Cannes Creativity Festival by the numbers: what’s hot in 2017

Posted on 17/06/2017


cannes festival of creativity talks

You can probably chart the rise and fall of different creative schools of thought through Cannes events. So that’s what I’ve tried to do – digesting the Cannes schedule to get an impression of what’s getting everyone excited and what’s losing its shine.

Key topics:

Being creative

It’s Cannes so we’re all about the creativity this week. What I like about the weekend’s lineup is the multitude of ways that people approach creativity, not least how they talk about it. In addition to the awards there are over 84 events across the whole week about the topic. It’d be negligent not to attend at least one of these…

Talk count: 84

Robotics and AI

Strictly speaking, these are two separate topics, but they both fit within my category of ‘things people are scared of that could take our jobs’. (Sidenote: I for one am very excited about my robot /AI surrogates and plan to make them just as sarcastic and awkward as myself.)

Given the position of these two fields on the Gardner hype cycle, they are going to make increasingly big waves and are set to reinvent huge parts of how our world operates.

Talk count: 78!!


Next up data: the weapon of choice for scientists, the comfort blanket of the executive. Advertising has a love/hate relationship with data having suffered from pre-testing and attempts to quantify creativity. But data aren’t going anywhere and with artificial intelligence (AI) growing up it’s a case of being part of the steamroller to avoid becoming part of the road.

This year’s talks fall somewhere between data evangelism and finding balance with the scary freedom and lawlessness of creativity. These are high on the priority list for me, but I’m open to having my worldview messed with.

Talk count: 26


People like stories, not datasets, duh. Since the rise of “storytelling” as the biggest cliché in marketing, this has been a staple of marketing and creativity festivals. Admittedly, less than half of the people attending the festival are actually storytellers (i.e. actual novelists / scriptwriters / game designers – as much as we might all wish it) so it may all fall on deaf ears. Or maybe this is exactly why we need all the help…

Talk count: 25

Startup meets corporation

Startups, and partnerships and ‘how to be a startup despite being the exact opposite’ style talks. The difficultly that big businesses face in dealing with disruptive innovation has been a boon for startups, giving them their exit strategy, but also plenty of funding and partnership opportunities.

At the festival, we’ve got a few different takes on this:

  • The startup perspective
  • The startup & corporation partnership
  • The corporate innovation lab

I’m keen to see where big pharma is on this spectrum and work out where the advertising/marketing industry currently sits too.

Talk count: 27

Follow the artist

Advertising is an artform. Whether you agree or disagree, the industry remains open to learning and collaborating with artists of all fields. As long as this doesn’t descend into worship of art/the artist, then it’s worth a look.

Talk count: 37


Not sure whether this is akin to ‘diversity washing’, but I’m glad it features large on the agenda. The advertising struggles with diversity (says the middle-class white guy) in both the work we produce and who we hire. I’m going to a few of these sessions and hoping we can start to change this.

Talk count: 6

VR – more than a gimic

If Mark Zuckerberg takes it seriously, it probably is serious (not least because he’s capable of funding it into existence). This year I’m intrigued by the number of VR talks and workshops.

My last VR demo was underwhelming, but the more I see of the Occulus game experiences, the more I want to see.

Talk count: 12

Behavioural economics (BE) and the science of persuasion

A few years back, BE was akin to ‘teenage sex’ (everybody talking about it; very few doing it). But since Dan Ariely and Rory Sutherland broke BE into the mainstream, that has thankfully changed.

My perspective: excited to see how theory is evolving into action. How do you integrate the principles of behaviour change into how we plan and design communications? What does this mean for different disciplines: strategy, design, and communications?

Talk count: 3

Finally: Dodgy metaphor count

Made By Many’s Andy Whitlock (founder of the Metaphwoar talks) would be overjoyed at these. Based on the talk titles, I’m looking forward to some stretched metaphors over the course of the festival…