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Stepping into the Spotlight (with a Grand Prix) at Cannes Lions 2018

Posted by Samantha Stallard on July 11, 2018
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The annual International Festival of Creativity (aka Cannes Lions) took over the Cote D’Azur once again last month, as the advertising industry continues to face an extraordinarily challenging business environment. From the Palais to VIP parties and luncheons, there were countless fascinating debates from marketers, media professionals, and agency executives with eye-opening insights on the future of advertising.

Throughout the 2018 festival, the rosé flowed freely and helicopters carried A-listers in and out of the port lined with yachts where ad-techs and creatives rubbed elbows with clients and would-be clients. Even so, more people in the Palais and fewer on the Croisette suggests that the focus has shifted from media buyers mingling at beach cabanas to creative directors spending time seeing shortlisted work.
 
"It seemed a bit more purposeful than in past years," said CNX's Chief Experience Officer, Josh Stinchcomb, who attended this year's event. "I think everyone in the industry recognizes that the business is challenging and that time is scarce, so making the most of every meeting and networking opportunity was top of mind."
 
At the beginning of the week, Unilever announced it would no longer spend any of its multibillion-dollar ad budget with social media influencers who buy followers, prompting a wider conversation about this relatively new marketing channel. Social media marketing is broadly praised for its ability to foster an authentic conversation with consumers, but how can consumers trust people whose primary function is to “influence?” Even with conversations around influencers, shifting away from demographic targeting, and how to advertise to Gen Zcreativity in advertising and marketing still matters, and that’s what ultimately draws brand leaders to the south of France every summer.
 
"This year, people really made statements and took risks with their activations." said CNX's Executive Director of Experiential, Katie Rappaport. "While many huge agencies are taking a stance not to go to Cannes, more brands are taking a stance to go, making the festival less about advertising and more about advertisers."
 
The CNX team descended upon Cannes with a mission. CNX is dedicated to creating unexpected and memorable moments through experiences that immerse and captivate. To demonstrate our cultural influence, we produced IN THE FUTURE… enlisting our portfolio of brands most galvanizing editors, writers and thinkers tapping their unique insights to create explosive statements challenging the advertising world.
 
"Our agency capabilities as a company have evolved to a place where we can compete with some of the traditional players, so it seemed like the right time for Condé Nast to step out into the spotlight," said Stinchcomb. 

We presented this series of intellectual explorations and provocative statements at Cannes Lions with the aim of driving conversation about how we, as agents of change, impact culture and shape our world. Attendees joined us IN THE FUTURE… for meetings, daily events and lively debates between our editors, contributors and personalities surrounding the future of our work.

"Conde Nast has always been at the forefront of culture and so we tapped some of our editors to predict what topics will be trending in the future," said CNX Project Director, Amy Beerup. "We celebrated these provocative “Future Bombs” through daily installations on our high-profile activation site."

The activation captivated and intrigued thousands of passersby taking over the Carlton East Lawn and Terrace.

"We were the first company to ever activate on the lawn of the Carlton,"  said Beerup. "The hotel has traditionally been a meeting point for attendees where brands host clients in meeting suites by day and the Carlton Terrace bar attracts thousands of people each night. Our lawn space became the place to be each evening for cocktails and conversations with our editors and executives."  

The exterior structure on the East Lawn transformed daily with new statements creating conversations. Throughout the festival, Condé Nast hosted client meetings and events with participating thought leaders and editors, then each night, 4,500+ attendees would gather at the Carlton Terrace overlooking the exhibition (with even larger crowds during the day). 

"We treated our space like an exhibition. One that changed every evening to produce new, provocative statements with the aim to impact culture and drive conversations." said Rappaport. "We weren't focused around programming or panels purely for thought leadership sake. Instead, it was about making a statement to drive conversations and garner impact through our space's unexpected statements."


J1_16Day One, Monday June 18, 2018. Every evening from 4-7am, Condé Nast's exterior treatments were updated to reflect that day's topic, driving conversation around a new set of provocative statements. 

SetUp_night_01Day Two, Tuesday June 19, 2018 signage declared IN THE FUTURE... "We will live in the Golden Age of Fake News" and "You'll move to Mars, but only if it has good wifi."

SetUp_J03_12Day Three, Wednesday June 20 included conversations with Condé Nast's SVP of Marketing, Eric Johnson, and Allure's Editor-in-Chief, Michelle Lee.
 

There were countless other stand out brand activations this year, including:

  • Google Beach: Back again and partnering with YouTube, Google Beach provided festival goers with a week of lightning talks, demos and music. The experience was inclusive to all, featuring gender neutral bathrooms featuring numerous Google avatars and capping off Cannes with a Pride-themed beach party to reinvigorate festival goers who may have already attended the activation earlier in the week with a new look and feel. Google Beach also hosted a series of immersive experiences called "The Greatest Stories, Retold," where world-class creative agencies recreated classic tales with a new spin, such as BBH London who reimagined the Ugly Duckling turning into the Swan. Attendees could design and print their own baseball caps with , remix cocktails with a margarita maker, and create a unique poster with nothing more than their voices. Everything at Google Beach was paired with a user-generated playlist and all attendees were encouraged to add to it
  • Spotify: The Killers, DJ Z-Trip, Travis Scott and CHVRCHES were the top names that Spotify pulled in for some of the best parties of the week. The music streaming platform worked with brand experience agency Lively to create a chilled beach house atmosphere. Attendees also had the opportunity to stop and recognize what's most important in life at Spotify's postcard activation station where everyone was invited to write and mail a postcard home to loved ones
  • Pinterest: For its fourth year at Cannes, this was the brand’s biggest yet with talks and experiences around beauty, sessions with a sommelier to find the perfect rose, fashion styling with FabFitFun, and travel survival tips. Outside the Palais there was also an installation with a selection of images users have posted onto Pinterest for things to do in and around Cannes. The experience was delivered by One Rise East
  • Instagram: In partnership with artist Es Devlin, Instagram produced a crowd-pleasing activation about the history of storytelling. Starting with cave drawings overlapped with Instagram Stories, the short piece showcased the multifaceted storytelling taking place on the platform while making a statement on its power and humanity. Devlin’s piece puts viewers in the center of the story, seating them in the middle of a room with mirrored walls and projection mapping.
  • Snapchat: In a unique collaboration between Snapchat’s engineers and digital artist Christian Marclay, art and technology fused to explore the sounds and images of the everyday. Unlike Google and Facebook, this was a technology driven experience with AI at its core. The exhibition’s interactions were beautifully simple and intuitive, like a dark room with the message ‘sing to me’, where attendees words and harmonies created instantly gratifying audio-visual responses. Another space was empty except for a spot-lit piano whose keys sparked immediate and unexpected orchestral soundscapes, compiled entirely from Snapchat content. 

Beyond activating at Cannes, we also attended on behalf of our clients, winning an Outdoor Grand Prix with longtime Pop2Life client, Comedy Central, for "The Daily Show Presents: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library." The Library, a satirical cross between a museum and presidential library, showcased our Commander in Chief’s preferred vessel for communicating with the public, his Twitter feed. The experience kicked off last June in New York City (just around the corner from Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue) before hitting Chicago in October and San Fransisco and Los Angeles in June. 

Jury president Chris Garbutt, Chief Creative Officer at TBWA, said the jury deliberated the Outdoor category well past midnight before announcing the winners. Garbutt went on to say that some American jury members worried the Trump Twitter Library was too New York-centric or too regional, but voices from other markets found it inspiring to use satire to work through tension.

"It's a huge moment for Condé Nast and affirmation of what a crown jewel Pop2Life is for our services business," said Stinchcomb. "The Twitter Library is the perfect mix of engaging experience, sharp satire, and a topic that is both hilariously entertaining and seriously important -- a rare combination!"

Trump Library_9 A Trump Twitter Library attendee at the NYC activation sits on the "golden throne" in a Trump wig and tie. The Library took home an Outdoor Grand Prix award at the 2018 Cannes Lions.


 

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