Monday 17 June 2019 8:22 pm

The business case for the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity


Andrew Dimitriou is EMEA chief executive of VMLY&R.

Andrew Dimitriou is EMEA chief executive of VMLY&R.

It’s that time of the year again, when some of us in the advertising industry like to start grumbling about the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which begins today.

Too big. Too busy. Too expensive. Our industry’s most prestigious awards and stage seems to be a topic of endless conversations and controversy.

A couple of years ago, it looked as if the tides were turning against the jamboree by the sea. One group made a lot of noise about skipping it for a year. Another (which we happen to be part of) demanded changes to make it more manageable. As a result, a somewhat leaner festival emerged.

Read more: Is Cannes still relevant to the industry?


But whatever its size, and despite the extravaganza and criticism, Cannes Lions feels more relevant than ever. And it is – rightly – becoming a must, not only for agencies and marketers but for business leaders of all kinds.

Worth the entry fee

Cannes Lions is an opportunity for everyone who goes to be in the most creative of environments.

Now, “creativity” can sound soft and insubstantial – not business-like enough. However, nothing could be further from the truth, because in a world where replication is cheaper and easier than ever, creativity is the last competitive advantage.

After all, it takes creativity to come up with market-disrupting ideas. And that, not efficiency, is what drives growth.

Ideas create new markets, disrupt business models, and engage audiences in new ways. Ideas tell connected stories.

So creativity is the superpower that separates great brands from the also-rans. Many of us are familiar with the work of James Hurman, who wrote “The Case for Creativity” in 2011. He and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising have repeatedly shown the relationship between greater creativity and greater growth, increased profitability and higher share prices.

A showcase of creativity

Cannes Lions is the ultimate showcase for bold, thoughtful, provocative brands and business leaders.


They are the ones who understand that creativity is not always the shortest, cheapest, or even easiest path. No doubt they’ve realised that creativity continues to deliver long after the last firework has fizzled out over the Croisette.

And a quick look at the regular Cannes winners – Adidas, Apple, Burger King, Coca-Cola, Dove, Nike, P&G – reveals a common denominator to their longevity: a fantastic legacy of creative advertising.

Creative agencies aim to achieve the same. Consultants may be nibbling at our margins – and of course, they have their uses – but our industry has creativity in its DNA. And with about 20 per cent of delegates at the festival now hailing from brands, there’s evidence that many of our clients share this view.

So, whether they’re competing, speaking or simply attending, on the beach or in the Palais, business leaders should take notice of Cannes Lions as the place where they will experience world-class creativity, access future-forward ideas, connect with businesses that matter, and find some fresh inspiration.

One piece of advice

Should you be joining me here this year, I would advise you not to show up with a diary crammed full of meetings. What’s new and next is in the unexpected.

Inclusive advertising, brand experience and brands in culture will be big topics this year, and rightly so. VMLY&R has seminars on connected brands and the power of creative transformation, but many other businesses have equally worthy agendas to engage with.

Yes, the festival is busy. And it can be pricey. But it’s also an unbeatable opportunity to recharge the ultimate competitive advantage. As such, it offers a return on investment in spades.

I’ll raise a glass of rosé to that.

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