Why we’re on our way to Cannes…

—The Message will be in Cannes next week, sending special update newsletters every day focused on the big winners from Canada and around the world. Earlier this week, David Brown explained why he never gets tired of taking in the Lions—

A contingent of Canadians (including The Message) has started making their way to Cannes for the 70th annual International Festival of Creativity, which gets underway Monday.

It’s a small contingent relative to the size of the industry in Canada, and I know that many of those not going roll their eyes or simply tune out. I get that.

But what I discovered during my first time attending in 2008—and this has held true every time I go back—is that there’s much about the Cannes Lions experience to be impressed by. It can be invigorating and inspiring, providing a firehose of ideas and discussions about the best of creativity, and what it can do for clients and the world. Each year, I’m surprised by campaigns and thinking I didn’t know about—and didn’t know I didn’t know about.

In many ways, the speakers and award winners represent a composite portrait of everything that matters in the industry today. But, more importantly, you can pick out themes for where it’s going in the months and years ahead.

I recall during the 2012 Film Lions press conference, before the awards gala, one of the jurors talking about the importance of that year’s Grand Prix winner—Chipotle’s “Back to the Start”—and its message about sustainable farming.

He said that it demonstrated the crucial role brands can play in making the world better. People care about what brands do, he said (loosely paraphrased), not just what they are selling. I think he even suggested brands would become as important as governments in making the world a better place. I disagree philosophically, so even I rolled my eyes at that.

I don’t think anybody used the phrase “brand purpose,” but their remarks, and some of the other winning work that year, stayed with me. In hindsight, they were a signal of the coming trend that would dominate much of the industry over the following decade.

Interestingly, I expect brand purpose to be a dominant theme this year. For both good and bad, new questions are being asked about its use and over-use. And I expect that the impact of artificial intelligence will be discussed at length.

So that’s what I expect to see and hear next week. But I’m looking forward to being surprised by what I wasn’t expecting. I’ll let you know what I find.

David Brown