I had the great professional privilege of attending the 66th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France as a delegate from our Digital practice last week. Against a backdrop of the most picturesque of settings, a dynamic, fast-paced and stimulating week of client conversation, creative inspiration and challenging, stimulating ideas unfolded. I was breathless but full of energy as the week concluded, and have carried a sense of great optimism and adventure back with me (not to mention pride at Edelman Toronto’s Bronze Lion win in the Pharma Category for Edelman's work with Osteoporosis Canada) to my home base of Toronto. As I’ve reflected on my experience at the festival, a few key themes stick out from the work and conversations.

Trust and Purpose as a Theme Throughout

Edelman released the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, In Brands We Trust? at the festival with a series of stark and arresting data points, including that only one in three consumers trust the brands they buy and that “brand trust (81 percent) is a deal breaker or a deciding factor when they’re considering a purchase, trailing only quality (85 percent), convenience (84 percent), value (84 percent) and ingredients (82 percent).”

While discussion on trust, “trust-washing” and purpose was galvanized by the Edelman data points, these themes played out across the week. Unilever CEO Alan Jope, our client, talked about the dangers of “woke-washing” and both reaffirmed the company’s commitment to brands with purpose and put a call to the industry to not support briefs that deal in false purpose. Nearly every panel discussion I had the opportunity to observe had someone articulate some version of the statement, “don’t say but do.” Richard Edelman, our president and CEO, recapped his perspective on Jope’s comments on his 6 A.M. blog.

Trust and purpose were also themes clearly seen in the submitted, shortlisted and awarded work, with “Fake Newstand” by the Columbia Journalism Review and “The Truth is Worth It” from the New York Times being favorites of mine.

Technology as Experience Layer

I’m fascinated by the way that technology and devices have started to augment experience in an embedded vs. intrusive way. As technology and device capabilities advance and as 5G connectivity comes online, I believe we’ll see more in the way of technology that simply becomes another layer of experience (whether it is search, discovery, shopping, engagement with physical space, etc.). A good example of this that stood out for me at the festival was Purina’s Street Vet with McCann Paris.

Accessible Experiences

Another theme that stood out for me that consistently presented itself across categories and industries (tech, health etc.) was the extent to which brands are starting to use technology or novel approaches to design for accessibility. Rather than having technology broaden the accessibility gap, innovative companies, agencies and thinkers are using technology and design thinking to close the gap. I was inspired and often moved by the level of this work, passion and human ingenuity. Ad Age also called this out as a theme in their reflections on the festival. Some of the work that stood out for me included ThisAbles by IKEA and Signs by the German Youth Association of People with Hearing Loss.

Great Creative is Great Business

Amongst the ongoing conversation around data, automation and technology, I was energized by what I felt was an urgency to, with conviction, reaffirm and remind our industry of the business and brand value driven by compelling storytelling and creative. Whether it was Richard Edelman and Judy John discussing our view of earned creative, Michelle Hutton, Managing Director of Global Client Strategy and the Chair of the PR Jury this year at Cannes, discussing the craft of PR, Rory Sutherland giving a talk about his much discussed article in Campaign on the difference between efficiency and effectiveness, or R/GA discussing creative as a unit of capital, our industry seemed to collectively renew our vow to tell and make stories, things and experiences that change business, culture and society.

New Platforms Emerge

New online and community building behaviors are changing both mature and emergent social media channels. Richard wrote of the phenomenon of flops and threads on Instagram in a recent blog post, as one illustrative example. Twitch has more than 15 million daily unique visitors spending an average of 95 minutes a day in a high level of engagement with the platform. Communities built around shared interests (both macro and micro) that prioritize immediacy and allow users to express and celebrate themselves in ways that feel safe and free from judgement seem to be emerging as a powerful force. It will be interesting to see the festival presence and work of Twitch, TikTok and other platforms expand in the coming years.

I’ll close with sentiment yet again from our CEO. The festival reminded and reaffirmed for me that Edelman, and our industry, can be capable of not just differentiating, but making a real difference. I left humbled, inspired and ready to do my best to make that difference.

Tristan Roy is managing director, Digital, Canada and Latin America.