The Cannes Lions experience: did this year’s festival live up to expectations?

Yasmin Arrigo, Global Brand and Editorial Director at Amplify, considers whether it lived up to the hype...

Published by: The Drum
Written by: Yasmin, Arrigo
Date: 06/07/2022

After a two-year hiatus for the International Festival of Creativity, it was a return to the Croisette for a week of awards, talks, networking, big business and, in some cases, big-budget entertainment.

But while the past few years have introduced us all to hybrid formats, promising a democratization of experience, a lowering of barriers to entry and heightened audience numbers, how did the Cannes Lions experience fare upon its eagerly-anticipated return? Here are some of the discussions that recurred during the week...

Who got on the plane?

No, not literally who made it through the BA and easyJet cancellations – although, let’s be honest, there was plenty of that discussion. The whole ‘who gets to go to Cannes’ conversation dominates adland gatherings prior to the event and this year continued out there, with much discourse around the talent crisis and inability to fill post-pandemic vacancies. This was coupled with rising commentary around business travel against the backdrop of a climate crisis.

But agencies and individuals are making strides at switching up who gets to experience the Lions, from Elvis sending its social media manager and senior account director following an internal competition through to Cephas Williams’s initiative, which funded and brought a group of Black creatives to Cannes.

Cabana content v the Palais

The Palais de Congres, with its various stages, continues to offer a wealth of inspiring content, with everything from the future of gaming to e-commerce algorithms through to the biggest queues of the week for storytelling chief Ryan Reynolds.

But with a strong showing from the Cabana content – shoutout to Meta in particular – the content beyond the Palais is increasingly rich, albeit in some cases invite-only or highly restricted numbers. A Cabana pass, enabling access to the best content beyond the Palais, could be an interesting proposition in the future.

The awards experience

The Lions’ allure is still evident in the sheer number of entries from across the globe – 25.4k this year from 87 countries – a respectable volume against 2021 levels, which covered two years due to the 2020 festival cancellation. But to maintain that allure, the ceremony itself could do with a revamp.

The activations along the beach showcased emerging tech and exciting formats that the nightly ceremonies could certainly adopt to position the shows as a must-attend experience for all those shortlisted, and an aspirational moment for those coveting the Lions.

Climate anxiety

From activist and former Lions winner Gustav Martner’s impassioned ‘there’s no awards on a dead planet’ protest during the opening ceremony to Greenpeace’s demonstrations on the beach and outside the Palais calling for a ban on fossil fuel advertising, the climate emergency was never far from attendees’ minds. Meanwhile, back in the Palais, ‘secret speakers’ used their platform to highlight the escalating crisis. Yet this was the perfect forum to add in the actionable – something each attendee could do and lobby for – rather than leaving them in a state of heightened climate anxiety.

Joyful respites

While some found joy in the early hours at the Gutter bar, or in the sheer volume of expense-account rosé, the social media brands were out in full force along the Croisette also delivering some inspiring moments. From Pinterest choosing to do things differently, with a trend-inspired experience offering everything from micro tatts to bejeweled updos, through to Snap’s augmented reality (AR) exhibition in partnership with Vogue, curated by Edward Enninful, there was much to smile about.

The purpose point

Hammered home loud and clear through the winning work at Cannes, purpose-driven campaigns were the most awarded and celebrated. But exit the Palais and what do you see? The juxtaposition of what we’re collectively delivering and celebrating as award-winning work v the hedonism and opulence of the Croisette.

When you’ve assembled some of the world’s leading brands and agencies and created a global gathering of some of the best creative minds that influence culture and can instill change, surely we should harness the opportunity to collaborate, unify and back a single cause? That would really be a cause worth celebrating.

Goodbye Cannes, a la prochaine.

Yasmin Arrigo is global brand and editorial director at Amplify.

Amplify's founder and global chief executive rounds up events from the key players at Cannes Lions 2022 activations, read it here.