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Creative Creative Works Cannes

Cannes countdown: top creatives predict Lion winners and trends to look out for


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

May 22, 2024 | 10 min read

As the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity approaches, we catch up with some of advertising’s most brilliant thinkers to find out what we can expect from the event this year.

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Cannes / Unsplash

In a matter of weeks, adland will descend on Cannes for the International Festival of Creativity, where the best work from the past year will be awarded some of the most coveted trophies in the industry.

This year, talks from people like Jay Shetty, Unilever’s Esi Eggleston Bracey and Google’s Vidhya Srinivasan promise to offer stellar insights and foster meaningful conversations. Additionally, the festival has introduced a new category this year that prioritizes humor, much to the delight of many in the industry.

With all eyes on the event, we asked industry luminaries such as Quiet Storm’s Trevor Robinson, Droga5’s Shelley Smoler, New Commerical Arts’ Ian Heartfield and Accenture Song’s Neil Heymann to share what they anticipate will emerge from the week.

Trevor Robinson, founder and executive creative director, Quiet Storm: “The new humor award is designed to push for ‘real creative courage’ in ads and that’s what I’d like to see in every category this year.

“I think purpose will still feature, but it will be fully integrated into a range of creative work, so we won’t have to talk about it so much as a ‘thing’ on its own. Because purpose doesn’t always have to tug at the heartstrings; sometimes, it can make us laugh.

“I’m hoping, too, that after we’ve singled out humor for a couple of years, we can integrate the category back into the mainstream awards, where it belongs. Hopefully, there will be an appreciation of how humor is a key way advertising can do its job, which ultimately is to connect with audiences.

“Whoever wins the new humor category will no doubt get a lot of airtime. Will the award bring us all together like the best comedy does, or will it stir up division? I predict there will be so many different points of view that polarization, at least, won’t be an issue.

“Obviously, AI is a huge topic and will be a big talking point, but I think the scope of the industry’s interests/trends/obsessions has broadened out a lot, so I’m hoping the conversation won’t be too one-track this year.”

Shelley Smoler, chief creative officer, Droga5 London: “Two things we should always ask ourselves when creating a piece of work are, ‘What makes this interesting to those who don’t give a shit about advertising?’ and, if we can answer that question, ‘OK, but why now?’

“You don’t need AI to tell you AI will probably keep coming up in creative reviews until it’s doing them itself. Some concepts are better than others, but Orange’s ‘La Compil des Bleues’ used the technology beautifully and, more importantly, in a way that’s integral to the idea. Having said this, I retain a very human, analog respect for those who buck the bandwagon of Midjourney altogether to do new things the old-fashioned way. Uncommon’s ‘Loyalty Everyday’ was shot in camera, even though we all know it could so easily have been computer-generated.

“For over a decade, one of the most enduring themes in our industry has been the domination of purpose – the idea of advertising as a force for good in the world. Norwich City’s ‘Check In On Those Around You’ is such a brilliant example of this kind of work done well that shines brighter precisely because it isn’t another tear-teaser in a glut of one-finger-piano mood films.

“Of course, there’s coming after the trend and then there’s actively going against it,”

“The emergence of Cannes’s humor category at a time when the world is actually on the brink of collapse feels like the cruelest of ironies until you remember that, sometimes, people actually like being distracted. And like the little cockroach who scuttles into the world’s last Blockbuster in that charming Superbowl film, there will always be plenty of us who care more about being entertained now than what comes next.”

Ian Heartfield, chief creative officer, New Commercial Arts: “The industry has spent a decade and more trying to make anything but film. But it appears we’re now accepting the fact that the best way to build a brand is to make a piece of moving image so smart, funny, cool, insightful and emotional that it finds its way to the relevant audience under its own steam.

“Also, the laughs are back in town. Not every brand has the right to try and solve world peace or save the planet from burning. Those that do should do more of it, while those that don’t should get back to entertaining. I think this is the year we will see more of that happening, brands being truer to themselves. So big up the funnies.”

Neil Heymann, global chief creative officer, Accenture Song: “As the world continues to experience this ever-deepening collision between technology and creativity, our industry becomes more inventive with what we make. I’m looking forward to seeing some inspiring examples that find joy and emotion behind the buzzwords and tech trends we’ve all been exposed to daily. Can generative AI be funny? How are people using data to move and persuade our audiences? Hoping for some unexpected moments of magic that point to how we can be even more creative with our new tools.”

Szymon Rose, chief creative officers, Jung von Matt: “We’re always struggling to make predictions for award shows. What are the big creative trends? What does the future of creativity look like? Obviously, we’ll see loads of work with purpose. Obviously, we’ll see loads of work that uses AI intelligently. Humor will be back. Craft will be alive and kicking. Yada yada yada.

“You know what? We really, really hope that we won’t see a trend this year in Cannes. We really hope we see the most diverse and eclectic mix of work ever – a plethora of the most creative ways to approach a problem and not only follow the latest trend or dernier cri of what’s now technologically possible. Just memorable work that is beautifully executed. In whatever shape or form that might be.”

Rich Denney, joint chief creative officer, St Luke’s: “For the last few years at Cannes, purpose-driven work has taken home the lion’s share of the metal. With the introduction of the humor category, I wonder if we will really see a major shift to more humorous campaigns and ads selling stuff winning the day? I really do hope so.

“Don’t get me wrong. I believe that the power of creativity to do some good is a great thing. But, have we lost the art of selling stuff, which funds us all to help out? It’s tough out there right now and, let’s be honest, we could all do with more laughs. Not that long ago, advertising was entertaining, more playful and more memorable.

“With that in mind, I’m going to select a few things that have used humor to various degrees, which I’d love to see win a Lion.

“First up, as its brand line suggests, I’m going to be ‘deliciously predictable’ and would expect to see Ore-Ida win big this year both in idea and craft. I could watch it over and over again. The song is a proper earworm and everything about it fills me full of joy.

“The next piece of work must have been so much fun to shoot. Uber Eats ‘Best Friends’ is so delightful and perfectly handled. The awkwardness of Asa Butterfield’s relationship with Robert DeNiro is a delight from start to finish.

“Christmas is a big thing in adland and one of the brands to smash it last year was also a newcomer to the game. Etsy’s ‘Your Impossible Holiday Missions’ is fresh, memorable and hugely entertaining.

“I’ve picked a lot of films, so I am going to bring some out-of-home to the mix. I never pick work from ourselves, but this year, I’m going to make an exception because I believe it’s exceptional, ever so simple, disruptive and, if you spend time with, it becomes even more rewarding. And it worked! That is Butterkist Microwave billboards. When the creative team pitched to me that DOOH formats were the same dimensions as microwaves, I was all in.

“The copy makes me smile and boy did they stand out. I saw lots of people stopping and smiling at them at the station too, which for me is what great out-of-home should do. Fingers crossed, anyway, and if it doesn’t, hey ho. I think it’s a winner.”

Tamryn Kerr, co-founder and chief creative officer, Hijinks: “2024 sees the inaugural Lions Creators, so it will be interesting to see how advertising agencies are partnering with creators to make culturally relevant and groundbreaking work. Creators and the creative economy have been driving culture, so this makes sense as a trend that is likely to continue for the foreseeable.

“Purpose is dead, long live purpose. We’re seeing purpose campaigns that don’t feel worthy bubbling to the top. I’m loving Coordown’s ‘Assume that I Can’ campaign. It mixes purpose with sass and the perfect amount of humor, all beautifully produced. Purpose but with personality and maybe soon a Lion or two.”

Youri Guerassimov, chief creative officer, Marcel: “The purpose, or “for good” trend that has dominated for years will still be very much present. But at the same time, the backlash against this trend is growing, providing some fun, very business-oriented campaigns. And to be honest, we love both.

“Of course, we’re certain that advertising must use its power to help global society improve and create an impact in a good way, but we’re just as sure that advertising is about business and that consumers love some smart-fun-irreverent moments that only advertising can bring to them.

“The perfect advertising for us combines both: using the power of brands to make something great for all, but not in a boring way and not with too much gravity.”

Creative Creative Works Cannes

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