Cannes Briefing: How Cannes Lions 2024 became the Festival of Creators

Digiday covers the latest from marketing and media at the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. More from the series →

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Halle Alice sat on the first day of Cannes Lions at Sport Beach soaking in the crowds as Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” played from the main stage ahead of a panel discussion there. She, like many others around her, was trying to shake off the jet lag.

She had had a 17-hour journey from Los Angeles, where she is based permanently, and from where she usually creates content for her 14.9K Instagram followers — and as full-time talent in the creator network at Stagwell-owned agency Gale, where she’s been for over a year.

I’m taking it day by day,” Alice said, of her first trip to Cannes Lions. “I’m siphoning all the info I can to come back and make smarter content.”

The power of the creator economy and its hold on the advertising industry is on full display at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this year.

Of course, creators have made their way into the informal programming on the platform and tech beaches that line the Croisette — panel discussions featuring creators with size-able followings like Jake Shane at Spotify Beach, Roberto Nickson at Meta Beach, Colin and Samir at Whalar House and DJ sets by Twitch streamer Vanessa Lopez at The House of Amazon. The list goes on.

But Cannes Lions is looking to acknowledge the creator economy in a formalized way this year as well, after introducing a specific Creators track in partnership with Viral Nation featuring exclusive programming and a separate space designed to bring creators into the formal adland fold.

Alice has structured her week to attend as many of these talks as she can with the goal of taking her learnings back to the team.

“I’m a blank slate,” said Alice, who is creating content for Gale’s feeds and her own during her week at Cannes. “It’s really important to show creators how far they can go in content creation. This breaks us into the marketing industry.”

If anything, the festival’s intention of catering to creators matches the industry’s moves over the years.

Digitally-native companies began working with creators, and then Hollywood names created their own production companies, said Chris Vollmer, managing director at strategic advisory firm MediaLink. “The festival has gradually begun to acknowledge, and most prominently this year, that there’s a whole ecosystem well beyond Hollywood and traditional Madison Avenue where a lot of these brands are focused,” Vollmer said.

In announcing the new Creators track, Simon Cook, CEO of LIONS, acknowledged the potential growth of the creator economy as reason to include them as part of the broader advertising conversation. A spokesperson for Cannes Lions did not immediately return requests for comment to speak to how many people signed up for the new Creators track. The financial details of Lions and Viral Nation were not disclosed, but conversations between the two on potential opportunities started in January.

They dreamed up a designated space for creators, located on the rooftop of the Palais, which opened to creators on Tuesday. It’s full of lounge areas and some branded pop-ups, including an air-conditioned booth from e.l.f for creators to touch up their makeup.

“This isn’t about celebrating what influencers do for brands. It’s about celebrating the influencers themselves as these companies and new media stars,” said Joe Gagliese, co-founder and co-CEO of Viral Nation, who noted that the track was for all types of creators with various following sizes.

There were glimmers of this pocket of marketing being taken more seriously at the dog and pony show last year, as more familiar faces that had taken off on digital screens could be found sitting around tables and panel discussions hosted by the brands and media organizations that worked with them. Last year, names like Emma Chamberlain, Tinx and Alex Cooper could be frequently spotted in programming. Paris Hilton was the unofficial host of last year’s Cannes, popping from venue to venue to DJ.

This year, it’s more common to see events featuring creators than not, even on the main stage at the Palais, including a buzzy conversation anticipated between X CEO Linda Yaccarnio and “MrBeast” on Thursday about creators and platforms.

UTA, the global entertainment, talent, sports and advisory company, that owns MediaLink, said anecdotally that it has placed nearly triple the amount of creator clients at Cannes this year over last year. While these clients range in follower count and topic, UTA was focused on fostering authentic connections for this year’s Cannes Lions.

“We’re not just focused on the mega talent and the biggest of the biggest names but focused on those who have a real connection with their audience and who can drive real engagement,” said Ali Berman, partner and co-head of UTA Creators.

Digiday Cannes Lions 2024 video studio

Digiday retuned to its daily video studio at the Blockboard villa on day two off of Cannes Lions 2024 with sightings of lime green parrots in the nearby Cyprus trees and the constant blare of the classic French police sirens as the the Olympic tourch made its way down the Promenade de la Croisette, snarling both traffic and attendee meetings schedules for the morning. Our guests for the day were Jean-Paul Jansen, CMO Mars petcare, North America and Matt Wauserlauff, co-founder and CEO of Blockboard which, along with the video series, is the sponsor of all Digiday’s Cannes Lions 2024 coverage. — Jim Cooper

Jansen Fresh off a Grand Prix win for Pedigree in the outdoor category for its Adoptable campaign, Jansen discussed the importance of melding technology and creativity to create marketing for pet owners that has emotional resonance, but also drives highly effective brand recall with that highly engaged cohort. Brimming over with great insights on pet ownership, Jansen has amazing data for category storytelling ranging from how many people now let their dogs sleep in bed with them to how the massive gaming community over indexes as pet friendly — especially with cats.

Wauserlauff is in Cannes for the first time with the hope of evangelizing Blockboard’s marriage of generative AI and blockchain technology to help potential brand partners and ad executives solve for their growing frustrations around ad verification and fraud associated with MFAs and the other numerous factors presently diverting brand budgets away from intended investment targets.

Jean-Paul Jansen, CMO, Mars petcare, North America

Matt Wasserlauf, co-founder and CEO, Blockboard

Elsewhere from Cannes

  • Uber Ads’ head of advertising joins the Digiday Podcast to discuss navigating programmatic challenges and embracing AI advancements in a special episode of the Digiday Podcast recorded at Cannes Lions.
  • The growth of retail media — er, commerce media — is on full display at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this week.
  • Ban? What TikTok ban?
  • Omnicom and Flywheel can connect creator content to sales, another example of the holding company striving to move beyond media metrics to reach sales metrics for its clients investments.

Overheard

“I expected to be with clients all week. I’ve only spent 10 minutes with them.” — Overheard near the Palais

“I can’t hear myself think with all the French police sirens going off this morning for the Olympic Flame – also not helping my hangover.” — Overheard from a festival attendee caught in the pedestrian crunch briefly cause by the Olympic Flame run down the Promenade de la Croisette Tuesday morning

“Metaverse was a buzzword and died before its time but it’s coming back.” — Ajit Sivadsan, global head of online sales, digital marketing and platform at Lenovo, at Sports Beach

What to do

10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. NFL CMO Tim Ellis, along with NFL sports analyst Kimmi Chex, will talk to NFL players Justin Jefferson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Joe Burrow about how athletes have evolved into brands at Terrace Stage, The Terrace.

2:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Vidhya Srinivasan, Google’s ads product vp, and Alex Chen, director at the Creative Lab will talk AI and creativity at Lumiere Theatre, The Palais.

4:45 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. TikTok’s Sofia Hernandez, global head of business marketing, will speak on a panel along with Professor Marcus Collins and actress Madison Tevlin about how marketers and creatives can harness the power of culture in creative at Rotonde Stage, Rotonde.

Nightcap

3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Cannes VIP Hispanic Mixer at Meta Beach.

7 p.m. to 9 p.m. 2024 Lion winners will be announced including Creative B2B Lions, Creative Data Lions, Social & Influencer Lions, Direct Lions, Media Lions, and PR Lions at Lumiere Theatre, The Palais.

7 p.m. to 9 p.m. WSJ Annual Cocktail Party at Journal House.

8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. VML Sunset Social at WPP beach.

9:30 p.m. The National plays at Amazon Port.

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