Cannes Lions 2020: Revolt, disrupt and (of course) pivot

Attending this year's virtual festival from her kitchen, The Township's Karen Howe offers three takeaways she's picked up so far.

IMG_8380By Karen Howe

Cannes Lions has always offered a global snapshot of creativity, a place where one can take a read on the state of the ad world. As a Cannes Advisory Board Member, I relish the chance to peek behind the curtain and dig out the insider intel on creativity, culture and tech. It gives me the chance to parse out what it means for all of us in the year ahead.

Well, as we all know, it has been a year quite unlike any other.

This year I am attending Cannes from my kitchen, mostly in my PJs, rosé replaced with coffee. Let’s jump in.

It’s a revolution. Not a trend.

The pulse of the world is always evident at Cannes. Even at virtual Cannes this remains true. “Your Instagram won’t save lives. Do something dammit.” was a deeply thoughtful conversation led by David Kim, scholar and philosopher. He spoke to Jabari Paul of Ben and Jerry’s, athlete activist Malcolm Jenkins and civil rights activist Benjamin Crump about the fight for racial equality. Too many companies and sports organizations have used black bodies for profit yet refused to invest in them. We need to go beyond the social post, beyond the donation and commit to the civil rights movement in a truly meaningful way. Instead of being a good corporate citizen, brands need to be a great one. Silence is not acceptable. As such, brands are urged to make a pact to advance the cause of social justice, to set goals, and then to hold themselves accountable to change.

Disruption equals opportunity.

Cannes saw a WARC-heavy kick-off this year. A presentation by the U.K.-based trend firm focused on the need for immediate e-commerce mastery. It’s survival (and thrival) of the fittest. In today’s COVID-ruled world, online shopping grew 11% in three months vs. 10% in all of 2019. Worldwide lockdowns further fuelled our brand nomadism and new brand habits formed fast. Online shopping tends to be bigger volume (for example, we now buy 24 rolls of paper towel at a time instead of the typical four), but larger formats are typically less profitable. So brands need to rethink and retool, with business modelling needing to take these habit changes into consideration. What’s more, COVID is a turning point for brands like P&G (which previously made packaging sustainability a commitment) as they rapidly shift to online shopping. P&G now treats buying things like household goods as having an “unboxing” moment that needs to be elevated, with the company introducing enviro-smart packaging that plays into this notion, while also continuing to honour its continued commitment to sustainability. The lesson? Those who pivot fast will be rewarded.

More than creative.

Cannes, which was born as a global celebration of creativity, continues to morph as its 2020 CMO in the Spotlight indicates. I like it. Creating a platform for creative and heads of marketing to speak the same language and equally commit to the power of creativity allows magic to happen. For example, CMO Leanne Cutts spoke about how HSBC had to move at a speed not thought possible when COVID hit, especially when it came to its migration to digital and mobile platforms. The bank found that health and wealth are inextricably linked, with Cutts sharing how they reached out fast to help their customers, a challenge in the WFH era, which she believes is the future of work. Boundaries will become an issue, she says, and shares her COVID mantra: React. Respond. Rebuild.

Bonus: this year’s CMO in the Spotlight series is facilitated by the very insightful Dana Anderson from Kraft. Tune in for a gem here and there.

Quote of the Day

“Treat your time like it’s the border to a very rich country.”

Kat Gordon, founder of The 3% Movement

Buzzword of the Day 

“Pivot.” Everybody must pivot. And the faster the better.

Today I find myself really missing the work. Seeing the creativity, the remarkable ideas as they get shortlisted and posted. Canada would have had such a strong showing this year. Let’s see what today brings.

IMG_4101 Karen Howe is a Cannes Lions Advisory Board Member and Founder of The Township