Excessive amounts of sunshine, rose and entertainment – Cannes 2017 certainly lived up to expectations. This year MWWPR was fortunate enough to be at the event not only with our clients, but hosted our very own event as well.

It was a funny year on the Croisette and in the hills behind Cannes.  Whilst the ‘austerity Cannes’ message saying that the ‘party is over’ was being pushed by everyone from WPP to Ascential itself, the reality to many felt different.  Maybe the yachts were a little quieter but the hotels, beaches and villas (and Ferris Wheels!) still seemed to be buzzing with parties and entertainment, alongside a healthy dose of thought leadership activity. 

In case you were too caught up in the glitz and glamour to follow everything that happened, here’s a quick summary of the key discussions that took place:

The talk in the pavement cafes was all about the status of digital media – did Marc Pritchard’s comments earlier this year mark a tipping point in the rise and rise of the duopoly, or were they the last kickings of a traditional industry fighting against the inevitable future?  No-one knew the answer and the viewpoint depended on who you asked, but the debate is certainly here to stay.

Discussions from brands including News UK, Publicis Media and Performics highlighted the increasing role that data and analytics now play in brands’ creative messaging and communications strategies.

In the first “Wake Up with The Economist” panel sessions, it was revealed that people are not interested in traditional advertising, they want uninterrupted experiences; “storymaking” not storytelling. The power of relatable, authentic, emotional content is key for brands to truly engage with people on a personal level, so the story becomes something more than just an advert.

The original purpose of Cannes was to celebrate creativity. However, as data-driven marketing has become more prevalent – helping to inform creative thinking and negotiate the daily human capacity to consume media – artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly relevant.

Omnicom, for example, announced that group company Annalect is launching an internal chatbot called Annalect Utility Bot Interface (or AUBI) that spits out deep troves of data faster than the agency’s team of data scientists can handle. The idea is to make Annalect’s data more readily available to anyone within Omnicom—from creatives, media buyers and strategists. WPP also announced that Neo@Ogilvy, Ogilvy’s media agency and performance arm, will become part of the newly-formed Mindshare Performance Group, with Neo@Ogilvy’s management also joining Mindshare’s FAST (Future Adaptive Specialist Team) leadership team. It is expected that the technology will continue to feature heavily in conversations as it reaches greater maturity in the next few years.

In the build up to Cannes, Campaign published its quarterly Campaign iQ which focused specifically on diversity within the media and marketing industries. The conversation is no longer just about HR issues but has broadened out to explore how increased diversity can help improve creativity.

This was a key topic expanded upon by several key industry figures at Cannes. This includes HP’s global CMO, Antonio Lucio, who said that brands and agencies that don’t embrace diversity fail to understand their customers. This was also elaborated on in a wide-ranging feature on Campaign (CEOs on Diversity) where Martin Sorrell, Yannick Bolloré and Arthur Sadoun all discussed the need for group companies to do more to tackle both gender and social diversity.

On the topic of gender inequality, the lack of female representation in advertising – and at the festival itself – highlights that there is still a lot more the industry needs to address.