This is my first year at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and the sessions I attended at the Palais De Festivals on Wednesday opened many new perspectives in my mind. I heard a compelling study of why AB InBev, the maker of iconic brands such as Budweiser, Corona and Beck’s, has been declared as the creative marketer of the year. 

Within a short period of five years, the company, which was earlier regarded primarily as a buyer of brands, has now become a builder of iconic brands. It has done this by dreaming big, putting people first and celebrating success.

The initiatives presented here were fascinating — ranging from agreements with farmers to closing the gender pay gap in sports to screening a unique soccer match in Mexico during the pandemic. 

EQ is important 

Equally interesting was a discussion on why emotional intelligence (EQ) is very important for building brands. The content was very insightful and relevant. But I must mention another fascinating aspect of this discussion. 

While three speakers were personally on stage in Cannes, a fourth speaker, Dr Daniel Goleman (who is regarded as the godfather of EQ) beamed in live from New York through a hologram. Both his image and voice were very clear and sharp, and the entire experience was somewhat surreal. 

The compere announced that this was the first such hologram-based projection at this year’s festival. Given how successful the whole thing was, I think we will be seeing a lot more of such hologram-led participation at future events. 

I quickly jotted down several learnings as I heard of how Coca-Cola has gone through a big marketing transformation over the past few years, with a clear vision of how the brand wishes to create magic in consumers’ lives.  

Power of advertising, worldwide 

Later in the evening, as I sat through the Cannes Lions Awards Event, I was struck by the sheer scale and diversity of what the advertising and communications industry is delivering across the world, not just in the Western world or in large economies, but also in countries such as Honduras and Peru. 

A young advertising professional sitting next to me at this event commented on the power of a couple of the ideas that had been awarded, and I was impressed with her insightful observations. 

“Where are you from?” I asked her. “I am from Ukraine,” she replied quite calmly and with a pleasant smile. We spoke briefly about her country and the ongoing war. I could sense both immense pride and great emotion in her voice. 

As I walked back from the venue, I looked out at the azure blue sea, with so many sparkling white yachts anchored close to the shore. It was 8 pm, the summer sun had still not set, but this beautiful town on the French Riviera was already getting into a slow, languid late evening mood.

The day had been very hot, but a light evening breeze now fanned my cheeks. I paused for a moment, closed my eyes, and drew in a deep breath of the fresh, crisp air.

Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views