Your quintessential guide to what happened at Cannes 2018

APAC wins, festival highlights and hot topics, all in one place

Your quintessential guide to what happened at Cannes 2018

Didn't make it to Cannes this year? Perhaps you did but it was all a blur? No problem, Campaign has its subscribers covered. We've wrapped the best (and worst) of Cannes in one package as a handy reference or resource. Enjoy!

A shorter, smaller, festival

This year’s restructured Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity started off with the news that entries this year (32,372) dropped by a fifth from last year (41,170). Organisers ascribed this partly to Publicis Groupe's temporary withdrawal from all awards show for a year to focus on its AI-powered platform Marcel, as well as changes made to the Lions awards programme.

"Last year we made the decision to press the reset button,” said Philip Thomas, the chief executive of Ascential Events and chairman-elect of Cannes Lions. "We did it knowing that this would mean a smaller volume of entries, but it was the right decision for the long term." 

Following the Publicis’ bombshell, Cannes Lions restructured, trimming the Festival back to five days and reducing the number of subcategories by more than 120. It also closed three Lions—Cyber, Integrated and Promo & Activation—and added new ones in Creative Ecommerce, Social & Influencer and The Sustainable Development Goals. Hear about the challenges some jurors in these new categories shared with Campaign.    

The Lions: Asia-Pacific's performance 

So what was the upshot of these changes on Asia-Pacific's award count? Let's start with the good news. Asia generated the standout piece of work in this year's Cannes Lions festival: 'Palau pledge' by Host/Havas Sydney.

The most-mentioned favourite when Campaign Asia-Pacific asked the industry for predictions in advance of Cannes Lions, the work came through with three Grand Prix awards—including the festival's top nod, the Titanium Grand Prix.

Unfortunately, the shining success of that campaign, which turned the island nation's passport stamps into signed promises to protect its environment, wasn't indicative of a particularly strong APAC performance overall. In fact, APAC's metal tally dropped by 40% from a year earlier, from 293 in 2017 to 174 this year.

Is this reduced haul a damning indictment of the region’s creative output? A reason to rethink the judging process? A natural consequence of the removal of 120 sub-categories and a rules change that capped the number of categories each piece of work could be entered in?

LIONS BY MARKET 2015 2016 2017 2018
Australia 40 70 113 56
Bangladesh 0 1 0 0
China 15 9 13 9
Hong Kong 1 5 6 9
India 13 27 42 21
Indonesia 4 1 0 0
Japan 28 46 38 21
Malaysia 6 0 0 1
New Zealand 20 57 25 26
Pakistan 3 0 0 2
Philippines 0 2 3 3
Singapore 14 14 32 2
South Korea 10 3 1 2
Taiwan 0 2 2 1
Thailand 9 23 18 21
Vietnam 0 2 0 0
TOTAL 163 262 293 174

Australia (56 awards), India (21) and Japan (21) each collected about half the number of awards they did in 2017. So perhaps a falling tide brought down all boats? Not so fast. Ample evidence argues against that hypothesis. For example, the US and UK also saw their totals fall, but only by 23% and 16%, respectively. Brazil stayed flat (two more awards than last year). Germany increased its haul by 47%. Closer to home, Thailand (21) and Hong Kong (9) both won three more awards this year than they did last year.

And then there's Singapore, which won 32 awards in 2017 but only managed two in 2018 (a 94% drop for those keeping score at home), adding significant heft to claims that the quality of creativity in the Lion City has dwindled sharply.

The three Lions categories discarded for 2018—Integrated, Cyber and Promo & Activation—yielded significant results for APAC in 2017: three gongs in Integrated, 22 in Cyber (including a Grand Prix), and 18 in Promo. Those now defunct categories mapped into a pair of new categories for 2018, Brand Experience & Activation and Social & Influencer, where APAC fared less well.

Still, there's a strong case to be made that the festival needs to do better at stocking the jury rooms with people from this part of the world. By our count, Asian countries contributed about 15% of Cannes jurors, roughly equal to numbers out of the US. But China and India, with their combined populations of 2.5 billion, contributed only eight jurors out of the 413 total. Surely this is under-representation.

The work from APAC that did succeed this year tended to align with social causes, which perhaps play better with jurors because their humanitarian concerns are more universal. 'Palau pledge' won its Grand Prix awards in Direct, Titanium and the new category focused on the UN Sustainable Development goals (it also took a Gold Lion in Brand Experience & Activation).

The three other Grand Prix awards from the region also focused on causes:

  • Restoring speech for ALS patients: 'Project revoice' for The ALS Association by BWM Dentsu Sydney won the Grand Prix for Good (plus a Gold Lion in Creative Data).
  • Helping deaf and blind people communicate: 'Blink to speak' for ASHA EK Hope Foundation by TBWA India Mumbai won the Health Grand Prix for Good (plus a Gold Lion in Pharma).
  • Disease prevention through handwashing: 'Savlon healthy hands chalk sticks’ for Savlon by Ogilvy Mumbai won the Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix.

Zero in on the work that won multiple Gold Lions, and two out of four were also social-cause-related: 

  • Dying with dignity: 'Stop the horror' by Cummins & Partners Sydney/History Will Be Kind Sydney for Go Gentle Australia won three golds (Film, Film Craft and Entertainment).
  • Gender equality: ‘Sindoor Khela – No Conditions Apply’ by FCB for Times of India won two golds (Direct and Glass).

The other two multiple-gold winners from the region were both commercially focused, and one of them was easily APAC's second most-honoured work of the festival:

  • 'Birdland' by Ogilvy Hong Kong for KFC won five golds (two in Industry Craft, one in Print & Publishing and two in Outdoor).
  • 'Friendshit' by Greynj United Bangkok for Kasikornbank’s K Bank won two golds (Film and Entertainment).


  • ‘Aussie News Today’ by Clemenger BBDO Sydney for Tourism Australia (Media)
  • 'Dead whale' by Dentsu Jayme Syfu for Greenpeace Philippines (Outdoor)
  • 'Disgusting stories' by TBWA\Santiago Mangada Puno Makati City for Bahay Tuluyan (Film Craft)
  • 'Obsession for smoothness' by Six Inc Tokyo/SPA-Hakuhodo for Double A (Design)
  • 'Selfiestix' by Colenso BBDO for Pedigree (Mobile)
  • 'Sweet change' by McCann India Mumbai for PayTM (Creative Ecommerce)
  • 'The Hearing Test in Disguise' by Che Proximity for Cochlear (Pharma)
  • 'The Secret' by Ogilvy Bangkok for Monde Nissin (Film)
  • 'Tiny Doll' by J.Walter Thompson Bangkok for Kleenex (Health & Wellness)
  • 'Sip Safe' by Y&R Melbourne for Monash University (Health & Wellness)

Festival attendance 

With this year's smaller group of entries also came smaller contingents. WPP and Omnicom maintained they sent about 20% fewer people. Interpublic said it cut by 15% while smaller ad groups Dentsu and Havas sent broadly similar numbers as before.

Duncan Painter, the chief executive of Ascential, the parent company of Cannes Lions, suggested the lower attendance will be the new normal. "My sense is probably the holding companies have got to their right level for them," he told Campaign, admitting festival had become a bit bloated.

Critics took the changes to heart and appeared to ease up on the criticism this year, which suited chairman-elect Thomas just fine after last year’s venting and second-guessing which he felt was “slightly out of control” and at times ill-informed. “This year it’s a lot more positive. It’s good,” he told Campaign during the festival. 

CMOs speak out

One stakeholder group that has appeared to have gained more clout with organisers were the CMO clients, who have become more vocal about what they did or didn’t want Cannes to be.

Mars Pet Nutrition CMO Jane Wakely told Campaign her ‘ask’ of Cannes was to continue to link creativity with real business results. “Why does my CEO support me coming here? Because I can tangibly show the impact creativity has on our bottom line,” Wakely said. “This is not just a party.”

Samsung CMO Younghee Lee said she did not want the festival to be sidetracked by data and technology and lose its creative focus.

Both of them joined P&G’s Marc Pritchard along with 20 other CMOs and Festival organisers at something called the Cannes CMO Growth Council, a summit for marketers to discuss how to work together using creativity to their competitive advantage.

Speaking of marketer clout, it’s ironic that that Google, whose co-founder Larry Page once said if it "had to use marketing, then we’ve failed" ended up being recognised this year as the Cannes Creative Marketer of the Year.  But, just as Google has evolved far beyond its pure search-engine roots, so, too, has its attitude towards marketing. Google CMO Lorraine Twohill told Campaign its ad experimentation strategy is to take risks, say ‘yes’ and always start with the user.

Influencers under attack

But the sharpest message at the Festival, and one that stirred up real debate, came from Unilever CMO Keith Weed with a shot across the bow of the influencer industry.

He announced at Cannes that Unilever would not work with influencers who buy followers and he called on the rest of the industry to follow suit. Immediately a panel of top marketers from Diageo, Samsung and eBay responded by saying they sought to work only with influencers who were genuine and part of their brand story.

But marketing professor Mark Ritson opted for a more provocative response during Cannes. His prompt Weed-inspired article entitled ‘How ‘influencers made my arse a work of art’ (which described exactly that) solicited a sharp defense from agencies working with key opinion leaders.

Martin Sorrell faces the industry, as does WPP

While the injection of salaciousness hinted at a return to the Cannes of old, many secretly hoped a pair of interviews with jettisoned WPP CEO Martin Sorrell might reveal more about the recent accusations leveled against him, including reports that he used WPP funds to pay a sex worker.

"There's been some pretty fanciful stuff [reported about] what may or may not have happened," he told a crowded pub at an event held by The Drum, without elaborating further. He then countered other allegations that he was a bully by simply saying he had high expectations. 

Later, at a press conference, Sorrell said that his main regret is that he didn’t do more, and faster, at WPP. "When I say more, it’s more of that simplification of the verticals, more client-orientated work, more country management and last but not least the digital underpinning to it," Sorrell said.

Meanwhile, Sorrell’s interim successor for now, Mark Read warned against "collapsing" too many WPP agency brands and said driving greater collaboration is more important than a "major restructuring".

in an interview with Campaign at the start of Cannes Lions, the joint chief operating officer of WPP, dismissed suggestions that WPP itself needs to be smaller. Asked if, for example, WPP still needs four creative agency networks, Ogilvy, JWT, Grey and Y&R, Read said: "I don’t think WPP needs to be smaller. We need to be simpler to navigate [for clients].”

Announced at Cannes

Of course, many other agencies and platforms made separate announcements at Cannes.  Among them...

YouTube rolled out a set of creative and analytical tools for advertisers so they can test ads before a formal launch, target better and remix ads in real-time.

Kantar & Alibaba announced an alignment of their brand-building metrics. Kantar mapped and validated Alibaba’s Consumer Asset marketing KPI framework, which was launched in 2017, against Kantar’s portfolio of marketing KPIs. Alibaba CMO Chris Tung speaks about it here.

Yannick Bolloré, chairman and CEO of Havas Group and chairman of Vivendi, announced a series of moves including the expansion of the group's Annex model, a global expansion of its Edge Performance Network, the creation of an international experiential network called Havas Events and the launch of global CRM network called Havas Helia.

Topic of the Year: Diversity

But if there was one topic shouted loudest from yacht tops, the beach cabanas and the Palais stage, it was that diversity matters. To be clear, this is hardly a new theme at Cannes, yet it took on a much stronger resonance in the first Festival following the #metoo movement. 

IPG held its eighth annual Women's Breakfast with IPG chairman and CEO Michael Roth once again opened it by saying the company looks forward to the day such an event no longer seems necessary.

Olympian fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first muslim woman to represent the US in the games and now immortalised as a hijab-wearing Barbie, held the packed house enthralled talking about her experiences. “Society tries to place us in boxes, and in effect it limits us and tries to dictate what we’re capable of," she said. In fencing, Muhammad found a sport where due to the garb and mask, opponents couldn't judge her based on anything but her performance. She urged the assembled industry people to seriously consider how media representation (or lack thereof) can expand (or limit) what children go on to achieve.

Later, Carolyn Everson, VP of global marketing solutions at Facebook, spoke about how important diversity is not just for ethical reasons but for reasons of revenue and reputation. She citied the example of an automatic soap dispenser company that found a new model failed to respond to people of colour because none had been involved in testing. "That's a glaring example of how something can go so wrong when you don’t have a diverse set of perspectives at the table," Everson said.

Twitter CMO Leslie Berland brought her #HereWeAre campaign to Cannes, a movement to improve women’s representation in key industries by hosting a large gathering at Twitter beach with actress Kerry Washington. As we noted, the initiative dovetailed with Berland’s pitch to brands that Twitter is great platform for brands to join popular movements if they’re genuine and move quickly. It also helped deflect criticism that Twitter can also be used to harass and intimidate women.

At a separate panel on the future of advertising, Mastercard's chief marketer Raja Rajamannar made the case not for gender equality but for disproportionately more women working in marketing based on business imperatives.

"We know that 80% of purchase decisions are made by women,” he said. “And so we should have 80% of our staff within marketing as women. This is not at junior levels, but all levels across the hierarchy that report to me. And we are now close to this target," he said, adding: "Women in my team understand a woman much better than I can."

Meanwhile, a different Palais panel on 'The Death of Masculinity and its Impact on Creativity' promised to shift the gender focus from the prevailing discussion about women, gender equality and the impact of the #metoo movement to look at what the future holds for men.

“What about poor men?” posited Popcorn, citing falling testosterone levels and rising diagnoses of depression among men as women toast new business successes— not to mention the nervousness felt by men about the #metoo movement and dealing with women in the workplace.

But her panel shed few tears about the death of old-style masculinity, choosing instead to celebrate a new more caring, empathetic and vulnerable masculine ideal that’s brands can now embrace in advertising.

This, of course, is only the tip of the Cannes iceberg when it came to all the various discussions about diversity, the future of advertising and the importance of creativity. There is plenty more coverage at Campaign Asia, Campaign India, Campaign UK and Campaign US, all of whom had reporters on the ground. Be sure to follow our coverage next year when we do it all again.

Campaign Asia

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