The first day of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2023 was marked by hot weather and the equally hot topic of Artificial Intelligence that made its appearance in virtually every session I attended during the day. This is the 70th milestone edition of the festival that began in 1954. Quite appropriately, there has been a surge in entries for awards this year, with a total of 26,992 submissions. I am hoping that India will win big this time too, like we did last year. But only the next few days will tell.
In the morning, a session by Accenture Song, led by its CEO David Droga, highlighted why Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) marks a paradigm shift for the creative industry. The session however made the point that AI is likely to lead to a lot of average creative work, and that really awesome work will continue to require human ingenuity and breakthrough thinking.
In a later session, Sir Martin Sorrell spoke eloquently about the inevitability of digital acceleration in the advertising industry, even as clients search for topline growth as well as efficiencies in a world facing a new normal of lower GDP growth and higher inflation. He predicted that this combination of circumstances would lead to far greater focus on activation and performance, rather than on “top of the funnel” thematic advertising. This prediction is not a happy prognosis for marketers who seek investments in long-term brand building.
The interesting topic of virtual influencers, and whether they would overtake real-life influencers, was debated in an engaging panel discussion. I came away with the conclusion that this was unlikely to happen, given the cost of creating virtual influencers and the challenges of maintaining a 24x7 content feed for them. What is more likely to happen is that real-life influencers will extend into virtual spaces, with avatars of their own. People will love building relationships with these virtual avatars of influencers whom they already know.
In a packed hall, the Hollywood award winning actress Halle Berry spoke compellingly about why advertising should talk candidly and meaningfully about topics relating to women’s bodies which are considered “taboo” – for instance, menopause and vaginal health. Such communication will help deliver the required education at scale, and each of these areas also presents a significant business case. Lola Mullen Lowe’s clever “mermaid” advertising campaign for a brand of gel for treating bacterial vaginosis was presented as an illustration of an advertising campaign which has done this task well.
My favourite session of the day, however, was a discussion on how Hip Hop music and science turned kids into sugar experts. Featuring the famous American rapper Darryl McDaniels (popularly called DMC), this session highlighted how the creation of a Hip Hop music video featuring a character called “Lil Sugar” led to educating children about the evils of sugar consumption and also alerted them tp how sugar comes disguised in many different forms. A larger point that DMC made was the role that music can play in triggering transformation and change, because music engages, elevates and inspires us.
I ended the day with a leisurely walk down the beach at Cannes, soaking in the clear blue waters of the beautiful French Riviera.
(Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views.)