Time to wrap up once more: Cannes Lions 2012

Last week the city of Cannes in the French Rivera was the week-long epicenter of advertising, as it hosted the 59th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. For me it was the 2nd time of going there. Last year was was overwhelming for me, as a tsunami of experiences and knowledge made a lasting impression on me. Now, I knew what to expect – sort of – but I doubt I’ll ever get used to the sheer scope of sensation this event has to offer.


As last year, I went with the fantastic organisation Jongehonden, aka Dutch Young Creatives. The bus looked fabulous again (with artwork of Andreas Preis), and some twenty hours after departure in rainy Amsterdam we arrived in sunny Cannes. The group of 40 young creatives was just great. Vibrant and full of energy, ready to cause some havoc and have an epic party, but also; learn a thing or two hundred about our industry.


The festival:
The goviral seminar brought the festival into being, and it was the first of many seminars which featured a lot of ‘obviousness’, about the digital generation. Perhaps we considered it obvious, since they where talking about us, or perhaps we’re just well educated. I’m not sure. But the barrage of plain-quotes continued all week, with quotes like ‘it is all about relationships’, and ‘the new generation is connecting like never before’. Blah. UM decided to repeat the four P’s, as if we didn’t know them. Even Leo Burnett dared to end their presentation with a slide which said; ‘creativity can transform human behaviour’. This is not why I come to Cannes.

Luckily though, this kind of speech was vastly outnumbered by the good, and I was left in awe plenty of times.


A lot of seminars where about mobile, which seemed one of the buzzwords for this year (the other being the future, social media, data and Asia). In fact, so many spoke about technology, that for me the Lions started to feel a bit like a tech-festival (which is fine by the way, given the importance of technology for our industry). Dave Gwozdz from Mojiva even went as far as suggesting to make mobile the center any campaign. I’m not so sure about that, but he was spot on with his observation that most brands don’t even have mobile landing pages yet. Also, he said there wouldn’t be any standardisation in features or sizes from mobile devices, since they’re extends of ones personalities. He compared it to jewelry (which isn’t standardised either).

Questions where made about the full-time state of connected we’re in nowadays. During the TED talk, Roon Kang said; ‘think about the workers at Apple, who made their lives more complicated, to make the iPhone, to make our lives more complicated’, and Arianna Huffington said ‘If we learn to disconnect in order to connect with ourselves, the impact will be amazing.’

And furthermore; in countries like India, mobile usage has now surpasses desktop usage. The explanation for this is that most Indian people never had a computer (or laptop), but now have a little bit of money to spend. Most of them buy smartphones, since they’re cheaper than laptop, and so that is their first and only encounter with the internet.

Some more quotes on technology:

Technology changes incredibly fast, but people change very slowly.
Paul Adams

Technology has removed the friction of time and space.
Dick Costolo

Digital is not a medium. Digital is an infrastructure.
Amir Kassaei


Another buzzword was, like every year I suppose, the future. Some nice quotes that where brought back where William Gibson’s; ‘the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distrusted’, and ‘the future ain’t what it used to be’, by Yogi Berra. Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter had a quote more concrete for our industry; ‘We’re moving from a world where we plan campaigns for the future, to one where we adapt campaigns to the moment.’


Social media, like last year, was well debated. For me, the Facebook seminar was an eye-opener, with Paul Adams putting on a fantastic presentation (although he literally choked in the first minute). Some quotes from him:

We receive more and more information; it’s an overload now, while our memory stays the same. What do we do? We turn to our friends for help.

Make social interaction a fundamental part of the creative brief.

The term social will eventually go away, because we’re social creatures. It’s who we are.

If you want to be social, go home to your parents.

He also had some advice on how to use Facebook (of course): ‘Think of Facebook as a new type of creative canvas’, and; ‘start by designing the newsfeed experience first, not the app’.

More quotes on social media, by others:

Twitter gives you a front row seat to everybody’s direct perspective across the world.
Dick Costolo

Social media changed the relationship between brands and the public. It’s a story, and it’s not a 30 second story.
Justin Kingsley

Social media is a commentary tool, instead of telling people what to buy.


On the next buzzword, data:

Data is a need to have – not a nice to have.
Jon Vein

Data is the digital revolution’s gift to us.
Ann Lewnes

Data is never the solution; creativity is.
Jon Vein

If data doesn’t lead to a core idea or insight it is a waste of time.
Mark Tutsell

and, this one 😉

Love pie, hate pie charts.
David McCandless


It was great to see how Asia was represented. I suppose China visited the festival before (in form of a seminar), but this year South Korea and India take the main stage for the first time.

The China and India seminars started with mind-dazzling numbers. Apparantly, one out of five smartphones is sold in China, and according to Bessie Lee we’ll move from ‘Made in China’, to ‘Consumed in China’. Joe Chen from RenRen (China’s largest social network), had a nice insight about why social media and especially instant-messaging is so successful in China: ‘The poorer a country is, the more time they have to kill – and so instant messaging is huge in China.’ What added to this effect would be the one-child policy they have, so that young people felt more lonely.

India’s seminar, by Lowe + Partners (an agency I visited in March earlier this year; read the Mumbai report here) started with some numbers (and jokes as well). One out of every six people on this world is Indian, and the country is set to overtake China and become the most populous country in the world by 2030. Also; 12.000 ads from India where submitted to the Cannes Lions this year. Shekhar Kapur and Balki joked around, saying; ‘when Spiderman Six comes out, he’s going to be played by an Indian.’ Also, they insisted that the next Pixar or Google might just come out of India. I’m not sure, but I do sincerely believe that India (and the rest of Asia for that matter) will become more influential to the rest of the world in the near-near future.

Kapur went on about India and the rest of the world; ‘we appreciate difference, often a little too late’, and Balki on advertising in India: ‘So many things that work in our country don’t make sense to the rest of the world. But that’s culture, and it’s the same for any place.’

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton, in a whole different seminar, said something that somehow connects; ‘our common humanity means more than our differences.’

South Korea was represented by Cheil Worldwide, who spoke about K-pop (Korean pop) and the digital wave. They invited the band 2EN1, which even put on a show (photo), causing many Koreans in the audience to go berserk. Short sentences from their presentation: ‘Encourage self-expression. Go from one theme to diversity and from liking to doing. Be a dear friend, instead of a hero.’

SJ Kimm also said: ‘Brands maybe should let down their perfect attitude and become more human, more personal.’


However, as much as these Asians spoke about their countries, it was Fedrik Haren who insisted country-tags are irrelevant. His jokes in combination with this queer accent made the Mindshare seminar look almost like cabaret, yet with great content. He started with putting us back with our feet on the ground, saying we’re not the only industry who has to be creative. Haren highlighted cops, who have to be very creative since their competitors (criminals) aren’t just thinking ‘outside the box’, but also outside the law. And nuclear scientist, who have to think of anything that can go wrong, before it goes wrong. Just a slightly different form of creativity, but it’s good brainfood.

Then he went on about globalisation, and highlighted the new MINI car. Normally, cars where always associated with countries, but the new MINI is neither English (its roots) nor German (since it’s owned by BMW). Haren: ‘It’s cosmopolitan, not connected to England or Germany. What would be the point of that anyway?’

On Rovio, who created Angry Birds: ‘They don’t call themselves a Finnish entertainment company. They just call themselves an entertainment company. Adding Finnish in front adds nothing, it only limits. That might have made them the most popular app in Finland, now their games are downloaded a billion times worldwide.’

On Volvo: ‘The official language at Volvo is not UK-English, or American-English, or formal-English. It’s bad English, so that all employees can speak to each other. If an American is talking in difficult words to a Korean, he’s not staying with the official language.’


Yet the best seminar of the festival for me, was from DraftFCB, who didn’t talk about themselves (like many other brands, sometimes resulting in a true bore-fest). But instead, they opted to let streetartist JR tell his story, about pasting photos on Parisian walls, and then going to Israel, before visiting Brazil, India and heaps of other stories. He sometimes mocked advertising, yet in a respectful and fun way; ‘I didn’t write ‘Just do it’, I just did it.’

More quotes from JR:

The beauty of being an artist is that you have the right to fail.

I pasted on whatever wall I could find, and so I was 18 and already had an exhibition at the Champs-Elysees.

Just search up some of his work, it’s amazing.


Inspirational stuff from the recalcitrant seminar from Thenetworkone, about independent agencies. Tom Beckman, from Prime spoke about PR stunts, and how most of them are just lame jokes, begging for media attention. He advised to do something worthwhile: ‘Media is not the message – business is the message.’ His example was an organisation of Swedish plumbers who went to Africa and helped to build pipelines for water there. They could’ve also done some lame stunt on a crouded square in Oslo, but this way, it actually meant something.


SapientNitro compared global brands to global celebrities, in a chat where Daren McColl from SapientNitro exchanged striking arguments with actor Omar Epps.

Epps: ‘Brands can’t match celebrity authenticity. Brands are just companies, celebrities are human.’
McColl: ‘The top five brands spend more on innovation than the top twenty celebrities can earn.’
Epps: ‘Celebrities might not be the innovators, but they do set trends.’


Also, JWT had a wonderful seminar with three wizkids, talking about the notion of play. Caine Monroy (photo), a 9-year old, who opened an arcade made out of cardboard, gave this advice; ‘don’t go for the far ones. Get the close ones.’ Adora Svitak, a 14-year old author and youngest TED-speaker ever, said: ‘Not knowing is good. When I was even younger I was not scared of speaking for big audiences, because I didn’t know it was supposed to scary.’ Daria from Carlsberg, during a whole different seminar, said; ‘the secret to kids creativity; kids do things for fun, not for money.’


Apart from the seminars, masterclasses and workshops, where I got all these quotes from, there was a large exhibition of work. (just a trivial fact:; agencies have paid a total of €14.8 million to submit their works this year) ADCN board-member Tim Voors took us around for a tour, discussing why some work wins and why most doesn’t. From that, I learned that visual work, while not always being the most genius, works best (for the sake of winning awards). Coke Hands from Ogivly Shanghai functions as a prime example; an ad without any copy, one which all jury members will easily understand, regardless of their mother tongue.



Some more quotes, not really categorised.

We are not in the ad business. We are in the business of making things relevant.
Amir Kassaei

Is there a gap in the market, and a market in the gap?
James Kirkham

The best agencies in the world are strategy advisors.
Ann Lewnes

Ask for the mission of the company; that’s rarely a viral.
Ted Royer

Find and create the relevant truth, deliver it in a fresh way, and people will care.
Amir Kassaei

If we find out what makes people tick, the world is our oyster.
Mark Tutsell

Stop interrupting what people are interested in. Become what people are interested in.
Nick Davidge

Treat people as your best friends, not as customers or target groups.
Amir Kassaei

If your customers are going to spend time with a brand you need to give them something. I’d call it ROT – Return On Time.
Fernanda Romano

Make people think what a great product, not what a great ad.
Dave Trott

Have an opinion and force others to have an opinion about you.
Matt Elek

That which is worth doing is worth doing well.
Nicolas Poussin

Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought.
Jonathan Mildenhall

Set your alarm – not to wake up – but to know when to go to sleep.
Arianna Huffington

What is missing is not IQ, it’s wisdom.
Arianna Huffington

80% of CEO’s think they give great customer service, and only 8% of their customers say it is so.
Katrina Dodd

The invention of printing, photography and the mobile phone where all labelled as the death of privacy.
Paul Adams

There’s been an explosion in low-cost video devices.
Lucas Watson

Don’t try to make ads like film, unless you make them better than the film industry does.
Damian Kulash

Because streetart is everywhere, it runs the risk of being ignored.
Howard Draft

Exclusivity does not work online.
Damian Kulash

I love the power and speed of traditional art & copy teams.
Ted Royer



Then it just lasts me to say that I really hope I can write another wrap-up next year, after attending the 2013 Lions, but for that, I’ll have to work really hard and earn my pass again. And as our bus driver Peter poetically said; ‘despite all those long days, sadly, a week like this is over real quick.’

Au revoir, for now.