The View From Cannes: Day one

R/GA’s George Griffiths takes in the crowds, AI chat, brand activations, creators and pickleball at the festival

Well, firstly it felt busy. While not quite battling the crowds or fighting your way through levels, it was certainly busy enough to make it a slog to get from one end to the other. As it should be. And the lines for content were at times impressive.

None more so than that of Liquid Death, which saw massive numbers show up at the Rotonde Stage to hear how it took an entertainment-first approach to brand-awareness and brand-loyalty.

And with much talk before the festival about an  expected low turnout from brands and agencies, understandably looking to scale back spend, it was encouraging to see.

Once inside the festival, the content was a mix of the refreshing and the slightly predictable. Refreshing to hear from brands such as Coca Cola and Modelez, with their honest appraisals of what it takes to be a good CMO in 2024, and how the lack of representation at board level is holding back real change.

Yet that was contrasted against some of the more predictable AI dominated talks and workshops that struggled to cut through against the noise.

That said, the introduction this year of a ‘humour Lions’ category was a commendable and proactive move from the festival to ensure the true human essence of creativity was balanced out against a backdrop of the impact that the rise of machine learning would have on creativity.

Liquid Death’s head of creative Andy Pearson recently did an interview with Campaign

Big questions around AI

Speaking of AI, a quick walk up and down the Croisette listening to the ‘fringe festival’ and you’re treated to a chorus of moderators, all blending into one voice asking in unison if ‘this AI platform would enable creativity’ or if we’re all going to lose our jobs to a robot.

But if you look hard enough, beyond the generative cliches, you’ll find people really trying to tackle the big questions that need to be answered around AI.

At Whaler beach, Will.i.am spoke to Neil Whaler and gave his insights on the next generation of AI Personas that are deepening Human-Machine Interactions, with an emphasis on the importance of making sure the voices of underrepresented communities were part of the how we build future AI models, characters and interfaces.

Brand activations

And brand activations along the fringe also seemed to be getting bigger, not smaller. Contradicting a lot of the expectations that brands would be scaling back this year.

TikTok, Amazon, Google and Reddit all ramped up their presence with big spaces and even bigger programming. A show of force that couldn’t help but install hope and confidence. That said, who actually has the time to attend a Pickleball clinic?!

If there was one topic that really shone through, it was certainly that of the era of the creators that we find ourselves living in.

From the festival building its own official bridge to the creator community with the launch of Lions Creators, to heavy hitters such as MediaLink going big on GenZ and digital creators.

It’s clear who many are placing their bets on where the powerbrokers of tomorrows creative industry will come from.

By George Griffiths, VP, Global Executive Director, Marketing & Communications