Friday saw key talks across the Lumière and Debussy theatres from a range of inspirational figures. From IMF CEO Christine Lagarde to African American filmmaker Lee Daniels, the day's itinerary mirrored diversity – a key theme for Cannes Lions 2017.
Starting with the importance of female empowerment in all tiers of a business and finishing on rethinking AI to inject more life into human experiences, the prevailing theme for the day, however, was ‘compassion’; not purely in the work you do, but in your personal life too.
A packed Lumière theatre listened to an astute and somewhat reassuring talk between two friends, Publicis chief Maurice Levy and the IMF's Christine Lagarde. Lagarde shared her views on creativity, describing it as "the ability to transgress and digress, and propose something as an alternative to something that may end up as a mess.
"You don’t need to be ‘a creative’ to use creative thinking," she added. When asked "Where has creativity had to weather a crisis?" she spoke of the unstable period in the advanced economies, when the IMF furiously dealt with the "urgency of the moment.”
"We fundamentally transformed and refocused the goal from just ‘making money’ to reengineering the system," Lagarde explained. She believes in the mobilisation of resources, she added – women being one of them.
Paul Venables introduced a session on how independence affects creativity – proposing it as an alternative route to working within large holding companies. Joining the talk, the band Sofi Tukker explained how they relish the feeling of being ‘borderless’ and in control of their music every step of the way. They believe in bringing their own stories and flavours to the world – at their own risk.
Venables shared how he doesn't see money as a motivator; "lead with your heart. It has you actively seeking the truth and leads to honesty". With that, you grow the trust in yourself and the feeling of fearlessness, he argued. He also advised always focusing on clients and people, not shareholders.
Filmmaker Lee Daniels, meanwhile, was truly moving to watch. Coming from a criminal background, he later sought to challenge perceptions of African Americans. Aided by snippets from his films Paperboy and Precious, Daniels shared his advice for creating authentic work: "For me, I've watched death, I've watched babies being born, friends die of AIDS in my arms... it's not about what y'all wanna see, it's about going with your heart”.
SapientRazerfish’s session on ‘Creativity in the Experience Age’ encouraged the audience to think differently about AI, enabling it to reach a much more humane place. The speakers all agreed that AI can have a dark side; everyone must attempt to understand what they are working with to uncover new possibilities.
The electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer outlined that his digital experience projects are "incomplete. It is only with the participants that these works have existence or meaning”. His portfolio is intimate, sensory and transforms public spaces with participation. 'Call on Water 2015' and 'Pulse Corniche 2016' were particular highlights.
People powered by – and collaborating with – AI is the most enriching, effective combination, he argued; far more so than the two can be alone. Kasparov’s famous reinvention of the chess game with human-machine teams proved this. “Something amazing happens when these two lines of thinking meet” shared the artist and writer James Bridle.
Talks and work from Cannes Lions 2017 will be available on the Cannes Lions Player.
Taking the stage to advise on ‘How to suck less as a client (and as a human)', Burger King left us with this: “We believe the only way to work is [to be] informal and humble. We don't believe in vertical structures… treat your agency as a partner; they are an extension of your own team.” Friday was a humbling experience.