Takeaways From Cannes We Cannes’t Stop Thinking About

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Kate Richling
CMO

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This year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity brought the industry’s top minds back together, and we were there to welcoMMe them back by debuting our integrated Media.Monks team in person. The momentous occasion, after canceling our ‘22 CES plans and skipping SXSW, called for an all-new approach. From our digital ads at the Nice airport that set the stage, to our (humble) Les.Monks Café directly across from the Palais, to bringing back our (epic) party with MassiveMusic, we took the opportunity to (re)connect with our clients, partners and press—including Calum Jaspan, who encapsulated the festival’s vibe in Mumbrella:

“Sorrell sat down last week with Mumbrella at a bustling Les.Monks Cafe, Media.Monks’ headquarters at the festival in the South of France. The festival appeared to be in line with Sorrell’s vision for the future of S4Capital, citing the intersection of tech, digital, and creativity as why it may have been well-timed for the freshly merged Media.Monks at Cannes.” Sir Martin concurred in conversation with LinkedIn News at Cannes:

Monk Thoughts This not a festival of creativity. It’s a festival of creativity driven by data and technology. The world has changed dramatically. Our model is data-driven, driving insights that we create content around and personalization at scale.
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Portrait of Sir Martin Sorrell, smiling
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And with that, here’s a quick look of what I learned from the Grand Prix Lions and our Monks, who took the stage and chatted with press to make their thoughts known. And because it’s not a Media.Monks missive without either alliteration or a punny sense of humor, here are the top takeaways I Cannes’t stop thinking about since I crossed the pond back home. If a deck is more your speed, don’t miss our #MonkNews Wrap-Up.

Two media.monks employees drinking wine at Cannes
Three employees chat together at Cannes meet-up

Purposeful, human-centered creativity stole the show.

“The pandemic proved that creativity can help pull a business through a crisis,” the Cannes Lions summed up in their Official Wrap-Up Report. “The most dynamic transformations [use] creative solutions to change the fundamentals of how businesses operate and inspire industry-wide, cultural change that will have a lasting impact.”

This became clear as the wins rolled in. Against the backdrop of the war and residue of the pandemic, this year’s Grand Prix winners raised topical issues, and set out to solve problems rather than just generate awareness. Putting people, creators and communities at the heart of the creative process, the big winners focused on emotion and practical solutions, rather than tech innovation and clever use of platforms that have won in previous years. As a result, the category relevance became almost secondary–and several of the campaigns won big across multiple categories.

“Flashiness for its own sake no longer cuts it,” Sara Cosgrove, Global Director of Awards and Creativity at Media.Monks, shared at our team’s Creative Council meetup at Les.Monks Café. “But while tech may have taken a backseat this time around, that certainly doesn’t mean innovation is any less important than it ever was. As a focus on human behavior takes the wheel, a virtualized approach will help brands leverage emerging technologies to drive culture forward, build legacies and meet people’s needs in creative new ways.”

Innovation met cultural needs to truly drive impact.

While the content program was rife with metaverse and Web3 sessions, the two were largely absent from the Grand Prix winner’s lineup. On one hand, these spaces are nascent; with time to mature, they may have a bigger presence among winners next year. But, Media.Monks Chief Creative Officer Jouke Vuurmans challenged the audience at his Young Lions Session to reconsider misuse of innovative tech for its own sake: “Blinded by a shiny new thing, a nearsighted pursuit of rapid innovation can lead to a misuse of technology. With flashy acts that don’t contribute to overall brand business objectives, the fun is over before it ever even really begins. How can we be better as an industry in this next phase? Let’s do it right.”

Luciana Haguiara, Executive Creative Director, Media.Monks and Digital Craft Jury President, shared a similar sentiment with LBBOnline, recapping her thoughts after exiting the jury room. “In the last year we’ve seen a lot of work that exists as a response to Covid: a wave of virtual events, digital experiences and entertainment, living side-by-side with campaigns and content that reflect the important cultural shifts and difficult conversations.” She went on to say:

Monk Thoughts Digital is a place to meet people and make stuff, not a machine to fuel clicks and conversation. The big takeaway from Cannes will be about how brands will enter the virtualization era in a meaningful way.
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Luciana Haguiara headshot
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Virtualization gave shape to the transformation of digital.

Luciana’s comment hinted at a major theme that we’ve been following over the last couple of years: that we’ve entered the era of virtualization. Virtualization is defined by a set of new audience behaviors, cultural norms and technology paradigms resulting from 30 years of digital transformation, hyper-accelerated over the past five years. Consumers today have heightened their expectations, adopted new behaviors and ultimately demand more from the brands they engage with, each of which are covered in our recent report, “The Transformation of Digital: Virtualization & the New Era of Growth," which released just in time for this year’s festival. Designed to help brands build lasting legacies now and into the future, we amplified report takeaways throughout the week.

Two media.monks employees smiling at the camera
An employee hugging another employee at Cannes

Our Chief Innovation Officer Henry Cowling hosted a meetup that distilled the transformation of digital for the festival audience, explaining that “after two years of hyper online behavior, consumers are craving more than traditional digital can offer: access, information and connectivity are table stakes. For a new generation, digital experience is becoming foundational to their identity––and with the advent of Web3, ownable. For many, it’s not even digital anymore. It’s just life…we’re seeing a new relationship with digital that we’re just starting to scratch the surface with.” 

And much of this year’s winning Cannes Lions work demonstrates the profound ways that post-digital transformation behavior and culture are redefining concepts of experience, community, ownership and identity, and we’ve selected some of our favorite examples in our #MonkNews Cannes Wrap-Up I mentioned above.

Creative effectiveness became top-of-mind.

“Build some preparedness for what’s next by placing small investments in your company and its learning today. It’s the new ROI: Return on Innovation,” wrote Jordan Cuddy, Chief Client Officer, Jam3, in an op-ed for Adweek. Published at the start of the festival, her point proved prescient and anticipated a growing theme as the week went on: that brands need to balance innovation and effectiveness in their strategies, especially as a likely recession comes into focus.

Of course, the metaverse was a popular topic of conversation when it came to meaningful investments in innovation. Sir Martin shared his own bullish perspective on the space, which we saw make headlines in the days following his mainstage talk with Christian Deuringer, Head of Global Brand Communication at Allianz, and John Stinchcomb, Global Chief Revenue Officer of The Wall Street Journal. Sir Martin explained: “The revenue opportunities for brands using the metaverse are currently limited. Conversations that open up about the metaverse often lead elsewhere. We have a long way to go to understand this and it will be extremely important in the long term.”

One of the ways that marketers can dip their toes into the metaverse—or simply adopt a more virtualized mindset, no matter which channels they choose to serve—is by reconsidering the role community plays in their ecosystem. Today’s consumers don’t want to simply purchase a good. They want to invest their time, talent—and yes, money—into helping shape brands and communal environments. At the Les.Monks Café, Jordan Cuddy joined Matthew Sweezey, Co-founder of the Salesforce Web3 Studio, to celebrate the studio’s launch. In the fireside chat, she noted:

Monk Thoughts Community used to be, I would say, a bottom part of the funnel from a marketing perspective. But now it's the first thing you think of. Community is the experience now, and digital is the destination.
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Jordan Cuddy headshot
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A formula to win over hearts (and Lions) comes into view.

If the discourse at Cannes has made anything clear, it’s that now is the time for purpose to take center stage. The last two years have prompted brands and consumers alike to reassess their priorities and evaluate whether initiatives truly make a mark (and a difference) in the culture. And as communities finally meet in-person again, new challenges—a trough of disillusionment and a looming recession—are again substantiating the need for creativity that supports new human behaviors amidst the shifting values of modern society.

Looking ahead, virtualization will offer a path to solving these needs: helping brands better understand their audiences, where they’re at, and how we can ultimately innovate together to overcome these challenges. It’s through this collaborative approach that virtual-first brands will build meaning into every part of their business—a formula that won’t just win Lions, but also the hearts of many.

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