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Cannes Lions Content Feature

#Cannes2024: Creative Circle at Cannes - a vibrant return with a record attendance

Cannes 2024. What a start. We are back. Attendance is at at an all-time high and clearly, so is the standard of the work.

People are navigating from one side of the Boulevard de la Croisette to the other, mingling, connecting, and seeking inspiration. Despite my intention to attend as many talks as possible, it's simply impractical.

Day one of Cannes Lions has seen a record number of creatives. Seen here is musician John Legend and his model wife Chrissy Teigen. Source: Carl Willoughby.
Day one of Cannes Lions has seen a record number of creatives. Seen here is musician John Legend and his model wife Chrissy Teigen. Source: Carl Willoughby.

Impact of creativity

Our first session started off in the Debussy theatre. Morgan Flatley, global CMO, and Ian Borden, executive vice president and global CFO for McDonald’s facilitated a discussion around Convincing the C-suite on the real impact of creativity.

It’s always great to hear how a big multinational brand like that values the power of creativity and its impact on the bottom line. There were seemingly lots of obvious insights that are just somehow not broadly adopted by all clients.

Yes, this is an article written by a creative but when you sit there and listen to these simple lessons, feeling a sense of validation you can’t help by question why brands are so risk averse. And the idea of risk popped up throughout all the talks I attended. Borden mentioned a few extremely insightful things. He stated how, from a McDonald’s point of view you want to take a risk on the creative, not the consumer insight (which so critical in their business) or the strategy.

“The bigger risk is complacency,” says Borden. Flatley also landed some great insights. It’s extremely comforting to know that someone of her stature is so open-minded.

“Let consumers play with your brand” followed by insights like: “Put your brand out in culture and let people play with it.” I love this! We often experience brand guidelines that are so crazily strict. Always cautioned to stick within the rules these two speakers just seem to understand authenticity.

How perhaps as a brand when they understand their audience they can understand how key authenticity is. They shared merchandise designs created by their designers versus merch designed by Travis Scott for their audience and made the point that his work designs were just so much more authentic; clear validation of putting your brand in culture and authenticity.

Source: Carl Willoughby.
Source: Carl Willoughby.

Not just a celeb

I was lucky enough to attend a number of other high-profile discussions. I saw John Legend and Chrissy Teigen discuss their them, their brands, their social profiles and how they manage them.

Like other celebrities I’ve seen in previous festivals, like Paris Hilton or Kevin Hart it’s clear that celebrities behave like brands. It’s exactly the same way of being and operating. In the afternoon I went to The Omnicom Cove and sat literally five metres away from Will.I.Am from Black Eyed Peas fame. He’s really something else. He’s not just a celebrity. He demonstrated the AI app, FYI demonstrating just how personal the engagement is and how it can help shape the future of messaging.

He also landed some great insights. Insights around radio, how the ability to communicate through radio has shaped culture, built stations, employed people, personalities, and news. How Televisions did the same thing and how AI now will shape the future of the ‘future.’ '

How when engaging with AI we’ll have the opportunity to shape its personality, influence the profile of a bot, and develop a new kind of influencer. We’re at the start of something incredible and while I just can’t quite entirely comprehend it I know our lives are going to shift dramatically with all of this.


I ended off the day (of talks) with a session by Mike Cessario, founder of Liquid Death. This is their manifesto on their website:

We’re just a funny beverage company who hates corporate marketing as much as you do. Our evil mission is to make people laugh and get more of them to drink more healthy beverages more often, all while helping to kill plastic pollution.

They’re something else. A brand disrupting the notion of brands. There is nothing conventional about them. Everything, from the packaging to their comms they proudly seek to “confuse” people. Well that’s what he said. He believes if you can confuse people then it’ll make them stop and think about you. So yeah, a bit out of context but he’s a pretty incredible guy, with some strong beliefs and judging by the audience attendance at his talk, these beliefs are commanding support.

“It's not about how long it is or trying to make a movie It's just about making content thats legitimately entertaining. And that's kind of how we think about marketing. We don't have a traditional marketing team,” says Cessario. He continues: what does your company mean to people outside of the functional benefit of your product?

New ideas

Why would somebody pay to follow us? Like, why is anybody going to take the time to care about like what that beyond our products? And I think if you start thinking about it like that and using the filter of is this good enough that someone would pay to watch this? Like a lot of the ideas start dying really quickly, because it's hard to get something that people are willing to pay for, but that's entertaining.

I enjoyed his talk. Passionate, disrupting marketing. I like his approach and I guess one can see the philosophy manifesting in the work. Visit them here to get a sense of their marketing approach, they’re pretty incredible.

Source: Carl Willoughby.
Source: Carl Willoughby.

It’s been a day of inspiration. With over 26, 000 entries it still baffles my mind that people are constantly generating new ideas, new things that make you go: “Wow, that’s just incredible.”

The audio & radio jury president Simon Vicars, CCO of Colenso BBDO, New Zealand spoke of the combination of creative ambition and drive and how these two components are key in progressing the standard of the creative output.

I know this is obvious, at Cannes, lots of the lessons seem to be that way. As the week goes by I hope to leave more enlightened and more hopeful about the potential of our industry.

Over the next few days we as the Creative Circle will profile our experiences, hopefully sharing insights into the work, the philosophy, and what’s driving it.

About Carl Willoughby

Chief creative officer at TBWA\Hunt Lascaris and the chairperson of the Creative Circle.
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