Sally O’Dowd has written numerous articles for the Social Media Week blog since 2011, reporting from Cannes, Paris and New York. Sally served as special correspondent for SMW from the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity in 2012. This article was originally posted here

cannes-lions-logoWhat would Don Draper think about the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity?  He probably would have been on the main stage, speaking to a packed room about advertising’s power to make emotional connections, perhaps drawing from the Kodak carrousel and poignant family memories. And he definitely would have been seen at The Gutter Bar until the wee hours of the morning.

About 10,000 of the world’s most creative people in advertising, marketing and PR can relate to the intersection of inspirational content and great conversation: We are all packing our bags for this year’s festival, taking place June 17 to 24.

The Cannes Lions Festival was founded in 1954 by ad executives who believed that the 30-second film, the staple of advertising at the time, deserved the same recognition as feature films. Indeed, the festival’s roots are in storytelling and today’s multimedia and social platforms make storytelling all the more robust.

This year, ad agencies and their clients from 87 countries have submitted a record 34,301 entries in hopes of winning a Cannes Lions award, the most prestigious in the industry. For years, delegates have tried to predict the winners. Twenty-five years ago, Donald Gunn began Leo Burnett’s Cannes Predictions by curating and sharing ¾” film reels from around the world. Today, the agency’s digital assembly of contenders is on SlideShare.Meanwhile,  Dominik Heinrich, a creative director  at Agenta in Munich, is using Pinterest to predict this year’s winning campaigns, as Creativityreports.

bill clintonGlobally renown, the festival consistently attracts A-list speakers from outside the world of advertising. President Bill Clinton is speaking Thursday on how advertising can help build a better world. (Tom Scott from The Gates Foundation is discussing a similar topic on Monday and providing a behind-the-scenes look at the organization’s Grand Challenges Explorations program). Selena Gomez is also talking Thursday about how to reach people born between 1980 and 2000. (Hint: be participatory.) Meanwhile, Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker is tackling the democratization of content on Wednesday, along with Brian Message, co-manager of Radiohead and David Alberts, chief creative officer of MOFILM Social.

Inspirational Content

GS& Communications will be well-represented in France next week as well. Several of our clients, industry friends and other organizations have seminars, workshops and events that I think will be of interest to a broad cross section of business readers. Check back here regularly and follow us on Twitter @digennaro for reports on the following:

  • Sara Arnell, CEO of the Arnell Group, is hosting a workshop bright and early at 9 am on Monday (and again at 2 pm) on what she calls “Freshing Old Brands.” That is to say, brands should change consistently over time to be in step with society and thus avoid expensive, mass overhauls.
  • Also on Monday, Jeff Benjamin, chief creative officer at JWT, is riffing on the company’s Worldmakers web-based video series for a “Worldmakers Live” session about how to think young.  He’ll be joined by three kids—Jordan Casey, Europe’s youngest app maker; child activist and author Adora Svitak; Caine Monroy, creator of Caine’s Arcade; and two adults– Band-Aid Brand Senior Brand Manager Bryant Ison and Nirvan Mullick, a filmmaker and partner at media agency Interconnected. Together, they will talk about about imagination through a child’s eyes.
  • GroupM, the world’s largest media buyer and part of the WPP network, and two of its agency brands have three sessions dedicated to social media, mobile marketing and/or globalization.  On Sunday, GroupM China CEO Bessie Lee is interviewing Joe Chen, the CEO of Renren, China’s leading social networking service, about the “social-over-mobile revolution.” They’ll tackle a key question: How do marketers capture the hearts and minds of more than half a billion Internet users around the world, and nearly 400 million who go online with their phones? Complementing that session is an MEC discussion led by Chief Strategy Officer Melanie Varley about “mobile first,” the notion that brands must first build creative concepts for mobile devices and only then extend the messaging into other media. The Mindshare session on Tuesday features Swedish author Fredrik Härén, who will launch his new book, One. World. One Company and discuss what it takes to cross geographic and cultural boundaries to become a thriving, global brand.
  • On Friday, GM CMO Joel Ewanick and Jeff Goodby, founder of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, will talk about their relationship in a session called “Can Your Client Be Your Friend?” Some context for you:  Joel and Jeff introduced the Porsche Boxster, brought Hyundai back from the dead, and have just guided Chevrolet to its best year in history. Nevertheless, Joel gave Goodby a C+ in the press. In addition to the seminar, GM will be hosting a special exhibit on the lawn of the Grand Hotel that will feature interactive Chevy Sonic cars and give people a chance to experience the Sonic “Let’s Do This” campaign for themselves. More info on @sonicsfirst.
  • Leave fear behind” is the theme of another session led by Jacki Kelly, global CEO of UM. She will be joined by Kim Kadlec, vice-president, global marketing group of Johnson & Johnson; Time Inc. EVP Paul Caine; Fortune Editor-at-Large Pattie Sellers; and Glee star Matthew Morrison. They’ll discuss ways they are using consumer insights and corporate partnerships to help create engageing content that clicks with people and drives brands.

Cannes Also

Outside the conference hall, the creativity and storytelling will continue to heat up under a Mediterranean sun.

brand unionThroughout the event, the Cannes Lions organizers along with branding agencies The Brand Union and Lambie-Nairn, are hosting “Play, Make, Master” just outside the Palais des Festivals: Delegates can experiment with clay modeling, Lego construction and balloon art with help from experts; take daily classes; and record and share their designs in the Getty Images lounge.   On Thursday, digital agency Organic, New York-based storytelling organization The Moth and Contagious magazine are hosting a StorySLAM during which people will vie for the title of “worst day in advertising” at the Google Creative Sandbox, a popular meeting place during the festival.  With a dose of good humor, the hosts argue, “If you’ve made it to Cannes it’s likely [your really bad day] hasn’t kept you down.”  Indeed.

Follow the festival on Twitter at @cannes_lions#canneslions and #cannesalso.

See Sally O’Dowd’s exclusive video interview from Cannes with Jeff Goodby here:

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