One of the high points of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is the diversity of speakers you get to hear within a few days.
On Thursday, I heard Malala Yousafzai, Nobel laureate and activist, deliver an inspiring session on how young people are at the forefront of global movements for causes ranging from climate change to gender inequality to racial discrimination. We are agitators for change, she said, and then urged brands to engage and partner with Gen Z more actively.
A message that stood out for me from her session was that young people expect their brands to be more ambitious about the problems they wish to solve. She received a standing applause, and is also the recipient of this year’s Cannes LionHeart award. I must mention that I was moved by emotion as she walked onto the stage, even as I recalled the bravery she had demonstrated in the darkest of moments in her native Afghanistan.
Partnering with brands
A very different perspective on partnering with brands was presented by the wildly popular American rapper Megan Thee Stallion. She discussed how she had partnered with Cheetos, a Frito Lay brand, to co-create a unique Super Bowl advertisement that went on to become a huge success. Frito Lay’s consumers, like many young people across the world, flock to influencers they can trust, and Megan delivered perfectly to this need.
However, the brand had to permit her relative autonomy throughout this creative project, so that she could remain authentic to her own voice. The brand took this risk, and it paid off handsomely, leading to the most likeable Super Bowl advertisement of the year and then double-digit sales growth as well.
Growth of gaming
I have been amazed by the rapid growth of the gaming industry over the past few years, and have always wondered about the fundamental consumer drivers of this amazing growth trajectory. The session by Fernando Machado, Chief Marketing Officer of Activision Blizzard, and his colleague Pelle Sjoenell, Chief Creative Officer, was an eye-opener on this subject.
Today, gamers represent 40 per cent of the world’s population, and brands are grappling with how to engage and win with this huge consumer segment. Through an insightful presentation peppered with brilliant visual footage, the speakers walked us through the basic behavioural drivers that have made gaming so popular.
They urged brands to find the game and the behavioural driver that is a best fit to them. Their message was clear — brands can ignore gaming only at their own risk, because gaming is clearly the biggest new art form of our time, and it is here to stay.
Rain in Cannes
Today was a rainy day in Cannes. So, I bought a beautiful large blue umbrella befitting the French Riviera from a street vendor just outside the grand venue, Palais De Festivals. Later in the day, while moving from one session to the next, I managed to lose this umbrella. I had become quite fond of it within a few hours, so I am hoping that I will find it somewhere tomorrow.
Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views