In the wake of some very vocal criticism of Cannes Lions in 2017 and big changes from the organisers, I think we all approached the 2018 International Festival of Creativity with a sense of trepidation – would it look and feel different?

So, there were fewer yachts, people, parties and queues… there were available tables everywhere (even at The Carlton) and people showed up for my meetings. Almost on time. I must be brutally honest, if this is the new Cannes Lions, I prefer it.

It’s always the people that make this festival for me, and I met some great ones, but this time I came home with some solid business options to consider – it was more grown-up. It felt like the people who did show up at Cannes this year were being more serious about being there – whatever their agenda.

Girls' Lounge

And there was a lot on the agenda. With an industry undergoing major disruption, the emphasis was on getting serious – the call to reinvent was resounding through the Riviera.

There were no shortage of insights emerging from the Palais and the fringe festival along the Croisette and I welcomed this. As a marketer I already feel like I need to be awake 24/7 to keep up with everything that is being thrown at us right now, so here are the four things that I brought back from the beachfront.


Digital transparency was a strong theme last year, but this year it feels like too much knowledge is a dangerous thing; do marketers know what to do with all this data?

Managing the complexity of GDPR, to add insult to injury, whilst we were busy managing this and keeping our customers, ad blockers have grown at 30% year on year.

It’s not all bad though. 

One of my favourite announcements of the week was Unilever’s CMO, Keith Weed, declaring he won’t work with influencers who buy followers, and that Unilever’s own brands will not buy followers either. 

He wants to "increase integrity and transparency in the influencer space". 

Bravo Keith! 

We have all had enough of fake news, so let’s get rid of all these fake followers before we end up in a world where we can’t believe anything.


Transparency may be on the up, but trust in traditional media is rock-bottom, that was part of the findings of Ogilvy’s 2018 Global Media Influence Survey released last Monday. The report reveals that trust in traditional media as a source for news has declined 22% in two years, from 72% in 2016 to 50% currently.

There is a clear need for collaboration between all parties to work together to change this. This sentiment was echoed by industry veteran Richard Edelman at The Holmes Report's annual CEO breakfast on Friday who said: "Trust was a corporate reputation issue when we started our research. It’s now a brand issue."

He’s right, it is a brand issue. Once again there was a lot of talk from (and awards for) brands with purpose. We know brands must be purposeful and earn their customers’ trust and loyalty, but it’s up to us marketers to take responsibility for our brands and do it quickly. Whether we like it or not, our customers can move much faster than we can.


A recurring theme at many of the round tables was the lack of talent in this new-look industry. The rise of the data scientist in marketing teams is not new – but the talent gap is widening. There is a serious skills shortage as the universities of today are not focusing on tomorrow’s jobs.

In fact, a fascinating panel hosted by the ANA and Deloitte Digital highlighted the fact that the degree courses needed haven’t even been written yet, and companies are taking it upon themselves to write the curriculum and provide the training.

I was also part of Oracle and Campaign’s roundtable debate on this very subject where Johnson & Johnson’s Daniela Lobo shared with us that she’s moved J&J’s recruitment from being "very transactional" to "talent centric". People want to work for a brand that means something to them and gives them more than a salary and a role.

It really is all about the people, their values and how you can harness your brand values to fulfil their needs and get the best out of them.

Sam Fay, Guinness World Records' Senior Vice President, Global Brand Strategy, and Festival of Media’s Jeremy King


Another theme of the newly grown-up Cannes, was a real focus on technology, along with the art of technology, highlighted by Snap’s move from yellow Ferris wheel to an art exhibition. We may have flown in for the creative, but it was the tech which was leading the conversations up and down the Croisette, whether AR, VR or blockchain related.

It was difficult to choose just one piece of impressive tech news, but I was impressed with Alibaba’s insight and understanding of over 450 million mobile Chinese consumers. Their data can power more targeted brand building activities based on real-time data. Not to mention their AI copywriting tool that can produce 20,000 lines of copy in a second.

The better the insight and targeting, the more that consumers will be engaged, and want more, which will transform into purchase and ultimately, loyalty.

Loyalty! Besides a Cannes Lions, the ultimate gold still longed for by today’s marketers.

My Cannes takeout this year feels very different from the rosé-tinted views of previous years, but my feeling is it’s good, it’s serious, and we have exciting times ahead.

So transparency, trust, talent and tech…. Or we know too much, believe too little and machines are going to take over the earth. Well in growing up, I totally sound like my Dad!