What you should talk about at Cannes, Junior edition

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Forget the ANA report, virtual reality and your precious Givenchy shoes. This year, try a little soul searching

In less than a week, the ad industry will descend on Cannes for the annual Lions festival. Yesterday, we asked industry leaders what they thought would — and should — dominate conversation along the Croissette this year. Today, we asked mid-level and junior staffers (the ones who aren't always lucky enough to score a bed in the villa) what they thought. As the answers below attest, the industry's struggle to attract sharp minds may be greatly exaggerated.

Lalita Salgaokar
Code & Theory

Advertising glitterati cooing about rubbing shoulders with the non-advertising glitterati. A middle-aged Chief Creative Officer, unable to handle his liquor. The spillage of said middle-aged dude’s booze on someone’s Givenchy shoes.

Ways JWT fu*cked up while handling the Gustavo Martinez case and how our industry can be better about owning up to our mistakes.How all the folks that go up on stage to receive awards, all look the same in spite of this being the "INTERNATIONAL festival of creativity." Cindy Gallop’s chat on being pro-sex and pro-porn and knowing the difference to humanize the advertising message.

Anthony DiMichele
Senior Copywriter
&R New York

Diversity. Yes, I know, we talk about it every year. The fact we’re still talking about it says there's still a problem. Sure, small steps can be made to resolve the matter in the short term, but long term change means investing time in our industry’s future. It starts with supporting women-in-advertising groups like AWNY and getting actively involved in their conferences or making our industry more visible to the wealth of talent at historically black colleges.

Not the most pressing issue, but I’d like to discuss brands taking part in topical, emotionally charged issues like celebrity deaths or tragedies on social media. My stomach turns when I see a brand throw their logo on a quick comp or tweet a message that isn’t thought through just so they can be part of the conversation. That’s not to say brands can’t have a place here (some have even done it well), but there's no shortage of cases where a moment of silence on social would've served the brand better.

Carrie Dunn

I think one of the biggest conversations at Cannes this year will be the rise of invisible advertising. We’re in the midst of an industry shift, mirrored in both technology and traditional, that’s transforming the type of ideas we create and award. In technology, our innovations are no longer about creating new destinations and driving users to them. It’s about the creation of products and services that seamlessly integrate and improve users’ lives. When successful, these innovations are barely seen. Though their impact should always be deeply felt. In traditional, we’re moving away from creating distractions and road blocks to putting on the main event. We’re no longer content to place a logo and message (no matter how well-crafted that message may be) before/during/after a show. We want to be the show.

I think this shift is worthy of those conversations, but included with it should be a self-analysis. Are the products and services we’re creating improving consumers’ lives? Is our content upholding our values and living up to the standards of the shows we’re trying to accompany? This shift to invisible advertising needs to be done thoughtfully, responsibly, and incredibly well in order to be successful.

Julia Neumann
Creative Director
MullenLowe US

Snapchat this, Snapchat that.

Whether the couple that made out on the red carpet last year will be back at it
again. Maybe even on Snapchat.

Lauren Cooper

Deutsch New York

Erika Kohnen
Art Director
Deutsch New York

We're not sure! It's our first year in the industry and our first time at Cannes, so we have no idea what to expect. Looking forward to being inspired, though!

What industry issue should dominate the conversation: We're hoping to hear about how the industry can better adapt and grow with some of the new technologies. Like everyone, we think tech like VR and 360 videos are great, but have seen only a few brands use them well. We think figuring out how to tell great stories with those platforms is the key to getting brands to embrace them.

Mariam Aldahi
Design editor

Virtual reality. Conference exhibition halls are a great place to test VR experiences — there was a line around the corner for NASA’s experience at SXSW Interactive — and with everyone trying to figure out the most valuable way to use VR for their business, it’s going to be a go-to talking point.

Emotionally intelligent tech. Artificial intelligence is gaining so much mainstream attention (see: Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and lots of bots), that we should already be considering how these machines will be able to respond to our emotions and act responsibly for us. And for designers and developers who have spent the last decade building digital products, there’s also going to be a shift in skillsets. We should be talking about all the things designers will need to know before they can build for our environments rather than our smartphones.

Scott Fogel
Associate Director of Strategy

Probably one of the same issues that dominates every year: What creativity
really means in a digital world. That is, how do we create work that actually has an impact? It’s the sort of generic theme that allows people to speak ad nauseum about vague, surface-level issues like storytelling, communication and connection. There will undoubtedly be someone proclaiming that the consumer is in charge now, and another person will give a keynote saying that brands have to make users the center of everything they do. Then of course, everyone will go back to business as usual the next week.

What are we, meaning agencies and holding companies, going to do about the startups and consultancies that are slowly rendering us more and more irrelevant every year? Everyone knows digital is changing things, but instead of addressing that head on, most agencies are still clinging to the notion that digital is merely another medium, and that the only change needed is simply to apply the traditional comms framework to a new space.

Amanda Daudelin
Data & Analytics Manager

What topic will dominate the conversation at Cannes:
This will be my first Cannes so I am very excited to take it all in.  I expect the conversation and shared learning will be about how data and technology are ramping up effective creativity — magic and the machine. I also feel that consumer security in this data-rich new world needs to be kept high on our collective industry agenda, so I am excited to learn more from speakers and peers from all over the world.

I hope to hear a lot more conversations that address the talent and industry’s gender equality issue — I’ve been fortunate enough to be in an agency where culture and talent development are a priority, but I also know that being a women in data is still considered an exception rather than the norm, so I would love to hear more about the industry’s collective stance on changing that.

Keely Galgano

After an intense few months of well-publicized industry messes when it comes to our overwhelming sameness, workplace diversity will dominate the conversation — and the optics — at Cannes this year. Less "too many guys, one girl," more attention called to who’s really creating the kind of change we need.

Diversity. But not in the workforce — in how we think about whom we’re talking to as brands, and importantly, from whom we take inspiration. American marketers have an unhealthy coastal/urban/upper-middle-class bias that’s increasingly distressing. When we talk about "millennials," for instance, we’re talking largely about relatively wealthy, white, highly educated city dwellers. Prince showed us that amazing culture and creativity could come from anywhere and stay there successfully. Life is full of interesting aspirations that don’t always stem from who we’ve deemed "trendsetters" — to discount them is a mistake that deserves more attention. At the end of the day, both topics are tied deeply together. Too often, we talk to and about ourselves. Maybe by solving the "will be talked about" problem, we can solve the "should be talked about" problem too.

Rebecca Smith
Account Supervisor

For all our talk of catching Millennials and GenX, what I think our industry fails to understand is that the "teen target" is huge and highly segmented. There are age brackets, interests and socio-economic barriers to break down. But we see them as one big blob of people who just love technology — and eventually, they are going to start calling brands out as posers. If we really want to talk to teens, we need to get ahead of them, start thinking like teens and starting setting trends rather than tapping into them ex post facto.

Lines are blurring across the board, and brands need to start thinking like people — a person who is awake 24 hours a day and reacts with the world in real time, with a point of view. It can no longer be scheduled posts about holidays and events like the VMAs. Brands need to speak like they are living, breathing people with personalities and opinions. So in reality, what I think will be talked about is that we need to stop treating brands like things that wake up at 9 a.m. on a Monday and go to sleep at 6 p.m. on a Friday., They need to be on 24/7/365.

David Balsamello
MING Utility and Entertainment Group

Making Advertising Great Again and The Formation World Tour.

Let's focus less on industry politics and more on our responsibility of making quality work that’s both fun and substantial. Work that is driven by good ideas, design, and usability. There are so many problems that brands can help solve in the world, and the last thing anyone wants is to feel bombarded or manipulated by bad advertising. We have a responsibility to break through the visual clutter and keep things simple and thoughtful... And The Formation World Tour.

Lauren Smith
Associate Creative Director
TBWA\Media Arts Lab

This is my first year attending, so I can only base this on conjecture, but I can imagine it will probably be dominated by people and agencies, their work and that work’s awards: who won, who didn’t, what won, and why. As Cannes gathers the best in the industry from around the world, people and their achievements will most likely dominate the conversation. I hope that within that, and have confidence that there will be, conversation about the work, and why that work won vs. who is dominating the award leader board.

I think the advertising industry often reflects culture, and at our best, we lead culture. Conversation in culture currently is rife with equality and diversity issues. The conversation for our industry, and at Cannes, should be around how we can lead our culture away from division and disadvantage and toward opportunity, creativity and a full life for all of us. The conversation around women’s rights, gay rights, religious rights, all of our rights, is a conversation about equality. For our industry, we have a real cultural opening to show how equality belongs to every one, every single one of us; that equality is not about taking anything away from anyone, but about giving to everyone. Equality, we have all agreed, is a right, but until it shows up that way, this industry has the talent, power and exposure, right now, to make equality something we can create, together.

Michael Hines
Group Planning Director
TBWA\Media Arts Lab

What agency wins the most awards.

The question of what a Cannes Lion stands for and is worth. As a currency, the Cannes Lion is approaching hyper-inflation: There are more categories than ever before with a diminishing sense of clarity about what makes one different from the other — it also feels that more work is being awarded without being held to appreciable standards of client problem-solving, cultural impact, commercial effectiveness or whether any ordinary people ever saw or interacted with it. Our industry is best when it keeps an eye on culture and an ear to the ground, but the festival is starting to feel like a self-congratulatory echo chamber which reality cannot penetrate. If this year’s list of nominees and awards continues this trend, conversation at the festival should be focused on how to reverse it and restore a sense of pride in the genuine power of creativity to solve commercial problems and change human behavior at scale.

Adam Wolinsky
Venables Bell and Partners

Avery Oldfield
Art Director
Venables Bell and Partners

What the hell are we going to be making ten years from now? It feels like brand actions are rapidly taking the place of brand statements. The 60-second spot is being co-opted by emojis (Adobe/Ad Council’s "I Am Witness") Instagram likes (Australian Melanoma Patients) and orange juice bottles (Intermarche.) Makes for a thrilling time to work in advertising, or own an orange juice company.

How to keep both clients and creatives from going away. Some clients think they can achieve the same results easier/faster/cheaper without us. We know that’s not the case, but we need to show them our value to prove it. At the same time, young talent is being pursued by agency alternatives like tech companies. Agencies might never be able to match the stock options of a Facebook or a Google, but if there are enough creative opportunities people will stick around.

Kirby Gsell
Account Executive
Energy BBDO

The focus of the conversation this year will be how creativity has become synonymous with technological innovation. Brands everywhere are attempting to leverage technology in a way that consumers have not yet seen. Creative agencies are challenging themselves to new levels of innovation to appeal to the fast-paced, fast-thinking consumer. For a creative agency to fall behind in the race of being "cutting edge" means big trouble.

The conversation that should dominate this year is of the positive things that our industry is doing right now. The advertising business as a whole is often viewed in a negative light, when in reality we’re making a positive impact on society. Today, the most celebrated creative work strives to improve people's lives. Brands are focused on building stronger, more honest connections with consumers and advertising is a powerful tool for creating these relationships. The next step for us as marketers will be understanding how to evolve these relationships while maintaining the positive impact we’ve established.

Ashley Davis-Marshall
Creative Director
Wieden+Kennedy Portland

Ads that are making a social statement. Seems like every ad has to serve a greater purpose these days. If we’re not starting a movement to help sea lions with hip dysplasia, while simultaneously telling people about our product’s amazing teeth whitening abilities, we’re just not doing it right. Personally, I feel like sea lions can fight their own battles. We just need to help them whiten their teeth.

How can we save the craft, as efficiencies in advertising become the norm? Creatives are juggling a maddening number of productions at once now. TV shoots are social media shoots are voice records are edits. (And also don’t forget you need to get that version for Canada!) With so many demands on one-project-turned-twenty, it’s easy to become weary and less dedicated to the quality. It’d be great to sort out a solution to that.


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