4 Top Lessons Learned from Cannes Lions 2017

Recovering from jetlag post-Cannes Lions festival is a lot easier when you have a few awards to show for it. This year, Havas took 41 Lions and countless insights home from the seven-day festival. In the weeks since I returned to the states, there are four takeaways in particular that keep coming back to inspire me.

Stop liking. Start doing.

The week was kicked off by Pinterest President Tim Kendall with an inspirational keynote called “Stop liking. Start doing.” His message was clear: More time spent on your phone doesn’t make you happier, and focusing on a screen takes away from the experiences happening right in front of us. It takes less than a second to “like” a photo of someone else’s activity, but what joy does that really bring us? He followed his exploration of widespread smartphone addiction with a call to action: “If we are building technology that we know is making people’s life worse because they are spending so much of it on a screen, don’t we have an obligation to do something different? We have an opportunity to be thoughtful about the content we create and products we build so that they make people’s life better, off their devices.”

Be fearless about gender equality.

With a record number of female jurors, Cannes made a strong push toward gender equality. Among the main-stage sessions, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, and Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, focused heavily on the topic. The Glass Lion awards, which celebrate gender equality and recognize work that challenges stereotypes, dedicated its Grand Prix award to one of the more notable campaigns at the festival—State Street Global Advisors’ “Fearless Girl.” For this campaign, the asset management firm created and installed a bronze sculpture of a defiant little girl directly across from the menacing Wall Street bull. The firm also sent letters to 3,500 companies, imploring them to improve their gender diversity.

Being right is more important than being first.

We’ve all heard it, seen it and probably even reposted it. The hottest topic in communications today—fake news—made itself well known at Cannes Lion, too. Numerous panels took place on the subject, including one at the Havas Café with influential leaders from the BBC, Financial Times and The Sunday Times. “I tell my kids to assume every day is April the first,” said BBC CEO Jim Egan. “You have to check and verify everything.” These media powerhouses agreed that being accurate is better than being first to break the news. In our hurried-yet-high-stakes industry, this was a simple but important reminder.

Creativity in healthcare is changing.

Healthcare communications today is all about creating new experiences and ways of engaging with people. In a Lions Health session, Zuleika Burnett, executive director of creative and innovation at Havas Life Medicom, said that uncovering deep insights is what’s most important when it comes to creating great health campaigns. In other words, data rules—both in medicine and in marketing around medicine.