Hopes for Cannes 2023

Al Mackie, CCO at RAPP UK, reflects on this year's Cannes Lions and says what he'd like to see next year... namely, a more diverse and accessible festival

I’m not a huge fan of rosé but I was looking forward to the brilliant cocktail of feelings that the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity offers. The perfect mix of inspiration, I wish I’d done that and a dash of jealousy. But at times this year it was easier to find the rosé.

As I explored the events, I noted that corporate responsibility, social responsibility, sustainability, the environment and DE&I were all key themes. There were some great talks but the work claiming to save democracy or even the world felt like it came from a different place.

Maybe I’m being overly cynical, but much of the work felt detached from the what’s going on outside of the Palais and Croisette. You probably read that Greenpeace stormed the WPP beach in protest against agencies that work with fossil fuel clients. I can’t say I’m surprised.

When I get to go to Cannes, I want to feel humbled by endless rows of work that makes me think, “Damn, I wish I’d thought of that”. But this year I came back wondering – are we really living up to the expectations we’ve set out in our messaging?

Is it too expensive? Too risky? Just too hard to make a real change? Is it possible to give Greenpeace or other organisations no reason to look at us twice? We talk a good game but when adland blows hot air about vital issues that have a global impact on the lives of others. Maybe we should pack up the hubris and think smarter. Let’s think creatively about how to manage risk and make an actual change.

I shouldn’t complain. Cannes can be wonderful and it’s great to see former colleagues, contacts, clients and friends. I also listened to speakers who really made sense.

Nadia Khaouli gave an incredibly powerful presentation on Global Goals. Since the 2020 Beirut port explosion, she’s made it her mission to end poverty and bring “essential dignity” through her organisation Kafe be Kafak (Hand in Hand). She had realistic things to say about what we can all do if we listen to her.

There were some standout pieces for me like the Titanium winner, ‘Long Live the Prince’, a phenomenal piece of work, well deserving of its award. And there were some beautiful examples of craft.

Maybe you attended some of the powerful DE&I sessions on Inkwell Beach

But are you really taking note of what those experts are telling us and affecting some actual change with your clients?

As the cost of living rises, food security climbs international agendas, women’s rights or lack thereof take centre stage in one of the richest countries in the world and war still ravages countries where people are starving – can we afford to be all comms and no action?

Marc Pritchard explained that “it may be more important than ever to double down on our core job, our collective priority and responsibility and the superpower that no other industry has: creativity for growth”. He believes this will be a “force for good”.

I’ve no doubt there are some very talented individuals and teams out there working on projects, problems and campaigns that will make a difference.

I think I was lucky to be judging two years’ worth of work last year. Maybe my expectations were a bit high. I’m aware that due to my own role I have a tendency to focus on direct categories and ROIs.

Looking towards the 2023 festival, I have a few things on my wishlist. First, to see even more fantastic work that leads to measurable and lasting change. I’d also like the Inkwell Beach and their programming inside the Palais. And finally, make the awards more accessible to a broader, more diverse creative community from around the world. Cost can be a barrier to entry to some businesses considering the Lions. If Cannes Lions is to continue to be the global benchmark for creativity that drives progress, entry needs to be available to all. This ultimately benefits everyone — Cannes Lions can continue to celebrate those enviably brilliant ideas from all agencies, large and small, showing how we as an industry can be the creators of work which not only builds brands but also inspires behaviour change in all of us.

Featured image: Theo Giacometti / Greenpeace

Al Mackie

Biography coming soon

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