-edge technologies can enhance creativity and business strategies

12:30 - 13:00: How We Reignited Guinness by Guinness and Born Social

Location: Rotonde Stage, Rotonde
What to listen out for:

  • Brand Revitalization: Strategies used to refresh and rejuvenate the Guinness brand
  • Creative Campaigns: Examples of innovative campaigns that drove brand success
  • Community Engagement: Techniques for engaging and expanding the brand’s community

15:30 - 16:00: Power Hour: Your Toolkit to Navigate AI’s Impact on Creativity by Cannes Lions

Location: Debussy Theatre, The Palais
What to listen out for:

  • AI Tools: Practical AI tools and techniques for boosting creative processes
  • Industry Case Studies: Real-world examples of AI-enhanced creativity
  • Future Trends: Predictions on the evolving role of AI in the creative industry

Thursday 20 June

10:30 - 11:15: CMOs in the Spotlight: Pepsico, TikTok, Moderna

Location: Rotonde Stage, Rotonde
What to listen out for:

  • Pepsico: Innovative marketing strategies in consumer goods and sustainability efforts
  • TikTok: Leveraging short-form video content and viral marketing strategies
  • Moderna: Communication strategies for healthcare brands and engaging with a global audience during the pandemic

11:30 - 12:15: AI’s Revolutionary Role in Redefining the Creative Process by Microsoft

Location: Microsoft Beach House, Le Ondine Plage
What to listen out for:

  • Microsoft’s Innovations: Latest AI innovations from Microsoft impacting creativity
  • Creative Process Impact: How AI can redefine traditional creative processes
  • Case Studies: Examples of successful AI-driven creative projects

15:30 - 16:30: Power Hour: Your Toolkit to Navigate AI’s Impact on Creativity by Cannes Lions

Location: Debussy Theatre, The Palais
What to listen out for:

  • Comprehensive AI Tools: Detailed overview of AI tools available for creatives
  • Industry Success Stories: Case studies demonstrating effective AI integration
  • Future Predictions: Expert predictions on the future of AI in the creative industry

Friday 21 June

10:30 - 11:15: CMOs in the Spotlight: General Mills, Discover, Henkel

Location: Rotonde Stage, Rotonde
What to listen out for:

  • General Mills: Marketing strategies in the food industry and consumer insights
  • Discover: Innovations in financial services marketing and digital engagement
  • Henkel: Strategies for maintaining brand relevance and consumer loyalty in the consumer goods sector

11:45 - 12:30: Future Gazers: Les Binet vs LesGPT, Advertising Has No Future, Cracking the Memory Code

Location: Terrace Stage
What to listen out for:

  • Future of Advertising: Debates on the future direction of the advertising industry
  • AI’s Role: The role of AI in shaping marketing strategies and consumer engagement
  • Memory and Branding: Insights into how memory and consumer behaviour impact advertising effectiveness

15:30 - 16:00: AI's Revolutionary Role in Redefining the Creative Process by Microsoft

Location: Microsoft Beach House, Le Ondine Plage
What to listen out for:

  • Microsoft’s AI Innovations: Latest advancements and their impact on creativity
  • Case Studies: Real-world applications demonstrating AI’s effectiveness in creative projects
  • Future Trends: Insights into the evolving role of AI in the creative industry

This revised schedule for Friday includes a high-impact talk on AI's role in the creative process, which aligns well with the interests of a Creative Director and provides valuable insights into future trends and practical applications.

Dissecting Excellence: Five Key Questions for Evaluating Cannes Lions Award-Winning Work

After a good cup of coffee at Copenhagen Coffee Lab on Rue du Marché Forville, a brisk morning walk to the festival and successfully getting through security, you finally head downstairs to the basement of the Palais. Greeted by a sensory overload of award-winning work, it's easy to feel a bit overwhelmed as you navigate the maze.

So, to help you make sense of it all, here are five key questions to ask yourself as you review each piece:

  1. What is the core idea or insight driving the work?
    • Take Note: Identify the central concept or unique insight that makes the work stand out. Understand why this idea resonates and how it aligns with the brand's objectives.
  2. How effectively does the work engage its target audience?
    • Take Note: Assess the audience's reaction and engagement with the work. Consider factors such as emotional impact, relevance, and cultural resonance.
  3. What innovative techniques or technologies were used?
    • Take Note: Look at the creative use of new technologies, platforms, or techniques. Determine how these innovations enhance the storytelling and effectiveness of the campaign.
  4. How well does the work communicate the brand message?
    • Take Note: Evaluate the clarity and consistency of the brand message throughout the work. Consider how well the message is integrated into the creative execution.
  5. What measurable impact did the work achieve?
    • Take Note: Examine the results and metrics associated with the work. Look for evidence of tangible impact, such as increased sales, brand awareness, or social change, and understand how success was measured.

What to Expect from Mark Ritson's Talk on Tuesday Afternoon at the Rotonde Stage

Brace yourself for a session that promises to be as provocative as it is enlightening. At 16:45 on Tuesday, Mark Ritson will take the stage to challenge the widely held belief that creativity is the end-all and be-all of advertising success. Ritson, never one to shy away from controversy, will argue that brand positioning, media planning, and audience targeting are equally—if not more—crucial.

Ritson will dissect how advertising effectiveness fits into the broader framework of marketing excellence. Expect him to delve into the interplay between creativity, strategic planning, and execution, underscoring the need for a holistic approach. He’ll draw on real-world examples and case studies, showcasing campaigns where creativity was just one cog in the machine.

But let’s be clear: Ritson isn’t here to coddle the industry’s creative darlings. His presentation will likely ruffle feathers as he questions the pedestal on which creativity has been placed. Expect a few sacred cows to be slaughtered as he offers provocative insights that may force you to rethink your marketing playbook.

In essence, Ritson's talk is set to be a reality check for those who have been drinking the creativity Kool-Aid. If you're ready to confront the uncomfortable truth that creativity is just one piece of the puzzle—and not the whole picture—this session will be an unmissable jolt to your marketing mindset.

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This year's focus on AI underscores the industry's push for innovation. Yet, as the landscape shifts, will Cannes Lions keep its edge? The festival’s relevance hinges on its ability to balance cutting-edge technology with the timeless art of human connection.

As AI continues to transform the business of advertising, the festival’s new humour category serves as a reminder of the irreplaceable value of human creativity. While AI can optimise and scale, it struggles with the fine, intrinsically human art of making people laugh. And, this emphasis on humour highlights a sector grappling with a creativity crisis, seeking to reconnect with audiences on a deeper level.

Industry directors like Musk and sessions focused on AI's role in creativity will dominate discussions, but the heart of Cannes Lions is still very much in sync with human ingenuity.

And, for Cannes Lions 2025 to remain relevant, it must adapt. The essence of marketing may be sales, but the essence of marketing is creativity, the spirit of which is connection. Whether through AI innovations or the return of humour, the festival’s future depends on its ability to inspire and create a transparent, value-driven community. Blending the best of human creativity and good business with technological progress.

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Kelcie Gene Papp
Founder & Editor