Cannes Flags - good lead image.png

Decoding Cannes The 2019 Trend Report


The heart and soul of Cannes Lions is creativity. That’s why almost 20,000 people gather yearly from 100 countries spanning the globe to immerse themselves in all things creative. It’s the Olympics of Creativity.

Cannes comprises five days of hundreds of panels, workshops, presentations and sessions by over 600 of the best and brightest in advertising, media, entertainment and technology. Accept FOMO is a fact – you are always missing something wonderful no matter what session you attend.

As a member of Canada’s Cannes Advisory Board, it’s a priceless opportunity to take the pulse of the world to provide you with a deeper look into the cultural insights and trends driving the best work from around the globe. It’s your crash course in the latest trends from the world’s best marketers, and the insider intel to make the most of the year ahead.

~ Karen Howe


karen_quote2.jpg
The  Columbia School of Journalism  takes on fake news.

The Columbia School of Journalism takes on fake news.

Brands are now expected to have a social conscience.

Brands are now expected to have a social conscience.


ThisAbles was a project created to enable people with special needs to enjoy the quality of life provided by IKEA products.

Tourism Mexico offered a discount based on the percentage your Mexican DNA.

AI and deepfake was deployed in the“Dali Lives” campaign

Now more than ever we are leveraging the power of creativity to change the world.

Now more than ever we are leveraging the power of creativity to change the world.

Creativity is calling attention to issues, and helping to create a global understanding.

Creativity is calling attention to issues, and helping to create a global understanding.

Sonic branding continues to be on trend.

Sonic branding continues to be on trend.

1. Creative reassumes the mantle
The last three years has seen a tremendous uptick in CMOs attending Cannes, and much of the talk had become hyper data-centric. Media players had come to dominate the yachts, and many sessions posited that creativity was now a science that could parcelled, measured, predicted, crunched out with the power of data.

It was not. Nor will it ever be. And this year the rest of the world fell into line.

There’s a reason that Accenture bought Droga5 – one of the hottest creative agencies in the world. Data alone is simply not enough.

Many sessions offered grudging acknowledgement that creative mattered most, while data and media provided the necessary wind in its sails.

2. Hacking hate
Social provides a tremendous platform for all to be heard, but that also includes hate talk.

A number of campaigns, like Go Back to Africa, took painful tweets, capturing hate as it happened and repurposed it into something powerful and positive.

The Fake News Stand by The Columbia School of Journalism

3. The falsity of fake news
Journalism has been under siege for three years now; reporters have been murdered, misinformation parades itself as truth and journalism has been muzzled. Some extraordinary work addressed these issues, with two particular standouts by the New York Times and the Columbia School of Journalism.

No purpose no future screen.jpg

4. Purposewashing in an era of mistrust.
On the heels of greenwashing and pinkwashing we have purposewashing. Brands are now expected to have a social conscience; 64% of us choose a brand based on social stands, and 91% of millennials will actually switch to one aligned with their beliefs. Brands with purpose grow twice as fast as as those without. But the commitment to a cause must be legit, long term, and it must be internal as well as external. Just a few of the companies that walk the talk include Patagonia, WarbyParker and Tom’s shoes.

Brands that blur a “make them cry to make them buy” stance with true activism will be called out by savvy consumers. Edelman’s Trust Barometer shows that 84% don’t trust advertising as a profession, and 6 in 10 don’t trust a brand to keep their promise.

A L’Oreal fashion campaign “normalized” aging.

5. Unstereotyping
Inclusivity remains the mantra. The briefing to the judges this year included the decree that work riddled with stereotypical imagery be tossed out. Cannes See it Be It program is encouraging more women into the business. Companies are enshrining gender equality when it comes to things like bidding out production. This year saw an increase in work that was inclusive of those with disabilities, those who were of fluid in gender or sexual orientation, and multi-racial. A L’Oreal fashion campaign “normalized” aging.

6. Discounting DNA
There has been a meteoric rise since 2017 in the popularity of DNA testing offered by companies like 23andMe. Whether for reasons of health, ancestry or an understanding of character traits, in the last two years almost 30 million have given up their privacy, and their spittle, to find out more about themselves. A number of ideas centred on DNA, the most memorable of which was a tourism campaign from Mexico that offered a sliding discount fee for a trip depending on your percentage of Mexican blood.

7. How artificial is AI?
AI and deepfake concerns continue to percolate. Deepfake was deployed in the“Dali Lives” campaign and did a remarkable job of inviting gallery attendees into Dali’s orbit. But we remain concerned about the underbelly of AI, facial recognition and deepfake. Governments around the world are abusing facial recognition for surveillance. From an advertising standpoint, one agency showcased the first “AI creative director”.


New York Public Library is the first advertiser to harness IG Stories in a meaningful way

8. IG stories found its footing
There are over 500 million Instagram stories uploaded a day. New York Public Library is the first advertiser to harness it in a truly meaningful way by taking classic novels and turning them into Instagram stories.

9. Culture turns to self-reflection
Mindfulness, micro-stacking good habits, and self-care to avoid burnout was on trend supported by a number of major brands, as was gratitude in general. I sense a collective leaning towards anti-consumerism judging by the cultish greeting received by organizing guru Marie Kondo, who has now sold over 11 million books in 42 countries. Her “if it doesn’t spark joy, get rid of it” approach to possessions has clearly struck a chord.

10. We’ve got problems. We’ve got power
Deforestation. Species extinction. Single-use plastics. Online predators. Texting and driving. Now more than ever we are leveraging the power of creativity to change the world and help fix or draw attention to profound issues. Several excellent campaigns tackled the anti-immigration sentiment mushrooming around the world. Trans acceptance was front and centre with work like the much-awarded First Shave.

Creativity is calling attention to issues, and helping to create a global understanding. Look at our attitude about one-use plastics now versus even three years ago.

11. Creative cross-pollination
TV viewing on the decline and ad-blocking and streaming is on the rise. Advertising finds itself at a fascinating crossroads. Many brands are choosing to swap DNA with film, music, journalism or tech to create content or a consumer experience that is far more engaging. I am seeing brands like Lego use tech like AR for a far better retail experience, to transcend limitations to do things like bring a boxed toy to life.

12. Listen for sonic branding
Sonic branding continues to be on trend. With the continuing rise of voice as a search tool, and an increasing number of consumer touch-points becoming sound-driven brands will need to define their sonic souls. MasterCard has sonically branded itself right down to the consumer experience at check-out or online.

13. Creative Agencies Under Siege
While agencies are busy eyeing the consultancies and procurement with concern, they should also take stock of the increasing tendency for clients to “in-house” their creative. Flanking that, we have P&G adopting and “fixed and flow” model. That means they have a fixed portfolio of agencies who must compete on a project-by-project basis. So the agencies live in a state of perpetual jump ball, unable to staff properly longer term and work efficiently. It’s an example of clients shooting themselves in the foot. When your agency is your business partner, you have the advantage of speaking brand shorthand, they live your pain points, and have your back when trouble hits. Ultimately it means better work. Look no further than Apple or KFC. They proudly stick with one agency and consider them a deeply valued member of the team.

14. The year ahead. What keeping you up at night?
Ethics. Transparency. Future-proofing our business. Purpose versus profit. Cannes 2019 underscored that our business continues to be in a time of rapid transition, and the speed of change is accelerating. But unlike those gloomy ad doomsday predictors, in the year ahead I see creativity’s remarkable magic alchemy, coupled with cultural understanding and insight, transforming any problem into an opportunity.


more insights from Cannes 2019

Decoding Cannes 2019 brings you the essential inspiration and insider intel from behind the scenes at Cannes this year. In this fast-paced session, Karen Howe shares the top trends and cultural insights driving the best work from around the world.

Decoding Cannes includes:

• Exclusive insights and analysis on global creativity and innovation
• How to rethink your business for the year ahead
• An understanding of key trends, analysis of award-winning work, speaker highlights
• Q&A afterwards

BOOK YOUR DECODING CANNES SESSION HERE