Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Two Tribes went to Cannes

Patrick Collister, NDA’s monthly creative columnist, is the Curator of The Caples Awards, Editor of Directory and a friend to

For those of you lucky enough to go to Cannes back in June, which Cannes Lions festival did you go to?

It was Sir Martin Sorrell who, in a talk with the Wall Street Journal, observed that Cannes is now a technology event.


There isn’t a massive amount of evidence to support this view when you look at the awards.

True, there is a digital component to all ten of the most awarded pieces of work* but nothing to make you think tech first. 

No, Cannes is still all about the power of ideas. 

I thought.

Then I saw this map and the penny dropped. 

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All my focus was on the Palais and what goes on within its concrete walls.

The awards, the talks, the celebration of creativity.

What the map shows is the fringe, which is now as big, if not bigger, than the festival itself. 

It stretches a mile down the seafront.

After two years away, Google and Meta were back. 

Though temporary, their pavilions were grandiose.  

Both offered alternative attractions to the Palais. Free drinks, for starters, not to mention their own talks and seminars. 

Then there were others. 

Amazon, Microsoft, Spotify, TikTok and Twitter.

But behind them, tucked away in hotel suites or on yachts of splendour, a host of adtech companies I’d never heard of. 

Equativ, Turn and Xandr, RTL/AdConnect, who had a beach of their own. LiveRamp, Incubeta, Hivestack, VidMob and others of that ilk.

My old mates from Ad-Lib were there too. 

In a small cabana rather than on a f**k-off boat but hey, early days. 

What these guys wanted to talk about was:

addressable TV; contextual relevance; the delayed death of the third-party cookie; AI-powered production; content supply chains; curated marketplaces and other marvels.

By contrast, inside the Palais the discussions were:

‘Creativity under Bombs’, ‘Does Creativity Eat Algorithm?’, ‘Welcome to the Fearless Post-Covid World of Creativity’, ‘Designing a Creative Network for Now and Beyond’, ‘How Creativity can make us Healthier’, ‘Heineken and Creative Effectiveness’, ‘Creative Best Practice, the antidote to Rising Media Costs’. 

All this on Monday alone. 

You see where this is leading?

Outside, technology.

Inside, marketing 

Outside, CTOs.

Inside, CMOs.

Outside, efficiency.

Inside, engagement. 

It’s not reassuring for those of my tribe, creative luvvies we’ve been called, to learn that CMOs are in decline. 

(Forbes, Feb 2022 HERE)

80% of CEOs think their CMOs are failing because “they have completely different priorities than the company”. 

And “Technology has revolutionised the marketing world…so it’s interesting that when it comes down to how marketers execute their strategies, they’re so traditional and outdated.”  


Outside, hardcore business.

Inside, marketing smoke. 

And it’s true, some of the awards were risible.

Greenpeace flooded ‘Grand Theft Auto’ to raise awareness of climate change.

I ask you, who the heck is unaware of the problem?  

But they gave it a Gold.

A cat food brand restored a minute patch of bleached coral reef and won two Grands Prix.


Meanwhile, 98% of the Great Barrier Reef remains stricken. 

By my sums, only four of the Grands Prix had clear commercial intent. The other 28 were all purpose-driven.

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Look, these were well-intentioned ideas created by well-meaning people.

BUT the worry now is that Cannes Lions, which I love by the way, far from sustaining creativity is trivialising it. 

It’s unnerving to see this supported on their own website (HERE).

“More roles are now oriented towards growth and revenue generation, which suggests companies are deprioritising creativity. This can leave a gap in the c-suite where creative solutions can be championed; a gap in talent where creative skills are needed to develop ideas into outcomes; and a gap in organisational culture, where creative thought can permeate. In short, we are seeing an expanding creativity gap.”

Deloitte data reveals a 256% increase in Chief Revenue Officers and a 554% hike in Chief Growth Officers. 


Meeting on boats at Sir Martin’s festival. 

Returning to their companies to make the big decisions about how to grow the business.

Outside, sales.

Inside, brand purpose.

The two are not disconnected. In fact, it’s the very opposite. Identifying its purpose should give a business everything it needs to do well.

But that is the application of creativity for long-term, sustained change.

Not a brief campaign about sustainability.

A ship in the night.

The techies seem to have grasped this rather better than the luvvies. 

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