AI Briefing: How AI showed up at Cannes Lions 2024

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

At this year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, it’s no surprise AI was le sujet de la semaine, with cocktail conversations along the Croisette that ranged in strength from hype as potent as absinthe to the more modest hypothetical rosé. But there was enough buzz to make even the most sober points seem like chatbot-worthy hallucinations.

For the second year in a row, generative AI was a main theme at Cannes Lions 2024. Conversations have matured since Cannes Lions 2023 — from early questions about AI’s role in marketing to newer explorations of practical applications — but advertising execs still noticed an excess of AI jargon.

Some saw AI news at Cannes Lions 2024 as focused on future AI commitments. Others note marketers privately admit to being overwhelmed by options and also still underwhelmed by results. There are also outstanding questions like who should own AI inside a company — and who owns the budget.

The experience layer with generative AI will be more profound for marketers than the product layer, said Huge chief brand officer Matt Weiss. He thinks “intelligent experiences” (IX) will change everything for how consumers interact with platforms.

“Everyone knows the words and rhetoric,” Weiss said. “They know what to say. But do they know what to do? Not so much. Not possible. The landscape is changing too rapidly.”

With so many AI offerings seeming similar, differentiation is key, noted Elav Horwitz, who heads up innovation at IPG’s McCann Worldgroup. That makes creative and unique applications especially important if companies want their AI offerings to stand out. Horwitz mentioned AI firms should take the ad industry’s playbook and find ways to communicate what’s most compelling about their products.

This year, tech firms brought with them “AI labs” to show potential customers what might be possible with generative AI, via playful pilots and beta tests. However, Horwitz said some were limited to mostly imagery and visuals that lacked the depth of strategy, insights and concept development.

“AI and tech companies should take a page from the advertising playbook, understanding how to differentiate their offerings and communicate their stories more compellingly,” she said. “This includes emphasizing responsible adoption and their commitments to safety for brands and humans, while also helping companies innovate and solve problems rather than just focusing on productivity.”

An amuse-bouche of AI news from Cannes Lions 2024:

  • Platforms: Meta announced a new chatbot for Messenger, and a new API for content management on Threads. Meanwhile, AI products were announced by Reddit, Yahoo and Spotify. TikTok used the week to debut a way to make ads with AI avatar influencers, while Adobe announced a new partnership to let Adobe Express users create AI-generated content for TikTok using TikTok’s library of commercially available music.
  • Agencies: Havas used the week to unveil a new “Converged” strategy for the agency focused on creativity and personalization that includes a €400 million investment in a new group-wide “operating system.” News from WPP included the launch of a new AI-enabled production studio with Nvidia and a separate B2B-focused platform in partnership with IBM’s Watsonx. Meanwhile, IPG’s new deal with Disney uses AI for live sports advertising and uses Disney’s own AI-powered “Magic Words” platform to identify events and emotions for ad placements.
  • Ad tech and martech: Zeta Global formed a new partnership with Amazon’s Bedrock platform to improve the use of creative AI agents that help marketers have more control and customization with automated content production. Earlier this month, Zeta Global CEO David Steinberg told Digiday that its Intelligent Agent platform already has built more than 300 agents for customers: “The massive utilization of it is effectively build-your-own data scientist or build-your-own data onboarding, or tell me my most valuable and under-utilized audiences,” Steinberg said.
  • AI-powered Cannes Lions: The awards part of Cannes Lions also featured several campaigns created with generative AI. Pedigree’s “Adoptable” campaign from BBDO, which used generative AI to help dogs find new homes, won an Outdoor Grand Prix. Another winner was the French telecom Orange, which worked with Publicis to create AI deep fakes of the French women’s national soccer team during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to address sexism in soccer.

Other Digiday stories about Cannes, AI or both:

Prompts and Products: Other AI news and announcements

  • OpenAI co-founder Ilya Sutskever launched a new startup called Safe Superintelligence Inc., or SSI.
  • Several top AI players released new AI models. Anthropic released a new AI model for Claude-3.5 Sonnet to rival ChatGPT-4o,Runway ML released its Gen-3 Alpha model that rivals OpenAI’s Sora, and Google Deepmind announced a new video-to-audio model.
  • Several AI companies have recently hired new marketers for their C-suite. Loreal Lynch, former head of campaigns at Stripe, joined Jasper as its first chief marketing officer. HeyGen announced former Asana CMO Dave King as its new chief business officer. Writer AI hired Diego Lomanto as its new CMO from his previous role at the AI startup Ada.
  • Laptops powered with Qualcomm’s new AI-powered Snapdragon chips were officially released for purchase.
  • Meta paused its AI rollout in Europe after Ireland’s data protection agency raised data privacy concerns.
  • A former Snap engineer launched a new AI social network for people and chatbots called Butterfly.
  • Google is reportedly shifting its DeepMind research lab to help with commercial services.

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