Events Media

Cannes Lions 2018 – The Importance of Strategic & Creative Storytelling

Sovrn Publisher Advocate // June 28, 2018

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With Cannes Lions 2018 behind us, the industry has put away their boat shoes, hung up their fedoras and began to recover from the bottomless rose consumed last week.

Although the event did not disappoint, things felt a bit more subdued than previous years. Perhaps this is in response to the state of the film industry today (I’m looking at you, Hulu and Netflix).

Cannes Lions had a different strategy for the event this year, most notably, to breathe new life into its original purpose: celebrating creativity. In the increasingly digital world that we live in today, everyone is able to tell their story. In recent years, minority filmmakers have broken down barriers to entry and given a voice to those whose stories had never made it to prominent festivals like Cannes Lions.

Cannes Lions is adapting to the changes in film, media, and advertising industries; specifically in relation to digital storytelling. If you weren’t there to see the changes yourself, don’t worry. Here are our 5 key takeaways from this year’s festival:

Key players in the creative industry are placing increasing importance on corporate social responsibility. The Palau Pledge, a travel campaign that doubled as an environmental conservation effort, emerged successful, winning three Grand Prix on the final night. Host/Havas wanted to inspire a true and lasting change in behavior, leading them to create a campaign that would transcend culture and nationality. The Palau Pledge asked tourists visiting Palau to sign a “pledge” on their passport to be environmentally conscious during their stay. It seemed Cannes Lions aligned, introducing the Sustainable Development Goals award, created in partnership with United Nations. All proceeds from submissions for the award were donated towards sustainable development causes.

No one wants the dreaded ‘Social Network’ label.Social Network’ seems to have morphed into a dirty term, with companies like Twitter & Reddit opting for the more conservative ‘news’ label. This seems somewhat understandable, as any company considered a social network is then compared to Facebook… a daunting comparison. Reddit’s new COO Jen Wong stated that “the difference between Reddit and social media is the entry point. Your entry points to Reddit are your passions and interests, and your entry point to social is your friends and family.” The rejection of the ‘social network’ label at the festival is telling – about the state of the industry and the general feeling about social generated traffic.

Cannes Lions 2018 took a step back and renewed focus on creativity, the original intention behind the festival. The past couple of years have been a spectacle of bright colors and tech slang, competing for money and creating a facade. This year, the festival expanded to include the entire media ecosystem, including tech companies and social media platforms, only adding to the air of a renewed creativity. Awarded campaigns were creative, used outside-the-box techniques and touched on social, economic and environmental issues. Responding to disruptions in the industry, the festival incorporated less platform defined, more innovative media, and reoriented around purposeful creativity.

Many of the winners at Cannes Lions took a new, modern approach to the idea of storytelling. Cannes Lions represents the industries biggest celebration of creativity on it’s biggest stage. Winners not only represent the industries future direction, but also aims to push both clients and agencies to bigger ideas, craft, and execution. One of our favorite campaigns was ‘Evert_45’ by N=5, done for KPN, a Dutch landline, and mobile communications company. The initial idea behind the campaign was to connect young people today with people that were young during WWII and help to pass on their stories. Initially, N=5 and KPN collaborated on strategies to share stories of the past through the channels and with the language of today, to successfully engage younger generations. The idea developed and became Evert_45, an immersive campaign based on first-hand accounts of ordinary Dutch people from WWII. For a more modern twist, N=5 collaborated with influencers and took a phased approach played the campaign out as an ongoing series on Instagram, YouTube, and

The consistent theme of the week was the need to tackle diversity and discrimination, with red carpet protests lead by the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. There were multiple red carpet protests to bring attention to the inequality and lack of representation that has plagued the film industry. French black actresses, lead by Aïssa Maïga, walked the carpet together to protest racism in French cinema. 82 women including Ava DuVernay, Cate Blanchett, and Salma Hayek protested gender inequality. Kristen Stewart took her shoes off on the red carpet to protest the Cannes dress code that says women cannot wear flats. At a film festival, you might expect the main stories to be the films. However, this year many of the biggest stories, the ones that engaged people all around the world, took place off-screen, where brave protesters called attention to issues that we all can relate to.

The mission of Cannes Lions resonates with all of us here at Sovrn. We pride ourselves in helping storytellers do more of what they love and less of what they don’t. The filmmakers at Cannes Lions create films by the people, for the people. The sponsors’ messages were reflective of the times we live in. The ultimate takeaway for us, that each and every publisher and storyteller can learn from, is that engaging, relevant, relatable content has the biggest impact.

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