The Marketing Society Cannes 2024

The Cannes Review 2024 - The Preview

Julian Boulding, Fellow of The Marketing Society and Founder and President of thenetworkone is back with his annual review of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity - this is his short, preview version. We hope you enjoy this dive into the deep waters of the French Riviera and all that Cannes has to offer.

The Cannes Review 2024

My annual Cannes review takes me a couple of weeks to write – so thank you all, for your patience. However, my friends at The Marketing Society asked me for a little preview. So here’s an angle which has already intrigued me.

At its heart, the Cannes Lions is an awards show. Today, the Lions itself is only a part of what happens in Cannes – but it’s still a major component. The big “winners” are the agencies (or clients) who win the top prizes: the Grand Prix’s. 

And arguably, the most prestigious Grand Prix is the ‘Titanium’ – which looks at all the elements of a campaign, not just advertising, or promotion, or social. A little like the Decathlon in the Olympics. So let’s start there, because it tells us something very interesting.

This year, the Titanium Grand Prix was won by a campaign for Doordash, the US online / e-commerce retailer, entered by a leading independent agency, Wieden + KennedyCheck it out here.

It’s based around a promotional marketing idea, where viewers of the US Superbowl TV broadcast who successfully submit the text for an extraordinarily long promotional code, enter a prize draw to receive every single product advertised during the Superbowl broadcast: from household detergent, to a Kia car. 

It’s high energy, fast-paced, instant-effect advertising – not the kind which W+K are known for.

As their Global CEO, Neal Arthur, explained to Advertising Age: 

“It’s a working thesis for us, but the emotional brand campaign just doesn’t seem like it has as much value. We’ve spent a lot of time going, ‘How can the work we do feel more directly impactful for the business?'”

The debate on the right balance between long term brand building and short term sales generation, is as old as advertising, but this campaign marks a significant alteration in the zeitgeist. Purpose (building long term value) is out. Sales impact (building short term revenue) is in. 

I went along to the seminar in a less-frequented part of the Palais des Festivals, hosted by two leading players from Doordash’s in-house marketing and comms agency: Chief Marketing Officer Kofi Amoo-Gottfried and Executive Creative Director Mariota Essery. 

They talked about another high-impact promotional campaign, developed for them by another leading independent agency, Gut. This was the “Valentines self-love campaign” promotion, offering a free vibrator among a bouquet of roses. Yes, that had quite an impact too.

But their talk was about more. It was about their values. They cited three:

  1. Utility. If they identify a consumer need, they move to satisfy it. Fast. They can turn round campaigns, from brief to broadcast, in six days. As another seminar (on in-house agencies, part of the brilliant ‘alternative’ program at the LBB Beach and also featuring an executive from Doordash) explained, they have eliminated barriers between internal and external creative agencies: “we are all on the same Slack now”. And of course as an e-commerce company, they can read the results fast: their 200 top executives meet once a week, to review sales performance and marketing effectiveness, and take critical decisions.
  2. Collaboration, not individualism. Kofi and Mariota are both South Africans, and they ascribe this value to adopting an African mentality. They explained the Zulu concept of Ubuntu: “a person is a person through other people.” If you want to go fast, go alone – if you want to go far, go together. On the global cultural spectrum, the US is at the ‘individualistic’ end, compared to Latin America for example. There weren’t many Africans to be seen in Cannes (it’s become too expensive to travel, let alone pay the $4K delegate fee) but ideas and values don’t need air tickets.
  3. Short term is the new long term”. Doordash’s marketing objective is super-simple: “Change behaviour and create transactions that drive sales in the short term.” Because many short terms make up your long term. 

Doordash did not invent the idea of focussing on the short term. Two interesting seminars about Asia and including real live Asians (thanks to The Marketing Society and the UK Advertising Export Group), ascribed significant influence to the Asian half of our planet: especially their adoption of live-streaming and the integration of e-commerce into all aspects of social media and online entertainment. The West is still catching up. But the trend is real. And the hyper-efficient, acceleration of data gathering and analytics now offered through AI, means this macro-trend is going to drive Marketing in the short term. And many short terms.. you get the picture. 

We may or may not agree with Sir Martin Sorrell and Alexander Morad (as I understood them), that AI will soon extinguish all intelligent life in the South of France, but we are certainly living in a changed world.

Julian Boulding - Founder and President, thenetworkone

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The even deeper dive into Cannes 2024 is now here.. Take a read.




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