A Newbie’s Report From Cannes

Guest Post by Derek Fridman
Creative Director | SapientNitro

It’s no secret that the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is easily the world’s biggest celebration of visual communications, drawing more than 8,000 attendees from 90+ countries, all vying for global agency recognition as well as a coveted Lion statue. And while I’ve had the fortune to win a few Lions, I’ve never had the opportunity to attend the festival in person until this year. As a first-timer, I was looking forward to taking in the sights and sounds first hand and drawing inspiration from this year’s sessions and awards.

Every major advertiser, brand, and/or agency was in town – putting on seminars, workshops, exhibitions, parties, and the like. I had to choose wisely so as to not miss an opportunity to see or hear something that could influence my perspective on where our industry is heading.

My favorite sessions? One that stood out was Naked’s “Three C’s of Modern Creativity,” which explored Community, Crowd-sourcing, and Co-Creation and how these themes are shaping innovation for brands. They showcased some pretty incredible stories and beautifully crafted case studies for both LEGO and Nokia Push that highlighted the foundations and opportunities for user generated and social content. Another standout? Microsoft’s “New Innovations” session with Kudo Tsunoda, which explored the future of Natural User Interfaces, extending well beyond home gaming and into real-world solutions. In a non-traditional fashion, The Kraft Foods session with Malcolm Gladwell explored the paradoxes of innovation and the link between an organization’s culture and its ability to innovate. Gladwell did an incredible job correlating modern warfare with the battle for innovation supremacy.

While the seminars and workshops were informative and entertaining, they were also surprisingly the main focus of the festival. What appeared to be over-shadowed was the appreciation and analysis of the work. By day three of the sessions, I had had my fill of the “social/viral/likes/check-in’s/achievements” spiel and was struggling to find a session that didn’t have some sort of social spin or newly coined buzzword.

It was then that I realized that good design, while certainly present at the Cannes Lions, had taken a back seat to the trend of the hour. I took a break from the sessions and wandered down to the lower exhibit hall, a little-trafficked, quiet area where one could spend time perusing the boards submitted for judging. Here I found my inspiration — the true celebration of design — in the form of several hundred short-list entries from around the world, neatly pinned to walls and awaiting creative contemplation and review. In many cases, there were beautifully designed boards where you could see and read a description of each entry. The boards captured the passion of the teams that created them and were filled with design briefs outlining the challenge and successes of each submission. It was in this quiet hall where I had the unique opportunity to see the best representative work from agencies across the globe side-by-side. The room was filled with tangible examples of provocative, forward-thinking design that made it past the client chopping blocks to become a reality.

While I don’t expect that we will ever get away from the buzzwords, innovation-hype and the all-around commercialization of award shows and conferences in our industry, the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity managed to offer a balance between trendy talks and legitimate craft that, together, are inspiring the future. Hopefully everyone who attended the festival took the opportunity to immerse themselves in not only the program of speakers, sessions and entertainment, but also the design submissions we were all there to celebrate.