Cannes 2015: Around the sessions

Pharrell Williams.
Pharrell Williams.

Speakers at the big advertising show discussed agencies' algorithmic futures, wooing Millennials, Airbnb vs. Coke, traveling ideas, "lightning" on Twitter and more

CANNES — As the 2015 edition of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity shifts into high gear, media and advertising figures offer their views of the state of the industry and their visions for its future.

Pharrell Williams: Intention is everything in the Internet age.

If you do not believe in what you are doing, Millennials will "call you out in seconds," according to singer and producer Pharrell Williams. He to a packed auditorium, where delegates lined up for up to two hours to get the best seats for his interview with Ryan Seacrest.

"Millennials can hear something and see right through it and say, ‘They’re not real.’ I love that because it raises the stakes.

"Intention is everything. You know your mother's cooking because of what? Because of her intentions."

In 10 years, your agency will be an algorithm.

At a panel discussion on the future of data, Will Sansom, director of strategy and content at Contagious Communications, argued: "We work in an industry, yes it’s a creative industry but it is an industry nonetheless and we would be kidding ourselves if we don’t recognize that industries are all about efficiencies making things better faster, cheaper."

Commenting on this shift to algorithmic-powered marketing Maria Mujica, LATAM regional marketing director at Mondelez International explained: "I think that there will be new roles played by algorithms and robots; but there will be new other roles for people. So I think that this is all about fear of change.

"I see this change as a big possibility." In line with this, she believes that up to 70% of the jobs of the future have not yet been created.

Dr. David E. Martin, founder of M Cam and an expert in algorithmic creativity, argued that over the next five to 10 years marketers will see a shift to intent-based rather than sentiment-based approach to technology and data analysis.

He explained: "Really what this does is it asks the question and then it helps answer the question whether or not creativity as we currently understand it has in fact been creative. Because what we have done is we've tried to seduce people into paying attention. What this pivot represents is a

Why Airbnb may be a better client than Coke.

Paying agencies according to the results their campaigns achieve is not a new idea, but rental accommodation startup Airbnb is giving it fresh twist by compensating agencies based on the number of nights booked by users.

"I think a huge source of brand vitality comes from agencies and media partners," said Jonathan Mildenhall, CMO Airbnb at a special session hosted by the Economist on the sidelines of the Cannes Lions Festival. "As marketers got a huge responsibility to enable those agencies to stay vital and a lot of that comes down to compensation models that we try to introduce."

Speaking of his seven years at Coca-Cola, Mildenhall compared it to "babysitting the brand. People had done such an amazing job before so my task was to look back at the archives and put that formula in today’s cultural lens."

When asked what he would do differently if he went back to Coke, the Airbnb CMO said he would reduce the number of teams. "At Airbnb, we’re in the process of setting up future forward initiatives and don’t want to be dragged down by legacy."

Pack right, pack tight … And ideas will travel.

There are several global campaigns that have worked well in different markets. But, global ideas still have a reputation for "lowest common denominator" creativity, observed Mike Schalit, co-founder of  net#work BBDO and chief creative of BBDO South Africa. This set the tone for a seminar titled "Have idea, will travel."

Joining him in the discussion were Syl Saller, CMO of Diageo and Lara Valais, head of North America marketing, Visa.

"Think about the movie ‘Fast and Furious 7.’ It is the third-highest grossing movie of all time. ‘Fast and Furious’ does well because people from Brazil and India are watching it. Hollywood gets 70% of its revenue internationally. We as marketers need to take a page out off that rule book," noted Balazs, making the case for projecting consistent imagery, tone and feel for a global brand across markets.

Ceding that there were real consumer differences across different markets, Saller quipped, "Even if they aren't, there are marketing teams that will insist there are." She made the case for systematic collaboration in involving multiple stakeholders from across markets, to get a buy-in right at the start.

"The best proposition for a brand is to own your existing customer."

Twitter vice president of data strategy Chris Moody took the stage to talk about "Connecting people in a transparent world."

Moody explained how brands could look at 'lightning' (a one-off event), or look to use something that's shining throughout, like the sun. He began with #TheDress.

Two hours after the piece of content was posted on Tumblr on Feb. 26, it was uploaded on Twitter. It received 303,000 tweets in an hour, "like a lightning strike." 

"We couldn't anticipate this. But, compare this with a discussion about fashion. Fashion is like the sun. Fashion is spoken about all over the world. One part of the world is talking about it at all times. '#TheDress' got 4.8 million tweets. Fashion has 13 times that every month. Fashion is predictable," he observed, adding that one needed to "pick the right moment to get the right power."

"Strangling agency fees" will harm innovation, warns Mondelez's Hernandez.

Brands should look at their agency model to make sure they are not "strangling fees," according to Josep Hernandez, the senior director for communications planning at Mondelez International.

During a panel discussion on disruptive innovation, Hernandez said pushing fees down will impact further on the innovation an agency can provide.

He said: "It doesn’t leave a lot of leeway to bring innovation, we need to be conscious that not 100% of the solution is by the agency, but we need to make sure we pay enough to bring the solutions."

Jane Wakely, the chief marketing officer at Mars Chocolate, explained the company does not "chop and change" the agencies it works with. She also said that spending some time at Google’s innovation camp "opens your eyes."

Hernandez said Mondelez International looks to secondary-school students and employs them to understand how people use the latest technology.

He said: "High school students change the energy immediately when we invite them in."

Cannes Lions 2015 Coverage

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