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Cannes Lions has always been about trend-spotting and staying way ahead of the curve. Sixty-six years on, it is even more so – with the emphatic thrust on future-proofing our industry. Whether it is through the strength and unity of being inclusive, or by making humans and technology get on the same page, or by consciously building larger purpose into the brand DNA, the industry sought to address issues on the cusp of tomorrow.

Sessions at the Lumiere and Debussy pushed us to the edge of imagination. Between presentations and award entries, we were taken on a tour of inspirations that would colour and shape our perspectives forever. On inclusion some fascinating ideas (Hidden Flag, Vogue NonIssue); on special needs (Ikea ThisAbles, The Most Challenging Ping Pong Table, Xbox Changing the Game, Wavio See Sound); on issues of abuse (The Not So Beautiful Game, #NoKidsInCages) on standing up for justice (Sleeping Giants, Generation Lockdown, Gun Violence History Book). What these campaigns called out were narrow yet still prevalent mindsets of the past – something we most certainly need to leave behind as we outline progressive goals.

Brands chose their own ways of resonating with the times. Emotions ran high with moving narratives like 5B by J&J and Share Your Gifts by Apple. Bold and brave campaigns like The Tampon Book and Go Back To Africa challenged years of apathy. And iconic brands like Tiffany and Guinness reinvented and reinvigorated their classics for the new millennium.

Technology and creativity came together for a more forward-looking offering. David Droga and Accenture spoke of how their worlds would collide for success. Adobe’s emphasis on new era creativity, Google’s focus on neuroaesthetics and design feeling, Samsung’s deep-dive into the psyche of the life-hacking Gen Z, Apple’s continuing mantra of simplicity-creativity-humanity, Soul Machines’ take on human-AI personalisations, Quibi’s revolutionary new form of content, Facebook’s serious engineering to handle hacking and privacy… all examples of how technology readies itself for imminent challenges and unprecedented opportunities.

This year’s festival packed a punch with a few innovative firsts. The new CLX (Connect.Learn.Experience.) at Palais 2 was a hotbed of insights, shared by ground-breaking brands. Tik Tok, Adobe, Activision, Blizzard, Amazon, iHeart Radio, Wondery & Stitcher, Microsoft, NBC Universal… they all generously shared their success strategies and their brand beliefs with us. Cannes Lions also curated a delightful new set of talks by secret speakers. You don’t get to know who is speaking – you only know that it will be about a deeply personal experience or a passionate belief. Just another dimension to the inspirational dialogues that make the week richer in content. It was also the launch of the Entertainment for Sport category with Nike Dream Crazy walking away with the Grand Prix.

Big names of today convinced us to think beyond the present. With their gravitas and the causes they championed, Laura Dern, Kerry Washington, Alfonso Cuaron, John Legend, Shonda Rhimes, Maye Musk, Madonna Badger spurred us to take action. Their fame and aura aside, their powerful messages hit home on issues of human rights, equality and social change. Purpose-led brands and sustainable marketing too took centre-stage, with corporations willing to walk the talk. Dove’s long-term commitment to #ShowUs, Lego’s eco-friendly initiatives and Danone’s One Planet One Health drive were proof that when customers buy purpose over product, corporations must respond with clear stances. Special mention must be made of the fireside chat with the charismatic President of Columbia, Ivan Duque, on the powerful role of creativity in spearheading a country’s economic miracle. The craft in the work blew us away – more than ever before. The finesse, the rigour, the detailing, the surprise, were in another league altogether. And this was across award categories and industry segments. Jury chairs too spent time on the importance of execution in elevating ideas to a whole new level of consumer engagement. Clearly, brands and agencies wanted to reward their audiences with a wealth of sensory experiences.

Showcase campaigns also proved that they emanated from some truly disruptive strategies. Burger King’s presentation was a rip-roaring riot, but underpinning the outrageous work like Whopper Detour, Traffic Jam Whopper and Burn That Ad were five survival tips that stand out as sheer marketing smarts: 1. Design your way out 2. Doing is better than saying 3. New monsters, new weapons 4. Love your product 5. Get out there.

Some wonderful quotes will stay with us, long after the last sip of rosé. Give yourself permission to not know all the answers. Brands are about shared value, experiences are about added value. The business is the product, the product is the business. Branding is a team sport, shared creativity mirrors shared economy. The difference is between trying to be noticed and wanting to be known. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Quite a cache of wisdom to carry with us as we head into the exciting unknown.

And finally, if we are to spruce up our talents and redefine the way we create, why not try the Kon Mari method as explained to us so charmingly by Marie Kondo herself? That way, we can tidy up the irrelevant, get rid of the outmoded, retain only what sparks joy and totally declutter our minds. In readiness for the fascinating journey ahead … and, of course, Cannes Lions 2020!

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