Cannes 2022: In the thick of it

On-the-ground impressions from regional attendees at this year’s festival

CANNES, FRANCE – JUNE 20: Introductory remarks at the opening of Cannes Lions Festival 2022 – The Moment Is Now, Day One, on June 20, 2022 in Cannes, France. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for Cannes Lions)

Who better to tell us what happened at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity than the people who were there? Campaign reached out to a cross section of regional attendees to see why they went to the south of France and what they thought of the festival’s return to in-person learning, networking and celebration after two years apart due to Covid-19.

‘‘I was delighted to see a clear directive on DE&I.”

Ciaran Bonass
Head of creative MEA & APAC for Virtue Worldwide, the agency powered by Vice

Why were you attending Cannes Lions this year?

We went to connect and celebrate. From an agency point of view we had several entries for ‘Backup Ukraine’, which did incredibly well. Virtue participated in and hosted many panels and we had a huge presence from the wider Vice Media Group. Our global CMO, Nadja [Bellan-White] hosted one of the most celebrated interviews of the week with Malala Yousafzai. For me personally, after what feels like a lifetime’s absence, being in front of a screen, the idea of getting back out and inspired again was the most appealing part of Cannes. The opportunity to mix and mingle with fellow creatives and hear global perspectives for the first time in a long time. Feeling creativity surrounding us once more, alongside the buzz of our industry being celebrated at scale, was hugely exciting.

What were you expecting, and how did the reality compare with expectations?

I guess I was expecting to see a fundamental change, given the hiatus, but it seems we have easily fallen back into the pre-Covid Cannes. But that was also what was great and familiar about it. I was somewhat underwhelmed by a few talks and panels, but I wasn’t expecting the off-Palais sessions to be as good as they were. Meta held some fantastic talks. I forgot how excitedly busy it was, and how refreshing it was to learn and listen to amazing speakers and guests.

What were your main takeaways from Lions?

I was delighted to see a clear directive on DE&I (diversity, equality and inclusion) and multiple sessions on women’s equality in the workforce and how to drive change. LGBTQ representation was finally there, but not as strong as it should be.

Attention is our new currency and action is required, and that was a clear focus in the awards and panel discussions. It’s no longer good enough for brands to talk. Action is what matters.

If anything, Cannes taught us the importance of human connectivity. The power of connection and conversation. Having fun. The importance of surrounding ourselves with creativity and people that want to drive change.

‘‘The awarded work inspires creatives all over the world.”

Anyce Nedir
Managing director at Socialize, the We Are Social Dubai office

Why were you attending Cannes Lions this year?

The annual event remains the undisputed epicentre of creativity in advertising worldwide. Cannes Lions sets the pulse of our industry and the awarded work inspires creatives all over the world.

Being able to be there physically after two years online allowed us to connect with the whole creative industry. This year particularly, as it was the first IRL post-Covid edition, bonding has definitely been
a priority.

After two years of Zoom calls, I was particularly excited to meet my peers and the global leadership team of our network, Plus Company: We Are Social, Cossette, The Narrative Group, MeKanism, FuseProject, Citizen and Socialize.

What were you expecting, and how did the reality compare?

The only regret I would have is not seeing enough of the work this year, focusing more on talks and networking events, so I’ll have to catch up during the summer on

What were your main take-aways from Lions?

Communities, communities, communities: It is great to see that work that includes communities is going mainstream, and is not only parked in small-scale non-profit campaigns. I would love this approach to spread even more as communities are the core of our work, the ones we connect with in our everyday job. Adidas’s Liquid Billboard, ‘Below the surface’ by Havas Middle East or ‘Black-owned Friday’ by Google NYC are great examples of that.

Web 3, the new creative playground: Creativity in the metaverse is endless. We are just starting to scratch the surface and shape what web 3 can mean for brands, communities and the physical world. It’s becoming such an exciting space for experimentation for creators, brands and technologies willing to stay alert and keep up with its fast evolution. I can’t wait to see how far this can go and what bridges we build with the physical world.

‘‘What I’m trying to forget is the 12-Euro water bottles and the unbearable heat.”

Jennifer Fischer
Chief innovation officer at TBWA\RAAD

Why were you attending Cannes Lions this year?

I judged the Innovation category. It was my second year judging, but last year was a remote experience, so quite different.

What were you expecting, and how did the reality compare?

I knew Cannes, as I grew up on the French Riviera, but I had never been to the festival. I was told to expect lots of rosé, parties and expensive price tags. Still, I was hoping for it to be more than one big drunken party.

And it was. It was also a celebration of great ideas and a congregation of people passionate about the power of creativity in transforming brands, businesses and the world.

That’s the inspiration I took back with me – in the shape of tens of pages of notes and lots of new connections.

What I’m trying to forget is the 12-euro water bottles and the unbearable heat.

What were your main take-aways from Lions?

Purpose 2.0: Three in five cases were purpose-related. The best cases have been able to tie purpose to profit – giving them scale and thus allowing them to have a much bigger impact.

Dubai pull: As part of the Innovation judging process, the shortlists got to present to the jury, and in four of those presentations Dubai was mentioned as a partner. Khaled Al Shehhi was also a speaker at Cannes. All this feels like a rising momentum for our region to shine even further from 2023 onwards.

Local stories: India, South America and China had some brilliant wins based on hyperlocal problems. Again, an opportunity for the MENA region, which is still full of untapped stories.

‘‘I have to give huge respect to SRMG, who in my opinion played the role of being the main voice of the Arab world.”

Hussein M Dajani
Partner, Deloitte Digital Middle East

Why were you attending Cannes Lions this year?

2022 was Deloitte Digital’s biggest participation ever at Cannes Lions and I decided to join my 91 other colleagues from the various Deloitte Digital practices worldwide. My attendance was basically to see what we, as Deloitte Digital, are doing at Cannes, to connect with industry peers, to evaluate the MENA region’s participation at Cannes, and finally to compare where we are as a Middle East region versus the rest of the world when it comes to creativity.

What were you expecting, and how did the reality compare?

To be frank with you, I was expecting a more solid participation from the MENA region. In the past, it used to be the MENA region travelling abroad to see what is happening and to be part of the ‘game’. Things have changed. With Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, with the UAE’s Projects of the 50 vision, and Qatar’s Nation Vision 2030, the rules of the game have changed. The world now is eager to be part of our region, to see what we are doing, and to be part of it. It was a bit disappointing not to see a bigger presence and buzz around our region. I have to give huge respect to SRMG, who in my opinion played the role of being the main voice of the Arab world through all the events, activities, and sessions they held. Kudos to them, honestly.

What were your main take-aways from Lions?

“It’s so great to be back in person.” If I’d been given a dollar for every time I heard that expression over the week, I’d be rich enough to put in a bid for Cannes Lions itself.

Truth be said, it was hard to escape the feeling that this little retreat in the south of France was detached from reality. The real world of spiralling living costs, war in Ukraine and a likely forthcoming global recession felt, at times, like it was a million miles away.

But the outstanding nature of creativity on show all week should leave us all hopeful – rather than fearful – about the industry’s readiness to confront the challenges to come when the real work, and the real world, looms into view once more.

The themes that revolved around Cannes Lions 2022 were: DE&I (diversity, equality and inclusion); the metaverse, AR, VR, and NFTs; ad tech and martech; social responsibility (climate change, sustainability, etc.); innovation and creativity.

Innovation is often an overused word in marketing and advertising. At times, I think we can be unsure of the true definition of what innovation means. But this years’ Cannes proved to me we need to define it across all areas of organisations, not just within our digital transformation agenda or a creative brief.

‘‘You can’t experience the joy of petrichor on Zoom.”

Ali Rez
Chief creative officer for Impact BBDO in MENAP

Why were you attending Cannes Lions this year?

I was on the 2022 jury, as well as being a speaker on one of the CCO panels. But those are functional. The real reason I was attending Cannes Lions this year was to remind myself of how amazing this industry is. And Gutter Bar.

What were you expecting, and how did the reality compare?

I was expecting the work to be outstanding, much more than last year, and it didn’t disappoint. I’ve spoken before about a reactive “revenge creativity” after the two years of the pandemic, and that’s exactly what I saw. The one thing that exceeded all expectations was how much people wanted to connect – we had clearly missed this face-to-face interaction, and it was lovely to see everybody shed their Zoom screens. I also never thought I’d get emotional walking through the gallery of work, but there it was. Finally, the Grand Prix win on the first night set the happy buzz and tone for the rest of the week.

What were your main take-aways from Lions?

The industry continues to find solutions to better human purpose, to a point where it’s almost expected from a brand now to take a stand. This trend will only continue to grow.

Creatives are not just solving communication needs for brands, but are actively contributing to business solutions as well.

Collaboration is everything. So are cliches like “collaboration is everything”.

You can’t experience the joy of petrichor on Zoom.

‘‘Going on stage the first night to receive the Grand Prix for Print and Publishing was beyond any expectation.”

Joe Abou-Khaled
Regional executive creative director, MENA, Impact BBDO

Why were you attending Cannes Lions this year?

Being a jury member, I was invited by the festival’s organisers to attend and get the most out of the festival, the talks, the awards shows. I was also a speaker in one of the panels at the SRMG cabana, discussing the MENA region’s involvement in Cannes through the last decade.

What were you expecting, and how did the reality compare?

It was great to be back in Cannes and experience in person the festival that has so much to offer and inspire. Cannes has always been a global benchmark in creative excellence and this year was no exception to that. The main highlight was going on stage the first night to receive the Grand Prix for Print and Publishing. That is beyond any expectation.

What were your main take-aways from Lions?

Empathy helps brands find their purpose.

Human interaction drives humanity forward.

It does rain in south of France during summer.

‘‘This is where Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize winner, makes an appearance in your class.”

AUD student and Roger Hatchuel Academy alumnus Fatma Al Suwaidi discovers the link between poetry, marketing and the abaya

Fatma Al Suwaidi
Student at the American University in Dubai, studying Visual Communications and Advertising

Why were you attending Cannes Lions this year?

I am thankful to have been selected by Motivate Val Morgan and the panel of judges at Lions to represent the UAE at the exclusive Cannes Lions Roger Hatchuel Student Academy 2022.

What were you expecting, and how did the reality compare?

I was expecting to meet student representatives from several countries and attend insightful lectures given by the best of the best in the industry. What I did not anticipate was forming a strong connection with the students and mentors I met there. From 9am to 6pm we had a full programme packed with events and talks. I had the privilege of meeting celebrities and iconic figures that I looked up to. Overall, this was a fantastic experience that was both overwhelming and full of amazing opportunities.

What were your main takeaways from Lions?

One step at a time: I was really overwhelmed with the amount of events and lectures you could attend, and rushing through all of them is physically impossible. I had to prioritise and take it one step at a time.

Put yourself out there: During social events I was surrounded by big names in the industry. In Lions you are on the fast track to making connections where it would be impossible back home. I learned to not be shy, and to put myself out there.

Expect the unexpected: This is where top creatives from all over the world showcase their groundbreaking work. Where celebrities shock you with their professional expertise and insights regarding the ad industry. Where Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize winner, makes an appearance in your class. OK, so perhaps the last example was a little too personal, but you get the idea. Take nothing for granted and expect the unexpected.

‘‘There was less ego, more celebrations of one another.”

Reham Mufleh
General manager, Horizon FCB Dubai

Why were you attending Cannes Lions this year?

We were participating with the initiative ‘Breakchains with Blockchain’ that was created for the Children of Female Prisoners’ Association. We came back home with three Silver Lions and five shortlists, which placed Horizon FCB Dubai in the top three most awarded agencies in the region. I’m grateful.

What were you expecting, and how did the reality compare?

There were fewer egos and more celebrations of one another. There was a general consensus and an overall sense of pride from everyone in the region of our achievements as a whole and how the region has become a serious player, making noise in the industry.

What were your main take-aways from Lions?

Networking is as important as participating. You learn how ‘the game’ is played by being physically there on a whole different level.

A great idea alone is not enough. Great ideas don’t happen overnight and it’s not a one-man show. They come to life when taking the adequate time to execute them properly and when people build on each other’s breakthroughs. It really does take a village.

Creativity is one of the most important forces in today’s business and it can change the world.

‘‘Celebrating the big win with our team was incredible.’’

Dana Tahir
General manager, Red Havas Middle East

Why were you attending Cannes Lions this year?

As part of the jury, I was honoured to join my peers at the Cannes Lions this year and was glad to witness our agencies globally receive 34 Lions across 17 categories for meaningful shortlisted Havas Village campaigns.

Our group’s most celebrated work there was Havas Middle East’s hugely successful campaign, Adidas Liquid Billboard, which took home six Lions including the Outdoor Grand Prix. Celebrating the big win with our team who flew in from Dubai was an incredible experience.

What were you expecting, and how did the reality compare?

I was looking forward to being at the heart of the industry’s most iconic creative-thinking festival. I felt inspired by the entries during the judging phase, but being in Cannes where work and people pulse together exceeded expectations. It was a great time to reflect on what made this year’s awards so outstanding, and that will drive us to move forward with award-winning mindsets instilled in us.

I was awe-struck by speakers such as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala, who received an award recognising her mission and work to help all girls receive 12 years of free, safe, quality education.

Another powerful moment was indigenous activist Txai Suruí, from the Paiter Suruí people, standing on stage with a ‘Save the Amazon’ poster, after receiving a Gold Lion for the ‘Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil’ awareness campaign.

What were your main take-aways from Lions?

The most impressive ‘best practice’ for me was how health communications use creative to bring humanity and connections together and circle back to medicine, especially to chronic health diseases.

Among the award-winning work that truly stood out for me, Havas Buenos Aires’ ‘I Don’t Remember’ campaign, raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, and ‘Letters for a Law’, demonstrating the importance of a specific medical treatment to reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s, struck a chord on a personal level.

Another key takeaway was the increasingly popular use of gaming to reach audiences, by brands we wouldn’t have previously expected to resort to such experiential tactics, in sectors such as telecoms and sustainability.

‘‘I was hopeful, but quietly. I was trying to keep my cool.”

Joao Medeiros
Executive creative director, Havas Creative Middle East

Why were you attending Cannes Lions this year?

I attended the Cannes Lions this year for several reasons. First, I was looking forward to finally meeting with peers across the Havas network in person after a long pandemic hiatus. It was great to catch up, plan and engage in discussion around our industry. Second, we had entered a couple of meaningful work pieces we believed could perform well at the festival.

What were you expecting, and how did the reality compare?

It is always risky to go into Cannes with expectations around how your agency’s creative work will perform. So instead, I went in knowing we had some great work in the mix and ready to celebrate our past year. Scratch that. Let’s be honest. It’s a competition, and we all want to come back winners. I was hopeful, but quietly. I was trying to keep my cool. The great thing about the Outdoor category – for which we won the Grand Prix – is that it falls on the first night. So, if you win big on Monday, you are set for a good week. And a good week it was.

What were your main take-aways from Lions?

Many of the big wins were for purpose-led work. Just scroll through social media and you quickly realise what a divided subject this is, with some criticism about purpose-led work winning so many awards. But what I see with this push for more meaningful brand behaviours is agencies and clients realising that they can have a strong voice in the world. We can and should create the right impact and positively shift culture.