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Cannes Lions remains the mecca of the creative communications industry

Lorcán Hanlon, chief commercial and revenue officer for the Business Post Group, explores what the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity holds for those in Irish media

Lorcán Hanlon, chief commercial and revenue officer, Business Post Group; Charley Stoney, chief executive, IAPI; and Conor O’Donovan, head of global communications, Enterprise Ireland. ‘Cannes Lions is an important platform for Irish creative services companies,’ said Donovan.

Cannes Lions remains the undisputable mecca of the creative communications industry worldwide.

Each year, upwards of 15,000 media and marketing professionals descend on the south of France to attend what is dubbed ‘the Oscars of advertising’, which is the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

At the heart of the festival are what are without doubt the most coveted awards in creative communications, The Cannes Lions, which across nine different disciplines, track celebrate 30 distinct awards. Beyond the beautifully situated beach and marina-adjacent Palais, the central hub for all festival happenings, there is a growing fringe of the festival that plays home to some of the biggest names in advertising, tech, and even professional services. This growing fringe movement at Cannes carries with it a draw of its own, which for some, outweighs the glitz, glam, and recognition the prestigious awards festival carries.

The staples of the creative world cannot be missed with large-scale productions spread across generous spaces along the famous boulevard La Croisette. In recent years, however, the prevalence of the global media and marketing empires have started to take a back seat to the ever-growing presence of big tech and advertising platforms staging exhibition-level events, flying in famous names of sport, music, and industry that, more often than not, rival and eclipse speakers in the official festival venues.

Of the nearly $1 trillion digital advertising market today, almost 50 per cent currently sits within three of the festivals biggest supporters; Google, Meta, and Amazon. So the influx of tech money in search of creativity, and the data behind it, is of no surprise as the festival draws in the most notable partner brands on and off stage. The opulent displays of courting brand money can be seen in almost every corner of the town, with global names like TikTok, Wall Street Journal, Microsoft, and Adobe holding court in the town’s biggest landmarks.

The focus on the business of ads was felt even more this year as a notable shift in overarching themes, while not dissimilar to almost all global industries, was quite obvious. The rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on creativity, finally took a back seat in favour of in-depth discussions on growth, scaling, M&A, and how overall financial success in advertising has to remain in sight alongside creativity.

Likewise, the once creative-owned yacht berthings along the Palais marina are now almost exclusively home to ad-tech and platform providers vying for new and existing business from brands, agencies, and even publishers, as both consolidation in the market and the ability to scale audience volumes become ever more essential for commercial success in the media industry. Serving as meeting spaces throughout the day and lavish party venues at night, the yacht scene has quickly become one of the most exclusive and aspirational guestlists of the festival.

The Irish presence in Cannes is hard to dispute and, despite making up less than 200 of the 15,000 festival goers, the prevalence of wins, of recognised work, and the best-in-class network can be felt across the board. This year saw Irish professionals take home a myriad of awards from across seven categories for brands such as Heineken and Baileys as well as leading agencies Publicis Ireland, Thinkhouse, and Slater Design.

Jamie Fulham, planning and media manager for Diageo, was on hand to pick up two silver awards for their work on the Baileys ‘Sound Scales’ campaign.

“We are incredibly honoured to have won two silver awards at the Cannes Lions International Festival, for our Baileys Sound Scales campaign. Being recognised with these prestigious awards in the Audio & Creative Commerce category at Cannes Lions is a testament to the creativity, dedication, and hard work of our entire team. We’re excited to continue bringing innovative ideas like this to life for Baileys, alongside our agency partners VML,” Fulham said.

This year also saw the first-time outing of dedicated government support for the industry through Enterprise Ireland’s support under the Digital Creative Roadmap initiative, which aims to support the growth of creative services in Ireland. Key members of the Enterprise Ireland team were on the ground in Cannes supporting the Irish businesses in attendance with 2024 seeing the inaugural ‘Irish Lunch at Cannes’ – a joint initiative between Enterprise Ireland and IAPI.

“Cannes Lions is the largest gathering for the creative communications, advertising and marketing industry globally and an important platform for Irish creative services companies. Under the government’s Roadmap for the Digital Creative Industries strategy, which sets out to grow the sector internationally, Enterprise Ireland partnered with IAPI to convene the first Team Ireland event at Cannes Lions with over 80 senior marketing and advertising executives from Ireland, Europe and the US.

The Irish commercial creative sector contributes over €1.2 billion annually to the Irish economy and employs thousands of people across the country and is a hugely important, and one of the fastest-growing, services sectors in the economy.

It is our ambition to help more Irish companies in the sector to further internationalise by supporting their development, AI and technology adoption and by putting a spotlight on Irish creativity across the world,”Conor O’Donovan, head of global marketing for Enterprise Ireland, said.

This year was the Business Post’s third time attending the festival and, despite only now recovering from the unavoidable knock that was a global pandemic, the Cannes Lions remains a place to be wowed, be inspired, network, do deals or explore opportunities at a scale and pace that is not available in the day-to-day workings of the media business.

What happens within the entry gates of the official festival is something to be in awe of, but for those looking for a more ROI-driven purpose, the event remains the pinnacle in terms of openness, efficiency, and opportunity to develop business with a global footprint.