Cannes Lions 2024: A Convergence of Innovation, Sustainability, and Creativity

This year’s Cannes Lions Festival showcased a mix of key themes and discussions that will shape the future of advertising and media. The event was marked by a significant focus on sustainability, artificial intelligence (AI), and the ongoing evolution of media platforms.

Sustainability and Responsibility Take Center Stage

Sustainability emerged as a paramount concern, underscored by the launch of the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) and Ad Net Zero’s Framework. David Shaw, Co-Founder and CEO of Cedara, emphasised that this new framework will address the previously unstandardised approach to tracking and reducing carbon emissions, providing “a new standard for accountability, which will prove invaluable in motivating the entire ecosystem to take responsibility and prioritise sustainability in its strategies and practices.”

Christine Cook, Global Chief Revenue Officer at Bloomberg Media, echoed this sentiment, highlighting the “measurable ways” sustainability has been brought back into the conversation through discussions on GARM’s framework and Scope 3 emissions.

James Hill, Chief Commercial Officer, EXTE, saw the festival as ‘the year of Responsible Cannes’. “Cannes has so often been tarnished with tales of over-indulgence but encouraging others to call out inappropriate behaviour is a critical step in creating a more inclusive, collaborative and constructive ecosystem for all. And it feels like we have made a big step in improving perceptions and maturing as an industry.”

The Role of AI and Technological Innovation

AI was a standout theme at the festival, reflecting its growing influence on the industry. Andrea Ching, Global Head of Integrated Marketing at Bloomberg Media, noted the importance of “leveraging AI to achieve more with fewer resources”, aligning with Bloomberg Media’s theme of ‘Good Business.’ She also highlighted the fierce competition for audience attention, which led to innovative and creative engagement strategies, such as the inclusion of live music at almost every beach location at the festival.

Phil Acton, UK Managing Director at Adform, observed that AI was the “name of the game,” with many clients eager to understand its short-term opportunities. He also noted the significant presence of CTV at the festival, with discussions focusing on budgets, activations, and strategies involving major players like Roku, Disney+, and SambaTV.

Nick Reid, SVP & Managing Director EMEA at DoubleVerify acknowledged that AI was a major focus of the event but also that we need to move beyond it simply being a buzzword, “The market opportunity for Artificial intelligence (AI) was, of course, a key topic of discussion at Cannes this year, alongside burgeoning media channels such as retail media, connected TV, and the continued growth of the complex social media ecosystem.

“We now need to move away from the buzz attached to these topics and focus on how they can be used effectively to maximise brand-specific KPIs and Business Outcomes on the baseline of responsible media investment.”

Considering tech innovation, Elizabeth Brennan, General Manager, Advertising at Permutive, sees the evolution of tech as playing a key role post third-party cookie, “Tech is reimagining how advertising works based on transparency, performance, and ROI. In terms of the cookieless future, brands need to look beyond tech that replicates the status quo and start working in more innovative ways, moving towards trusted, collaborative solutions that are solving tomorrow’s problems, so that they don’t rebuild their tech stack on sand.”

Lena Arbery, Associate Director of Sales at Tripadvisor, distilled a key lesson from Cannes Lions 2024: “the importance of consistently innovating while staying true to core brand values and putting consumers at the centre.” This consumer-centric approach is crucial for effective targeting and retargeting in a crowded market.

The Evolution of Media and Commerce

The rise of commerce media and networks was another dominant theme. Paul Wright, Head of International for Uber Advertising, highlighted the shift from pure retail media to broader commerce media: “Prominent brands across verticals, from our own platform, to  airlines to banks, all came to highlight their commerce media offerings. Last year, the focus was perhaps more on pure retail media, but this year’s Cannes showed that commerce media offers distinct advantages”. This includes steering consumers along their purchase paths and amplifying brand messages across various funnel stages.

Mike Khouri, Founder & CEO of Tactical, noted a shift in focus for the event this year: “Cannes Lions festival was dominated by media platforms and AI, highlighting a potential de-prioritisation of traditional creative storytelling in favour of these emerging technologies.” Despite this shift, he emphasised the opportunity for creatives to harness AI to enhance human creativity, which remains the industry’s greatest strength.

Overall, Cannes Lions 2024 highlighted a dynamic interplay between sustainability, AI, media evolution, and creative excellence. The festival served as a platform for industry leaders to discuss and showcase how innovation and responsible practices can drive meaningful change and positive impact in the industry.