You wonder what happens to Cannes after its run of festivals close their doors. Bemused holidaymakers get La Croisette back to themselves. Filmmakers ponder over whether to produce something sellable rather than winnable. Those in the business of advertising and marketing… well, go back to the business of advertising and marketing. But have they learnt anything?
Just over a month has gone by since the dust settled at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
This year, it was mooted that data would have a real seat at the table. Indeed, as early as last November the festival began congratulating itself on its decision to debut a Creative Data category, which it promised would redress the balance of agency departments in attendance, and awards distributed among them.
In the weeks leading up to the submission deadlines, the Lions portal implored brands and agencies to show off innovative ways of using data creatively. Underneath were a host of examples of previous winners (Grand Prix, Gold, Silver and Bronze): sterling data-powered campaigns which beat off competition in Direct, Titanium, and Promotional categories.
Comfortingly, it seemed to confront the myth that data and creativity are naturally divorced from one another. The category was posited as a tool to give data a chance to break out of its grey and tedious typecast and take the stage as a winner in its own right.
So far, so good for data. But, there were still to be found a few warning signs that data specialists were still seen as second-class delegates and might as well just get themselves a ‘networking pass’.
First was the curious decision to hide it away in Lions Innovation, with only the Innovation category as company. Second were the disappointing entries, which bore almost no resemblance to the calibre referenced in the examples. Instead, agencies still reserved data-rich campaigns for the nebulous awards of Media, Promotional and Direct: exactly where they had always been.
It’s no secret that Cannes is confusing itself with the growing number of categories. One of the biggest complaints according to Ad Age is that the same work is entered over and over in different contests. “Is it direct marketing, media or PR? Many top campaigns such as “Ice Bucket Challenge” and “Like a Girl,” won big in all categories because they included tactics from all those disciplines.”
Philip Thomas, CEO of Lions Festivals conceded: “We’re going to do a big piece of work after the festival about a deep dive into categories, and clearing them up and trying to improve the clarity.”
Despite all the hype, the shining beacon of hope for data throughout the week was not in the awards, but in the seminars. One of the big themes was the noble mission to marry it up with creativity once and for all.
In a fantastic talk, Scientists vs Poets, DigitasLBi’s chief creative officer Chris Clarke argues for a middle ground. He points to the shifting sands on the Croisette, now dominated by technology companies and ad serving platforms.
“It feels at times like creativity is under assault by the nerds. This is a false dichotomy. If the industry is constantly under attack by the rationalists and creatives are finding it harder to make a case for themselves, we need to use the tools of data to protect our territory. “Data gives us better ammunition to speak to the rationalists which may reject our intuition, and gives them a reason to buy our work.”
Professor Brian Cox says it, quite plainly, in a press room Q&A: “It’s just knowledge, and the more knowledge you have the better it is. I cannot conceive of any reason of knowing more about something makes it worse.”
As Clarke concludes: “Creatives are the sum of the art they consume, the conversations they have and the relationships they’ve made. They are very good at intuition and at leaps of faith. But clients aren’t buying that. It allows them to sell their work in a powerful rational way. It allows them to fight the rationalists with rationalism and keep the spark of our creative industries alive.”
Awards are pieces of glass and metal. Talk is what matters, and the conversation is changing for the better.
Oliver Pink is a content strategist at Eulogy. You can read more of his thoughts from Cannes Lions here