Cannes Lions is Here!

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What You Need to Know: Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

June 21-27, 2015

Delegates: > 12,000
Countries: 94
Days: 7
Entries: > 40,000

The premier event for marketing and advertising professionals, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, kicked off June 21st. The festival will see industry players assemble to compete for awards in 16 categories, attend seminars and workshops, and, of course, participate in a healthy amount of socializing and networking.

Cannes Lions, in one form or another, has been around since 1954 and has evolved from a one-category competition to its current existence as the sprawling, must-attend event for anyone in brand communication. Inspired by the acclaimed International Film Festival staged in Cannes since the late 1940’s, the original name for the gathering was the International Advertising Film Festival.

As the field has expanded and technology has played a more prominent role in marketing and communications, categories have been added, including those like Mobile and Cyber, to reach a total of 16. The multiplicity of categories itself is a debated topic among participants. The conference now also includes a significant educational component, incorporated into the program in the 1990’s, incorporating seminars, workshops, screenings and master classes into the jam-packed schedule.


Lions Innovation
The Innovation category was added in 2013 to focus on DATA x TECHNOLOGY x IDEAS, but new for this year is the “festival with a festival” concept that gives Lions Innovation its very own platform within the larger setting: “Lions Innovation is a festival within the Festival that takes place during Cannes Lions week. It’s a unique two-day event where data, technology and creativity will intersect.”

Glass Lion
This year will see a new award, the Glass Lion, to recognize progressive work that promotes more inclusive and equal representations of all genders. From Senta Slingerland, Director of Brand Strategy for the Festival and Sheryl Sandburg, founder of nonprofit Lean In, the award is meant to “encourage content creators, and clients buying content, to produce stories that present a more gender-neutral view of the world, a more respectful image of gender and its nuances, a more inclusive world, and a more progressive way forward,” Slingerland told HuffPost, “That is the key real to gender equality: a culture shift.”

Lions Health
Although not brand new (Lions Health’s first year was 2014), the two-day festival prior to Cannes Lions addresses communications in healthcare, wellness, and sustainability. But the grumbling has already begun—the separation of the two festivals has made health-world executives complain of second-class citizen treatment.


Unilever will introduce its Foundry50, which it deems the world’s top 50 marketing-tech startups, to the assembled masses of agency and marketer delegates. Many will have a chance to meet the 50 through prescheduled pitches and speed-dating sessions.

“It’s not purely about improving our database,” Jeremy Basset, global marketing ventures director for Unilever, said of the contests. “It’s really about genuinely giving startups a platform to scale up not only with Unilever but also with the industry. We want to inspire more startups in this area, get behind them and help them.”

Young Lions Competitions
Wow, Odyssey of the Mind has really grown up! The Young Lions Competition is a timed competition in which entrants respond to a brief from a charity (pairs take part in the competition, entrants must be 28 years of age or younger, except for the Marketers category). The contestants first have to compete in their home countries to qualify for places in the final competitions taking place in Cannes. See some amazing work by rising stars in the industry from past years.

Advertising Awards
Seminal advertising work from the past year is showcased at Cannes Lions. A few standout campaigns sure to garner acclaim:

Beats By Dre “The Game Before the Game

Ikea “Experience the Power of a Bookbook

Geico “Unskippable

View more front-runners at Cannes Lions.


Tom Goodwin, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Havas Media, published a thought-provoking piece earlier this month about the increasingly insular community of Cannes Lions and repercussions for advertising:

We’re in the middle of a total distortion in reality. There is no overlap between the brands and campaigns I read about in the press and those that the public…actually experience.

The ad industry’s disconnect from consumers is epitomized by the festival, where we toast an industry that’s in love with technology and itself, not people.

Read More

Cannes Lions from Your Couch: A funny and comprehensive guide

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