Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Editor’s View: A tale of two Cannes

Chatting to Sir Martin Sorrell in Cannes last week, I was struck by something.

Well, OK, I was interviewing Sir Martin rather than idly chatting on the Carlton terrace but shouldn’t all Cannes stories start like this?

But it was a comment by him as our interview wound up that stuck with me. Every time I interview him, he finds a way to be humoursly, at least I hope it’s in mild jest, rude to me. Last week was no different as he mocked me for saying I was leaving Cannes early for a change, on Thursday morning. But Friday’s the most important day he admonished me.

That Friday is the most important day of the festival would sound like total madness to huge contingent visitng from the adtech, prorammatic and digital industries. They would, in the main, have almost no idea of the creative festival happening in Cannes.

That Friday is the culmination of Cannes Lions, the creative awards that can make or break the careers and fortunes of advertising creatives and their agencies.

When I’ve attended the awards ceremonies in the Palais over the years, they’re as big, as celebratory, as joyous as any awards held in our industry. It’s just that they exist in a parallel universe for most people from the tech industries.

In my decades of visiting Cannes, I’ve never seen the two worlds so divided.

But the point is, does this really matter any more?

I’ve hosted my fair share of debates, both on Cannes main stages and the festival’s fringe, talking of the need to ‘bring data and creativity together’ and similar subjects.

Arguably, that debate is over. Creativity today is data and data is creativity. Finding a marketer or agency head who doesn’t understand the place and value of technology in marketing is almost impossible.

The disciplines, the media, the people have fused in a world where tech and data and fundamental to almost every aspect of marketing and media.

Cannes Lions may now exist as two separate worlds but this no longer matters. As it’s become a purely artificial distinction that no longer reflects how the industry, or society, operates.

Of course there are awards in the main programme of Cannes Lions that celebrate ‘old’ media like TV advertising in silos but they are almost outnumbered by those recognising the value of multiple channels, and the power of their combination.

Of course the festival’s changed. It’s been changing since it was founded in 1954, just like the industry it celebrates. And it’s now big enough, open enough, inclusive enough, to hold two worlds in one.

Long may it continue to be the beating creative, and technological, heart of our industry.