Rahat Kapur
Jun 24, 2024

Campaign at Cannes 2024: Editor's blog

Chill your rosé and pop the cork—it's Cannes Lions 2024! Join Campaign Asia-Pacific's Rahat Kapur as she takes you on a walk down the Boulevard de la Croisette live from this year's extravaganza, behind-the-scenes at the best talks at the Palais, unpacks the winning work with jurors, and more.

Campaign at Cannes 2024: Editor's blog

Days Four and Five

Six blisters, three band-aids, two paper cuts, two Panadols, and over 10 hours of video and audio footage recorded later, It’s safe to say my first experience at Cannes has been highly productive.

Before we dive into the final two days, I wanted to summarise my experience at Cannes with one key takeaway:

Despite the pervasive skepticism about the future of creativity and the ongoing existential challenges we face, this past week reminds me why there’s still so much untapped work, inspiration, potential, impact, and insight in our industry. From the immensely talented minds on stage to the incredible Grand Prix-winning campaigns and the rapid exchange of ideas and passions, it’s hard not to feel hopeful that we’ve yet to unlock our best.

Yes, AI was showcased this year, whether through discussions on the industry's direction or integrated into some of the standout work. Technology was indeed omnipresent, and how could it not be, with Elon Musk as the star attraction for 2024? Yet, the most profound aspect, and one that's difficult to put into words, is witnessing approximately 15,000 industry professionals from around the world gather to exchange new ideas, share work, watch creative minds speak, and explore art and expression. It’s hard not to be convinced that our professions still hold a sacred place.

We are often too quick to let others convince us that we no longer have a standing. But the truth is, marketing and advertising lie at the heart of every business and every consumer interaction. As long as there’s human consumption, we have a crucial role to play. Our industry has been around since the dawn of time—ideas have always been the currency of humanity—so we need to recognise that togetherness is key to our continued success. What I saw this week was a display of elevation. Everyone was there to uplift each other, not compete. Yes, there’s a friendly air of competition with the awards, but ultimately, we all wanted to see one another thrive. This is why it’s essential to remember this when we face doubts about our future.

There’s an indescribable joy in witnessing human creativity prevail—whether on stage or through conversations. The sheer number of people eager to hear each other speak underscores the human element. While technology facilitates presentations, microphones, and the theater experience, at its core, it’s by humans for humans. As we stand at this intriguing inflection point, this experience reminds me that we, as an industry, hold the key to our unity. It's up to us to choose whether to lock or unlock our future.

Now, with sentimentality aside, let’s recap days four and five!

Friday, 21 June

All Aboard with Accenture Song!
9:45 am
Catamaran Lane

Accenture Song ANZ's Christian Nejm

It’s officially the end of Cannes 2024 week, and what a whirlwind it’s been!

The day is still packed with interviews and the grand finale awards ceremony, but first on the agenda is a catch-up with Christian Nejm, chief client officer for Accenture Song Australia and New Zealand.

Fun fact: Christian was actually my boss from 2015-2016 during my tenure as a strategy consultant at Accenture Australia. These days, he handles all things client-related at the consulting behemoth’s agency arm. We have a quick catch-up aboard Song’s catamaran and discussed a myriad of topics, including The Monkeys’ Sydney shortlist for the Grand Prix for the Film Category for their already-lauded “Play it Safe” campaign for the Sydney Opera House. The work took home a Film Craft silver on Tuesday and is slated to score big at the finale later that evening. Nejm is hopeful there will be much to celebrate, and I share his optimism, having touted the piece as one of my favourite picks in the Campaign global podcast earlier in the week.

We also delve into the evolving role of AI in the consulting industry, particularly the re-emergence of blockchain as a hot-button topic, which was already being offered as an advisory service to clients by Accenture as early as 2012. Nejm emphasises the importance of agencies continuing to partner with modern CMOs to enable them to make more informed tech-based decisions that make both creative and bottom-line sense. We agreed to confer further as Nejm headed off to buy souvenirs for his daughters back home, and I dash to the opposite end of the Croisette for a video interview with McCann.

Unpacking Asia with Shilpa Sinha 
11:00 am 
Kirk Douglas Suite, Carlton Hotel

Speaking the day before on McCann’s soon-to-be-rolled-out 'Ascending Asia' report during the IPG session at the Carlton, I meet with APAC strategy head Shilpa Sinha to dive deeper into the key findings and cultural behavioural observations from the paper. During the interview, we cover a number of topics, including how Asia is setting benchmarks in economic success and technological disruption despite social challenges, and how climate change, new conflicts, and economic inequalities top the list of concerns for Asians. Yet, there’s still a strong optimism fueled by economic growth, innovation potential, and enduring value systems in our region. For example, 85% believe life will improve in 10 years, compared to 52% in Europe, and 76% feel Asian societies are better equipped to handle modern life stresses.

Sinha also outlines three ways brands can leverage the ‘Asian dream’ for greater impact—through collectivism, innovating 'human tech,' and by celebrating cultural affluence. Sinha highlights a pride in the region's rich cultural heritage, including food, tradition, history, and hospitality. We also discuss Sinha's first year in her role, having started under 12 months ago after relocating from Moscow to Singapore—she's lived and worked across various regions, from India to Russia, China, the UK, and now Singapore.

Stay tuned for the full video interview post-Cannes.

Deconstructing Digital Craft
3:00 pm 
Press Center, Palais de Festival Congrès

After a couple of hours spent reading urgent emails, making notes for the blog, and catching up with fellow journalists in the press center, I met with international chief creative officer for Hakuhodo and founder of Hakuhodo Kettle, Kentaro Kimura. A veteran of the ad industry, Kimura was the jury president for the Digital Craft category (the awards were announced on Tuesday) for 2024. He shared his behind-the-scenes thoughts with Campaign, including on the Grand Prix win for Spotify’s “Spreadbeats” the camaraderie between the jurors, advice for future category applicants, and more in the video above.

The Grand Finale
6:00 pm 
Lumiere Theatre, Palais de Festival Congrès

Team Ogilvy Singapore. Photo credit: Cannes Lions Press

The Monkeys Sydney. Photo credit: Cannes Lions Press

Maria Ressa. Photo credit: Cannes Lions Press

The Lumiere is packed to the brim and buzzing with excitement as I head back to the Palais for the last time on this trip. Having never attended a closing Cannes Lions Award ceremony, it's hard not to feel moved by the energy in the expansive theatre, whose walls ironically feel almost too small for the force of the vibrance in the room. The electric anticipation reverberates off the hopeful winners scattered across rows as I took my seat. When the lights dim, the theatre erupts with deafening roars of applause.

Over the next two hours, I experience an emotional rollercoaster. From Ogilvy Singapore’s history-making win in the Glass: Lion for Change category (the first ever to take home a Grand Prix for the Lion City) to Thailand’s bright spot of humour winning multiple golds to The Monkeys’ finale Grand Prix, Asia-Pacific has some momentous celebrations on stage.

Beyond the joy of seeing elated winners pick up metals across traditional categories, the Special Awards are a highlight. From Jacques Séguéla’s absolutely hilarious and heartfelt speech accepting the Lion of St. Mark Award (with a career spanning more than 60 years in the industry, Séguéla has produced consistently iconic work for brands like Air France, Apple, Carrefour, Citroën, Louis Vuitton and Microsoft, as well as highly successful political campaigns and authoring numerous best-selling books on advertising) to Maria Ressa’s tear-inducing impassioned monologue on preserving the sanctity of journalism and news (this was my personal favorite moment of the evening) to seeing the next wave of talent emerge with the Young Lions, there's a palpable sense of celebration in the air—drawing to a close one of the most exciting and interesting weeks of the advertising calendar for 2024. You can read all about APAC's biggest wins from the ceremony here.

With that, I dash off to the Palais steps to get some quotes from the Asia-Pacific winners, head back to write-up the results and pack for my flight home. Au revoir Cannes, until we meet again!

Thursday, 20 June

Crafting creativity with Publicis Groupe ANZ
9:00 am
Press Center, Palais de Festival Congrès

Publicis Groupe ANZ's Imogen Hewitt and Dave Bowman

I spend the first half-hour of my morning running through the winding streets of Cannes under relentless rain to reach the Palais. I'm there to sit down with the best and brightest from Publicis Australia and New Zealand—namely chief creative officer Dave Bowman, chief media officer for Publicis Groupe ANZ and CEO of Spark Foundry ANZ Imogen Hewitt, and creative powerhouse duo from Saatchi & Saatchi Australia, Mandie van der Merwe and Avish Gordhan.

The conversations are freewheeling and full of fun, as Bowman and Hewitt banter about their week at Cannes (Hewitt was on the media jury this year) and share their insights from the week. This includes how to navigate experiencing envy and inspiration from seeing the great work on display, the evolving role data and algorithims are having on helping meet and exceed client briefs and excellent creative, why it's becoming harder and harder to create a line in the sand when it comes to media and creative, and their recently-launched triumvirate business model alongside Maurice Riley, chief data officer for Publicis Groupe ANZ.

Saatchi & Saatchi Australia's Avish Gordhan and Mandie van der Merwe

Meanwhile van der Merwe and Gordhan dive into the meaning of being a creative in times of uncertainty. Gordhan discusses the 'democratisation' of creativity in the modern environment and answers the question: Who owns creativity in an agency? Meanwhile, van der Merwe explains the dynamics of working as a creative duo and the art of balance, the role of commercial creativity versus pure play artistic expression, and why Dave Bowman has always been and remains the duo's "Creative Sherpa".

More from the above post-Cannes!

Sports marketing: Reaching New Heights
Stagwell Sports Beach, Boulevard de la Croisette

The Kelces at Stagwell Sports Beach

My next session is entirely inspired by Campaign US editor-in-chief Alison Weissbrot. A self-declared "massive Swiftie" Alison's passion convinces me to see Travis Kelce, boyfriend of Taylor Swift and Chiefs tight-end as they record their New Heights podcast at the Stagwell Sports Beach Club alongside his football-famous brother, Jason Kelce. The two grace the stage to discuss what it means to be brand ambassadors as sportsmen, the evolving role of sports marketing, and balancing brand representation with authenticity, especially on social media, where they have their main platform. They also delve into navigating the public eye as both creatives and sportsmen.

The line to enter the session isn't quite as long as Musk's, but it still stretches down the Croisette. I find myself outside, taking photos of the screen. Alison, however, was smart enough to arrive early and kindly shares her photos with me. This year, the theme of sports marketing has been prominent at Cannes, with its growing importance highlighted by the popularity of Stagwell Sports Beach among attendees and celebrities. Both Musk and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian were also spotted at the beach earlier in the week.

An afternoon with the best of BBDO
3:30pm onwards
Le Canberra Hotel

I begin the afternoon by meeting David Guerrero and Josy Paul, two stalwarts of BBDO alongside Haymarket Asia's managing director Atifa Hargrave-Silk and Campaign India editor, Vinita Bhatia. Guerrero is the chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO Guerrero in the Philippines, renowned for his influential campaigns and multiple award wins. Josy Paul, the chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO India, is a celebrated veteran, known for his groundbreaking work and significant contributions to the advertising industry in India.

Guerrero, who is on the Film jury this year, shares the challenges of filtering through the various entries, ensuring fairness in the judging process, and embracing diversity within the jury. He also offers insights on how the APAC region has performed throughout the week. We also discuss Elon Musk's now infamous appearance at the Lumiere Theatre the day before, unpack India's industry and economic conditions, and contemplate the future of creativity as a whole. You can check out David's behind-the-scenes insights on the jury above!

The sweet sounds of branding
Hôtel Montaigne & Spa

Amp founder, Michele Arnese

My final meeting of the day is with Michele Arnese, founder of Amp, now owned by WPP's Landor since 2023. Arnese, a passionate advocate for mainstreaming sonic branding, and I discuss how this aspect of branding is often misunderstood as merely jingles—a topic extensively covered by Campaign. We delve into the challenges of integrating sonic branding naturally into film choices and how brands like MasterCard have successfully tapped into it to create a unique and distinguishable consumer experience. Arnese highlights the complexities of authenticating sonic branding, especially in the era of AI.

Arnese's expertise in the sonic arena is evident, and his passion clearly translates into his work with clients. His advice for brands and agencies is to incorporate sonic branding as an integral part of the creative process and to use experts in the field to enhance the overall creative output. He cautions against treating sonic components as afterthoughts and emphasises the importance of creating a distinct sonic identity that is relevant and effective for brands.

DAY THREE: 19 June

Welcome back to the blog, and by virtue of this delayed post, you wouldn't be remiss for assuming the last 48 hours have been a whirlwind. Many an experienced Cannes veteran warned me that by Wednesday the heat of the Southern French Riviera hits soaring temperatures, and nothing could've been truer both on the Palais stage and out on the Croisette yesterday. I've got two words for you: Elon Musk. But more on that later.

(Ad)ventures with Alexis Ohanian
Bloomberg Bistro

The morning started with a hurried 17-minute walk to the Bloomberg Bistro, as I’ve quickly discovered no matter how much you plan, you’ll always be running late at Cannes. One lost earring and a power pace later however, I was there to watch Reddit co-founder and owner of Seven Seven Six (also known as 776), Alexis Ohanian speak alongside founding partner Katelin Holloway as they discussed the early-stage venture capital firm founded in 2021. The company aims to support startups at various stages of development, with a significant focus on sectors like women's sport, crypto, gaming, and fintech. Candidly interviewed by Bloomberg’s Emily Chang, the session featured insights into Ohanian’s investments in the women’s sporting arenas, unpacked discussions on why the co-founder parted ways with Reddit, dove into Holloway’s learnings from her various roles at Pixar, and touched on the critical nature of building authentic communities on social engagement platforms.

Ohanian discusses use cases for AI.

Also featured: How to use artificial intelligence to navigate intergalactic asteroids, how to manage co-founder “breakups”, the upcoming Olympic games, and how to prioritise online content guidelines over the potential for profit. And yes, Serena Williams was mentioned more than once.

I won’t spill the rest as Ohanian kindly spent some exclusive time with Campaign post-panel to chat about all-things Asia, so stay tuned for more about the session and these insights post-Cannes!

The Musk-see session
10:30am – 12:30pm
Lumière Theatre, Palais des Festivals et des Congrès

The man, the myth, the legend himself—the alleged $56 billion man—Elon Musk was undoubtedly the highlight of day three, if not the week thus far. Interviewed by WPP’s CEO Mark Read, the queue to see Musk began forming at 10:00am for the 11:45am session, and snaked up a series of the Palais’ floors, with keen delegates and attendees willing to risk all and any politeness to see the man behind Tesla speak on stage. Admittedly, I too was in this line, and let me tell you, I’ve never seen more drama as tempers flared, space became scarce, and queue number possessiveness took flight. After an hour-and-a-half wait though, I was in, and it was worth every moment spent laboring on the Palais steps.

Once inside, Musk did not disappoint. Known for his unfiltered statements, he reminded us of his boldness during last year’s CNBC interview, where he responded to potential advertiser blackmail with an emphatic, “If somebody’s going to try to blackmail me with advertising? Blackmail me with money? Go f--- yourself. Go. F---. Yourself. Is that clear?” Needless to say, the candour in his remarks did not sit well with many in the advertising industry at the time, and Read was forthcoming about addressing it.

Musk clarified that his profane statement wasn't aimed at advertisers as a whole, but was about defending free speech on the platform. He acknowledged that advertisers have the right to ensure their ads appear next to content compatible with their brands, but he opposed any demands for broad censorship. Other topics covered included Musk’s thoughts on journalism becoming a copy-paste reflection of the Internet, space travel, the dichotomy of mortality, and a humorous quip about swimming in a bin full of his money to get exercise when asked what he does with his immense fortune by an audience member.

You can read more on the session in coverage by Campaign UK’s Lucy Shelley here.

An Ultra Super fun chat

After a spot of lunch, running to capture some partner content, and a walk around the TikTok garden at the infamous Carlton Hotel, it was time to dash back up the Croisette to the WACL Café to meet Ultra Super New’s founder and director, Marc Wesseling. Over a brisk 20-minute chat, Wesseling unpacked Japan’s growing presence at Cannes this year (Ultra Super New is a full-service creative and independent ad agency headed out of Tokyo with over 70 people servicing clients including Lazada, Adobe, PayPal, LinkedIn, Porsche, and more), the agency’s growth in other markets including Singapore, Taipei, and Colombo, the barriers to overcoming Asian representation at Cannes, how to elevate work from the APAC region through greater diversity of judges, and why there’s a need to push for independents to shine amongst the network agencies at the Festival.

Ascending Asia
Carlton Hotel

For the last session of the day, I headed to catch McCann Worldgroup’s announcement of their latest study "The truth about ascending Asia.” The event served as the global preview for an extensive research study set to roll out across Asia later this year, exploring how innovative thinking from this dynamic region can influence global marketing and creativity.

The session kicked-off with the panel "Meet the culture shapers” moderated by Haymarket’s very own managing director for APAC, Atifa Hargrave-Silk. Panelists included Andy Del Rosario from McCann Worldgroup Philippines, Sea Yen Ong from TikTok Southeast Asia, and Partha Sinha from The Times of India Group. The discussion focused on pioneering brand-building principles and creative innovations in social media, influencers, and commerce with an Asia-first perspective.

Next, Shilpa Sinha, McCann Worldgroup’s APAC chief strategy officer, took the stage to share insights from the report, highlighting Asia’s impressive benchmarks in economic success and technological disruption, despite significant social challenges. Climate change, economic inequalities, and new conflicts topped the list of concerns for Asians, yet there remains an undeniable optimism driven by economic growth and innovation.

The event wrapped up with a compelling discussion on building enduring global brands featuring Asmita Dubey of L'Oréal Groupe and Prasoon Joshi, APAC chairman of McCann Worldgroup, moderated by Valerie Madon, APAC chief creative officer at McCann Worldgroup. They explored how global brands can harness Asian thinking to thrive in culture, category, and community through a series of case studies, including Cannes 2024 gold-winning work for Buckaroo.

Campaign at Cannes: Party edition
6:30pm to late
Boulevard de la Croisette

Campaign UK editor-in-chief Gideon Spanier (left), me, and Campaign India editor Vinita Bhatia.

After ditching all signs of heavy bags laden with laptops, chargers, tripods, and other journalistic accoutrements, it was time to get changed and head to the annual coveted Campaign cocktails, which kicked-off promptly at 6:30pm at the Carlton Beach Club opposite the Carlton Hotel along the Croisette. Infamous for bringing together the ‘who's who’ of the advertising industry, clients, brands, and generally cool people every year, 2024’s party lived up to every expectation and more, as the music blared, rosé tippled, and chats flourished. It was also a great chance to spend time with colleagues from our international editions including the UK, US, Canada and India, and appreciate that true feeling of belonging to a global network. Between DJ sets, selfies, and some seriously generous pours of wine, the evening turned to night, and we joined the jostling crowd to head to our next destinations by 10:00pm. For Campaign India editor Vinita Bhatia and I, this meant a short walk over to the MediaMonks party down the Croisette, bustling with live techno music, magnums of champagne, and a myriad of good vibes. It was off to home by 1:00am though, in anticipation of an exhilarating second last day ahead.

Catch up tomorrow as I wrap up days four and five of the Festival, share insights from my chats with four of Publicis ANZ’s best and brightest minds, get behind-the-jury room with David Guerrero, and much more!

DAY TWO: Tuesday 18 June

Sir Martin and Sir Martian…?
9:00 am
Les Monks Café

Sir Martin Sorrell et moi.

It’s day two and perhaps, the morning of my most anticipated Cannes meeting. To know advertising is to know Sir Martin Sorrell (or ‘SMS’ as he’s affectionately termed across the industry). As I’m in the Uber over to the Les Monks, I’m recounting all the questions I need to ask in my head: AI—yes or no? Humour is back at Cannes—needed or not? Digital growth—how much is too much? Of course, as soon as I step into the café and meet the man himself, all preparation is tossed out of the window, and I find myself intertwined in a rabbit hole of inquiries—each more curious than the prior.

In a fast-moving 45-minute discussion alongside Matthew Godfrey, MediaMonks' EVP and head of Content for Asia-Pacific, we tackle a myriad of topics, ignited by today's announcement from Cannes about MediaMonks' partnership with Adobe to transform content supply chains in their core practices. Sir Martin highlights five pivotal trends shaping the industry, from practical AI applications that cut through the usual hype—wryly noting that those calling AI "bullshit" might recognise their own kind—to hyper-personalisation, described as "Netflix on steroids" which could increase revenues as industries evolve and clients experience a fear of missing out or FOMO if they don't adapt.

He also notes the transformative potential of algorithm-driven media planning and buying, which could streamline the workforce, and the strategic use of AI partnerships to drive efficiencies. Lastly, he touches on the democratisation of knowledge within organisations, enhancing accessibility and corporate intelligence. Much more to come from SMS post-Cannes.

Before I can round off my time at the café however, I'm introduced to an extraordinary figure literally from out of this world: Enter Sir Martian, also known as "Wormhole." An AI-powered alien with a flair for flirting, he invites me to sit across from him. As he sketches my portrait, Sir Martian peppers our conversation with charming comments about my attire and the striking depth and colour of his eyes, all while sporting a fashion-forward beret and scarf. Wormhole is a creation of MediaMonks, designed to showcase MonksFlow, an AI-driven platform that streamlines marketing and content creation workflows. Though he dazzles in physical form at Cannes, Sir Martian is actually an API offering. With a flutter of his alien-tastic eyelashes and a wave goodbye (needless to say I am disarmed), I take my portrait and the remnants of a memorable encounter so I can make my way to the Palais.

My luck with portraits this Cannes has been interesting to say the least.

The rings of flame
The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès

The Olympics 2024 torch passing through the Croisette

By 11:30am, I'm back at the Palais to watch the igniting of the Olympics 2024 torch as it passes through the Croisette. It's a vibrant crowd and whilst the torch is looking less Greek statue-inspired and more digitally-savvy than I last remember it, it arrives to much cheer, pomp and circumstance upon the steps of the Palais. Actress and cinema legend Halle Berry is briefly present to light the flames, but I somehow manage to miss capturing this moment. Still, it's a sentimental display of human unity, and I feel moved by the sense of global community all standing together to witness this moment.

Are you ready to laugh again?
Debussy Theatre, The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès

Kenan Thompson takes the stage at Cannes Lions to unpack humour in a session hosted by VML.

Humour is very much center stage at Cannes 2024, and leading the charge for day two is the incomparable Kenan Thompson. With over two decades on the cult-hit Saturday Night Live (SNL) Thompson, an actor, producer, author, and musical artist, steps onto the stage to enthusiastic applause for the VML-moderated session. For those who remember the Nickelodeon classic Kenan & Kel (yes, I'm showing my age), you'll appreciate the cultural influence of Thompson.

In his opening monologue, he speaks to the resilience and adaptability of SNL attributing its longevity to continual format shifts and an increasingly diverse cast that unifies through humour and spans a wide range of racial, ethnic, and LGBTQ+ backgrounds. He points to sketches like "Black Jeopardy" as prime examples of how embracing diversity leads to more authentic, inclusive comedy that resonates with broader audiences and also, brands. Following this, the panel titled "Ready to laugh again: The return of comedy in advertising" moderated by VML's Global CEO Jon Cook and featuring Thompson alongside Hellmann’s Benjamin Crook and VML’s Debbi Vandeven, delves into how brands can use humour to capture market share, influence cultural dialogue, and connect with audiences in an ever-evolving world.

The session is a standout highlight, especially as Thompson rises to awaken an unsuspecting sleeping attendee from his slumber halfway through the panel discussion in a masterful impromptu stand-up sketch. A great way to kick-off the first half of the day.

A toast to India
Carlton Beach Club, Boulevard de la Croisette

A sunny (blazing) walk down the Croisette later, the Campaign team once again gathers for a spot of lunch at the buzzing Carlton Beach Club, this time with a mission to talk all things Campaign India.

Hosted by Haymarket managing director Atifa Hargrave-Silk (alongside Campaign India's new editor Vinita Bhatia and global portfolio director Jess MacDermot) we're joined by a notable ensemble of industry leaders including Rana Barua, Group CEO of Havas India, South East and North Asia, Mohit Joshi, CEO of Havas Media Group, Dheeraj Sinha, Group CEO for India and South Asia at FCB, and Amitesh Rao, CEO of Leo Burnett South Asia. Conversation flows from the current economic position of India on the global stage to the fresh wave of industry leadership and nostalgic reflections on past Cannes Lions events. 

Consequently, the lunch is also the first instance of my encountering rosé at Cannes, and I'm happy to report this is one cliché I'm absolutely happy to be onboard with. 

Operation podcast prep
3:00pm - 6:00pm
Press Centre, The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès

Following a lively lunch, it's back to the Palais again to the buzzing press center to prep for the third episode of the Campaign global Cannes podcast. In my furious attempt to masterfully download and speak eloquently about all the winners of the day across categories including the Film Craft, Entertainment Craft, Digital Craft, and Industry Craft Lions, I forget to take a snap of us huddled over the small round-table in Interview Room 3 as we unpack the day's wins. As we enter the room however, Campaign's eagle-eyed US editor-in-chief Alison Weissbrot celebrity spots none other than music and film icon Queen Latifah herself exiting and roaming about the press center. This, I manage to get a click of!

Hollywood entertainment star Queen Latifah.

Today's podcast features Campaign's UK editor-in-chief Gideon Spanier, UK editor Maisie McCabe, UK reporter Charlotte Rawlings, Alison Weissbrot, and myself. You can listen to the latest episode of the podcast below, including highlights on APAC's performance on day two.

The day then ends with one last debrief with the Campaign team over dinner and my second encounter with the famed pink wine, and it's off to prep for another exciting day live from the Palais tomorrow. Highlights will include sessions with Reddit's Alex Ohanian, the man and marvel himself, Elon Musk, as he unpacks productivity with WPP's Mark Read, insights from McCann's session on ascending in Asia, and much more on day three.

DAY ONE: Monday 17 June

Selfies with Snap
JW Marriott Terrace 

Bonjour de Cannes! Is it really your first time to the Festival if you don't start your daily blog with a cheesy French greeting? Exactly.

Now that that's out of the way, I kicked-off the day with numerous checks of e-mails to ensure my Cannes diary and schedule were up-to-date—leaving enough time to walk back and forth between locations. As a first-time attendee, this was part of the sound advice given to me by my fellow global
Campaign Cannes-expert editors during our inaugural podcast in preparation for the week-long extravaganza. If you haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, you can catch up om the podcast here, as we discuss all the things we're looking forward to this week, the work that we hope will shine, Elon Musk's impending chat at the Festival, and more.

After putting on my most-marathon worthy sneakers, I dashed to the stunning JW Marriott hotel facing the beachfront on Boulevard de la Croisette, which has been taken over by none other than soleil-yellow Snapchat. There, I caught up with Ajit Mohan, president of Asia-Pacific to unpack the brand's ongoing growth plans, with particular emphasis on India and Japan. Mohan, a renowned media stalwart, joined Snap Inc. in early 2023 was previously vice president and managing director for Meta India and CEO of Disney's Hotstar in India, where he was well-documented for driving the brand to exponential maturation and visiblity. 

Snapchat takes over the JW Marriott at Cannes 2024
Smile: With president for APAC, Ajit Mohan. Of course, this photo was taken on Snapchat.

Diving into how the company has evolved over the course of the last 12 years since it was co-founded by former Stanford students Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown, Mohan stressed the brand has "always been about connection" and doesn't see itself a social media platform. Intead, it continues to rely on its hook of authenticity and the purpose of fostering community to drive differentiation in the market—having risen to almost 800 million users globally as of 2024—largely female skewed. 

In addition to discussing the significance of data privacy and working to tap into the booming creator economy particularly in India, Mohan also shared insights into the key areas of investment for Snap Inc. as it plans to leverage "the three As": Artificial intelligence, ads and augemented reality. Whilst the first has been well-noted by Spiegel recently, the second "A" is a key focus for Mohan: "I think the shift from brand to performance is a very real and persistent one, and we're really tuning the entire ad platform and supporting infrastructure, as well as building the right teams to ensure that we can really deliver to marketers on a community that is difficult to reach."

More to come from our chat with Ajit post-Cannes.

Catch-ups with Campaign
The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès

It's a mad dash from the Marriott back to the Palais, the centrepoint of all things activity-based at Cannes. Inside, music legend John Legend and model-entrepreneur wife Chrissy Teigen are appearing as guests on the podcast "On With Kara Swisher" hosted by Vox Media Podcast Network. The session, which featured a live recording at the Debussy Theatre explored the topic: “How do you launch consumer-facing brands that build loyal audiences, drive action, and foster connections?”

However, before any sessions can be attended, I need to stop quickly to grab press badges before rushing off to lunch with the Campaign UK team's global portfolio director Jess MacDermot and global intelligence editor Kate Magee, where we chat on agencies, insights, and aligning Cannes diaries for the remainder of the week over Nicoise salads and some much-needed icy water.

Unlock your AI-magination
Google Beach, Boulevard de la Croisette
Google's live AI demonstrations hosted beachfront

This year Google has set up live demonstrations on their latest and greatest AI applications in a beachfront pop-up booth, largely focused on their proprietary offering Gemini (formerly Bard). The tech giant has a number of fresh consumer and marketer-facing innovations to showcase, which I get a guided tour of by the Google team on-ground.

Among the most interesting of these are Google's Art & Culture and Circle to Search applications. The former allows users to transpose themselves into artworks, with the application currently supporting over 2,000 cultural institutions in over 80 countries, with more than 200,000 high-resolution digital images of original artworks, seven million archival artifacts, over 1,800 Street View museum captures, and more than 3,000 online exhibitions curated by experts. I opt for Johannes Vermeer's infamous 'Girl with a pearl earring' portrait and instead, find myself wishing I was a girl who made a different decision upon seeing the result. The kind Google guide does assure me the output can only get better the more times and variations a consumer tries. I (try) to believe him.

Johannes Vermeer couldn't have imagined this was possible with AI.

Next, Circle to Search is a feature on Pixel devices that allows users to quickly search for information by circling text or images on their screen with a finger. When activated by holding the home button, the feature uses AI to analyse the circled content and performs a Google search, instantly displaying relevant results. This offers a convenient way to query information directly from the interface without typing.

However, the most impressive of the lot is targeted at driving efficiences for creatives, artists, consumers and marketers alike. Google's AI-assisted creativity and insights offering leans on Google Cloud, leveraging both Gemini and Imagen text-to-image diffusion models. The toolkit taps into a text-to-image AI model that transforms written descriptions into detailed images, helping creatives by enabling rapid prototyping of visual ideas, reducing the time and cost associated with traditional content creation. This tool also supports artistic exploration, allowing users to generate unique and varied visual styles and concepts based on textual input. It can be custom-built or utilised off-the-shelf, and supplemented with adjacent AI-generated value-adds including bespoke social media captions (tailored by individual social platform e.g. Instagram or Facebook), cutting down copywriting and social post design for marketers. 

Google Cloud's Imagen allows you to use text-to-image prompting to generate social posts.

I experiment with creating my own bespoke AI-generated bouquet before heading to see the latest green screen innovations on YouTube Shorts and walking over for my next appointment.

YouTube Shorts' new Gen AI feature enables you to record against green screen directly from the app.

Postcards from Google's AI-generated Gemini tool.

A sporting good time
Stagwell Sports Beach, Boulevard de la Croisette

Stagwell Sports Beach will host a number of key speakers and brands this year.

If there's one area that's experiencing an unedeniable boom in the global ad world, it's sports marketing. Propelled by digital expansion, the sector is poised to grow exponentially to a market value of over $506 billion in 2024. Which is why this year Stagwell is putting on the ultimate sports beach experience, complete with a slew of notable athletes and personalities connecting brands with consumers. Participants include four-time NBA champion Draymond Green, soccer legends Eric Cantona and Karen Carney, football stars DeAndre Hopkins, Jason Kelce, and Travis Kelce (more recently known of Taylor Swift fame), and professionals from other fields like soccer player Mary Earps, basketball player Flau'jae Johnson, pilates instructor Amanda Kassar, and dancer Jess King. 

Haymarket managing director Atifa Hargrave-Silk and I head over to have a quick catch-up with the Stagwell team, soak up the beach basketball, and chat about the day's sessions. This includes a notable discussion between global CEO for Forsman and Bodenfors Toby Southgate, football legend Frank Lampard, and global director for Beer, Baileys, and Smirnoff for Diageo, Grainne Wafer, as they unpack how brands and athletes are tapping into the fandoms of football and rugby to bring communities together, with a focus on how Guinness is using sport as a creative force for good.

One more sparkling water later, it's time to head to the final event of the evening.

Fresh off the press 
6:00pm to 7:00pm
Wall Street Journal House, Boulevard de la Croisette

The Wall Street Journal's bespoke Cannes cover for Journal House 2024

It's officially past 6pm, which means a Paloma is in order, alongside a chat with vice president of External Relations for Dow Jones, Lauren McCabe and senior vice president and head of communications for Dow Jones, Ashok Sinha. On the agenda: The Journal's recent realignment of its headquarters from Hong Kong to Singapore, the appointment of incoming Asia editor, Deborah Ball, the evolving role of artificial intelligence in content and audience development across the Dow Jones brands, and localisation strategies for Asia across editorial. There's more to come here, so watch this space.

Et oui, that's all for the first day! I'll be back tomorrow with insights from a sure-to-be-memorable chat with Sir Martin Sorrell at the infamous Les Monks Cafe, live sessions with Tik Tok, Amazon and more, as well as another round of recording Campaign's on-ground podcast. Stay tuned for all the latest from Cannes!

Campaign Asia

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