People walking into their hotel rooms in the wee hours of the day. High pitched voices littering every by lane in the middle of the night. Smart execs with open laptops having discussions in every hotel lobby. After Dark parties on every rooftop.
We’re at the mid-way point at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and energy levels are nearly peaking.
With the sprawling views of a majestic city from my hotel balcony and the comfort of my duvet almost enclosing me in the room – I could feel the energy of inspiration and creativity of the Palais in the background calling me to experience the day’s stellar line up of speakers.
Day 3, in particular, was one of those days where every session you missed while attending another, was an opportunity lost.
With an awe-inspiring session on ‘Reimagining the Retail Experience’ by Apple’s SVP Retail, Angela Ahrendts and VP Marketing Communications, Tor Myhren it was truly fascinating to experience how Apple puts so much thought into the finer elements of customer experience, transforming the purpose of the brick and mortar store. In a time when a lot of big brands (especially in the UK) are looking back at cutting down on their retail store investments, Ahrendts – ex-CEO of the fashion house, Burberry – and current in-charge of Apple’s physical stores, contact and online centers, reveals how the tech giant’s physical and digital retail businesses are integrated with art and humanity, to create a frictionless customer experience for the brand’s billion plus annual visitors.
Both Angela and Tor echo the sentiment of the retail experience being an effort in “humanizing technology” and that its te finer details that always matter when building an iconic store for an iconic brand, echoing Steve Jobs’ philosophy - “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.” Every element of every Apple store had a story behind it – from the location, to the design, to the flooring – even the lights that are used inside it. You could see very proud and passionate stakeholders – Ahrendts and Myhren – exude this energy from their stage and transfer that passion to the audience present.
Overheard on the Croisette (Cabanas, Yachts and Beyond)
“Sure feels like Mom and Dad have crashed the party this year”
“Hang in there mate!”
“For a brand that isn’t here, I’ve heard more chatter from Publicis more in the past few days than I’ve ever heard in my 10 year career”
In their power-packed session on ‘Transformation at Speed’ the fuel-injected, turbocharged team from R/GA spoke of the need of a disruptive thinking process for the next level of transformation and growth and analysed key areas brands needed to focus on to transform all areas of their business in an era driven by the hyper connected consumer in an agile and dynamic business environment.
Not only did the very passionate speakers do a great job at laying out the entire industry as it was and the challenges it currently faced…
…they, very simply, highlighted the key areas of focus one needed to have to overcome and control the changing environment.
Adding humor and glamour to the Festival by bringing some laughs to the Lumière stage at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Conan O’Brien and Shaquille O’Neal candidly spoke of their own brands and how they relate to the audiences that connect with them, in a session that was moderated by the CNN Anchor - Chris Cuomo, headlined ‘Conan & Shaq– Jacks of All Trades, Masters of Some’.
Before leaving the audience in splits, the two comedians mentioned the importance of being frank in their communicating with their fans and urged Cannes to be more daring – “…do stuff that keeps you alive… Through that, I found that being myself—being as honest as I can with my viewers and my fans—is what is transformative. That’s what seems to work best on the internet.” Added Shaq when asked what made him viral and loved.
Closing a day of fantastic speaker sessions was a panel on how Skittles championed Super Bowl– hosted by none other than the F.R.I.E.N.D.S TV star David Schwimmer, in conversation with Rankin Carroll (President, Fruity Confections CBU - Mars Wrigley Confectionery) and Ari Weiss (Chief Creative Officer – DDB). Riding on the trend of reaction videos, emerging from the YouTube era, the trio discuss the lengths they went to create Skittles’ most talked about TV commercial to date - "Exclusive the rainbow". The mystery of only one person given the exclusive privileges of watching the Skittles ad while all of America watched Marcos Menendez from Canoga Park, earned the brand 1.5 billion impressions taking personalization to the next level. David Schwimmer being the comedian he is – kept the audience on the edge of their seats with his razor sharp slapstick wit, as he questioned the marketing geniuses on their latest stunt.
Serving as a befitting end of a perfect day of knowledge sessions was a Frozé (Frozen Rosé) that was being handed out to us on the Croisette as I headed back to the DAN Beach House for a quick meeting, before heading out to the festivities of the evening!
Top 3 Sessions to Look forward to in Day 04:
“Can Creativity Save Our Wildlife? Global Announcement of Lion’s Share”
Speakers: Andrew Clarke (Chief Marketing and Customer Officer, Mars, Inc.), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones Actor and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador), Nick Garrett (CEO, Clemenger BBDO), Chris Nelius (Film Director and Writer, Finch), Collet Ngobeni (Black Mamba Ranger), Toni Petra (Executive Vice President of Nielsen’s International Watch Business) and Achim Steiner (UNDP Administrator)
When: Thursday 21, 12:00 - 12:45 (45min)
Where? Debussy Theatre, Palais I
“What AI Teaches Us About Creativity and the Universe”
Speakers: Adrian Bejan (J.A. Jones Distinguished Professor, Duke University), George Zarkadakis (AI Architect and Author, Willis Towers Watson) & Nikos Acuña (Chief Visionary, Sizmek Inc.)
When: Thursday 21, 13:00 - 13:45 (45min)
Where? Innovation Stage, Lions Innovation, Palais II
“Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll and Advertising”
Speaker: Andrew Robertson (President & CEO, BBDO Worldwide )
When: Thursday 21, 15:30 - 16:00 (30min)
Where? Debussy Theatre, Palais I
Tune in tomorrow for more on the Chatter on the Croisette!
(Abhinay Bhasin is Associate Director, Data Sciences at Dentsu Aegis Network, India. He is a a post graduate in Economics from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom.)