After hundreds of mind-opening talks and events, Cannes Lions 2017 has come to an end. The final days involved some fascinating and inspiring talks from some of the most influence creative in the business.
The penultimate day of Cannes Lions kicked off in the Lumiere Theatre to a large audience with a talk from communications agency adam&eveDDB and Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).
Screening John Lewis’ ‘lifelong commitment’ ad, which is the retailer’s prime example of emotional advertising, Paul Bainsfair, Director General at IPA, commented: “It really did cause a stir - and a lot of British people will agree here - after it aired we started to see obvious copycats breaking out at the time, thinking how that emotional angle really does work.”
Answering a question that asked how far one should go in emotional advertising, Craig Inglis, Customer Director at John Lewis finished off the talk, saying: “I think it’s about the balance of striking an emotional chord, so you’re not overly shmoozy for example. We have to make sure we don’t believe our own hype and it feels real and that’s complete instinct.”
Later that same day, over in the Debussy Theatre, the auditorium was at full capacity. Attendees spilled into an overflow theatre, which also filled up. Why? There was a lot very keen to see the seminar interview with David Droga, the creative chairman of 11-time Agency of the Year Droga5.
Philip Thomas, CEO of Ascential Events – who was moderating the interview - opened the talk by touting the creative legend's Cannes Lions achievements.
“Until this event David had won 191 Lions,” he said. “But at this Cannes this year he’s won a whole bunch more - nine so far - a whole total of 200 Lions. Most people dream of winning just one, but David’s won 200.”
When asked what he would his advice be to an 18-year-old creative wanting to get into advertising, David responds by stating that “if you’re in the right place at the right time and get the right opportunities”, it can be a great industry.
“[In the ad industry] you can touch and stroke so many parts of society, be an innovator, be business minded, play with incredible brands and work on an incredible range of things,” he explained. “But I still think the diversity of the opportunities in this industry is second-to-none. It might be a harder industry than it used to be, but it’s more fun…and it’s more rewarding.”
The final day of the festival opened on the Debussy theatre with attendees queuing to hear the personal stories from those who believed in Coleman F. Sweeney, 'The World’s Biggest Asshole', and turned a PSA for Donate Life into a viral hit that lured elusive millennial males to sign up in droves and save lives.
Guests David Fleming, President and CEO of Donate Life America, Joe Alexander, Chief Creative Officer at The Martin Agency, and filmmakers, Will Speck and Josh Gordon, joined a panel moderated by Jenny Rooney, Editor of the CMO Network, Forbes.
After showing the audience the Coleman Sweeney film, which was met with great applause, David revealed the frustrations that drove the development of the ad: that there are millions of people currently waiting for organ tissue in the US, just to allow them to lead a normal life.
“It’s a frustrating thing for people that get paid to do this,” he said. “It’s the frustration of having a vision of what could be to what is. I’ve been doing this for 19 years - casting a broad net hoping to catch [people].” He added that they found young people, particularly young men were the lowest rate of donors despite them tending to be ideal organ donors.”
As the session came to an end, Jenny asked Joe what is next having had this experience and success, in which he responded:
“The question is always at back of your head at Cannes: once you’ve had success you wonder if you'll be back here and be lucky enough to make it back on stage, and I think that’s our challenge," he said. "What David has done for organ donation through this particular PSA is 'mark of the year' kind of stuff because it’s really saving people’s life and there’s no bigger reward than that."
One of the last sessions on the final day of the festival was a rather quick 15 minute talk in the Debussy Theatre with Michelle Morgan, Co-founder of Livity, a youth led creative network bringing brands and young people together, for the better.
Michelle shared what happened when she burnt out at the end of 2016 after spending 15 years building her youth agency, and how frightening that felt, how numb life became and how lost she felt. She explained how, by putting together – somewhat slowly and painfully – her own plan of recovery based on digging deep to rediscover her creativity.
“On this day, the last day of the festival, which is less about business and more about personal stories, I stand here before you in my pyjamas,” Michelle said as she stepped on stage. “I really hope they aren’t see-through.”
After talking about her experiences battling depression, she told a gripped audience her plans to start a new business, which shed some light as to why she was on stage wearing her PJs.
“I was looking for an idea for a new business, and if I did it again what would I do – knew it would have to be purpose built. Something I loved and was passionate about,” she said. “Then slowly, the PJs that were representing all the barriers in front of me, stopping me from moving forward, became my inspiration.”
Michelle explained how she developed the idea of taking the PJs and making them a “Trojan horse” to use the product, packaging and people to deliver messages and stories around mental health.
“If the rule is ‘we should only spend 20 percent of our time talking about our product or service’, can we create a brand that felt loved and trusted to help us talk about mental health for 80 percent of the other time?” she asked. “And can we call it PJoys?”
She explained how after a health scare in hospital following a hysterectomy, she has “nothing to lose”, so has decided to give her PJoy business a go.
“I have registered the business, and you’re all welcome to join me on the journey,” she tells the audience, who cheer and applaud her. “I think I’m about to burn even brighter after my burnout and I’m grateful to be here in my PJoys, sharing my story with you.”