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Eyes on the prizes: new awards reflect industry’s bold dynamic

THE 2024 edition of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has received 26,753 award submissions. Reflecting an industry pivot towards creative marketing, growth categories at this year’s event include Creative Effectiveness, Creative Business Transformation, Creative Commerce and Creative Strategy.

Other positives from this year’s entries include a 6% increase in submission from brands and a 31% increase from media owners. All pieces of work will now compete to establish the global benchmark for excellence in creativity and effectiveness for the year ahead.

Commenting on the pattern of this year’s entries, Simon Cook, CEO, Lions, said: “Our Juries are already curating a body of Lion-worthy work and we look forward to seeing the work that will set the benchmark for another year and show us the way forward. As a barometer for the industry, this is when we see interesting shifts across the global landscape — we’ve seen continued growth in the Creative Effectiveness Lions, which has received the highest number of submissions since its launch in 2011, demonstrating that there’s a strong commitment to creativity as a growth driver.”

Creative Business Transformation (+8%), Creative Commerce (+18%) and Creative Strategy (+5%) have also seen significant increases year on year. Elsewhere, the Social & Influencer Lions have grown by 21%, seeing the highest number of entries since the category launched in 2018. Marian Brannelly, global director of awards, Lions, said: “We expanded the categories within the Social & Influencer Lions to better recognise and celebrate the pivotal role content creators play in shaping and amplifying brand messages. The dynamic influence these individuals have on audiences across social and digital platforms reflects the evolving nature of communication and branding.” 

The decision to place greater emphasis on social comes at a time when global social spend is expected to grow an eye-catching 14.3% to $247.3bn (Source: WARC). Brannelly added: “The growth of this Lion coincides with the launch of the new Lions Creators Pass, providing further evidence of a sector evolving at a rapid pace.”

As always, Cannes Lions has kept its finger on the pulse of creativity by evolving its categories and criteria in 2024. Key developments include the introduction of a humour category to the Cultural & Context sections that sit across the Lions. Work entered into this category will be rewarded for using wit and satire to create memorable, laughter-inducing connections with audiences.

Discussing the category, Brannelly said: “Work into the new Use of Humour category, which sits across 13 Lions, makes up 5% of all entries within those Lions, demonstrating a rise of effective commercial work designed to entertain. As BBDO’s Andrew Robertson said on stage last year, ‘humour works’.”

Another addition is the inaugural Luxury & Lifestyle Lions. Announced in late 2023, the new Lion has been launched to provide a global benchmark for brands in the luxury space, recognising and celebrating the most impactful creative work, experiences and creative business solutions for the luxury and lifestyle sector. In its first year, just under a quarter of submissions for the category have come directly from brands.

Recent research from Euromonitor and Ipsos shows that sales in the luxury category have bounced back post-COVID and have exceeded pre-pandemic levels as China activity normalises. Charles Georges-Picot, global CEO at Marcel and Publicis Luxe, global client lead, who is Jury President of the new Lion, said:

“At a time when the luxury sector must constantly reinvent, transform and honour brand heritage with a keen eye on the future, the introduction of a Luxury & Lifestyle Lions will help set a new creative benchmark for this highly disrupted and exciting sector. We know that creativity has the power to push boundaries and progress sectors and disciplines. We’re excited about a new industry standard that will redefine how we look at branded communications, business models and creative transformation in this dynamic space.”

With regard to changes to the Lions, Brannelly said: “It’s important that the awards reflect the current landscape and pave the way forward, so as well as evolving the Lions, it’s equally important for us to retire Lions when necessary.” This year the Mobile Lions has been retired, following consultation with Lions Juries. “Mobile devices are embedded in work across every channel and discipline, and over the past number of years, mobile-led creativity has been expanding into almost every Lion,” Brannelly said.

In a similar vein, the Innovation Lions has been expanded to include spaces for environmental, societal and financial innovation. This has led to an impressive 52% rise in entries for 2024. Audio & Radio Lions has also been restructured to place more emphasis on audio, while the popular PR Lions has been refreshed.

In order to ensure that the Lions award programme maintains its standards of excellence, changes are also made across the categories to ensure relevance. This year there is an AI disclaimer and increased emphasis on DEI. Last year, Lions introduced a question about cultural context, to help Jurors better understand the nuances of entered work. The Juries found it so valuable that this year the question is a compulsory element.

In terms of stalwart categories, key areas of growth include the Outdoor Lions, up 6% YOY, reflective of a medium that is evolving at pace, with the adoption of data engagement and emerging technologies to help brands think beyond billboards. The Audio & Radio Lions are also up 6%, while Direct is up 4.4% at 2,025 entries.

Brand Experience & Activation, the largest category in 2024, saw a modest rise in entries — as did the prestigious Film category. Media was up almost 2%. The Dan Wieden Titanium Lions is having its best year since COVID, with entries up by 13.6%. 

Other critical elements of the Cannes Lions week include the Health & Good Tracks. As always, the Health Track celebrates creativity in this highly innovative but fiercely regulated sector — with its unique power to truly change lives. This year sees 1,252 entries to the Health & Wellness Lions and 232 to Pharma. There is also an award for the Healthcare Agency of the Year, decided by points accumulated across categories.

The Good Track consists of the Sustainable Development Goals Lions and Glass: The Lion for Change. The latter, which has 165 entries this year, recognises work that implicitly or explicitly addresses issues of gender inequality or prejudice. 

As for 2024’s geographic breakdown, there are healthy increases in entries from major markets including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Netherlands, Turkey and the UAE. There are also eye-catching increases from Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Finland, Hungary, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Taiwan. And, there are welcome entries from African nations including Ghana, Ivory Coast and Zambia.

The success of the Lions awards programme depends hugely on its Juries, made up of leading executives from around the world. This year’s line-up of Jury Presidents is arguably the most diverse ever. All told, 15 markets are represented, with six Presidents based in Asia-Pacific, the highest number ever. Among highlights, Cindy Gallop returns as the Glass: The Lion for Change Jury President for its 10th edition, after leading the first edition.  Previous Lion of St. Mark honouree Prasoon Pandey is Film Craft President.

Other Jury Presidents include Tor Myhren, who will serve as the Film Lions Jury President – the first time Apple has been represented. GUT’s Anselmo Ramos is confirmed as the Brand Experience & Activation Lions President after a series of historic wins in 2023, and Debbi Vandeven has been announced as Jury President of the Dan Wieden Titanium Lions, representing the largest creative agency network in the world, VML.

Lions CEO Simon Cook said: “Our Jury Presidents play a crucial role in the existence of the Lions. Their knowledge, skills and incredible talent, combined with the commitment and leadership that they will bring to their roles, bring integrity and rigour to the Lions. We have an exceptional line-up of talent from across the world.”

Alongside the work, Cannes Lions also celebrates the achievements of leading individuals and brands through a series of prestigious awards. This year’s recipients include Mattel’s chairman and chief executive officer, Ynon Kreiz, 2024’s Entertainment Person of the Year. Presented in recognition of the vital role that entertainment plays in the marketing and communications landscape, the award celebrates the creativity that inspires others to produce truly compelling, meaningful and entertaining content.

Kreiz has led a multi-year transformation strategy that established Mattel as an IP-driven, high-performing product and entertainment company. Under his leadership, Mattel Films has announced 16 motion pictures in active development with major studio partners. Its first movie, Barbie, became a cultural phenomenon, achieving the largest global box-office in 2023. Mattel also has a growing entertainment offering in television, consumer products, digital games, live events and experiences, publishing and music.

Kreiz, who will also deliver a keynote seminar on Friday, said: “At its core, Mattel is a creative company fueled by innovation and guided by our purpose. We are driven by the knowledge that the people who buy our products are more than consumers, they are fans with an emotional connection to our brands. It is an incredible honour to be recognised by Cannes Lions, and to share this with the team at Mattel.”

This year also sees veteran Jacques Séguéla secure the Lion of St. Mark award. With a career spanning more than 60 years, Séguéla has produced consistently iconic work for brands like Air France, Apple, Carrefour, Citroën, Louis Vuitton and Microsoft, as well as highly successful political campaigns.

Philip Thomas, chairman, Lions, said: “Jacques Séguéla turned 90 this year, and still comes into the office every single day to work on campaigns for his clients. The word is overused, but Jacques is an icon. He is bold, passionate and creative — all with a tremendous sense of warmth and humour.”

As for brands, Unilever is celebrating being named the 2024 Creative Marketer of the Year. Unilever was last honoured as Creative Marketer of the Year in 2010 and in the intervening years has amassed hundreds of Lions for brands including Dove, Hellmann’s, Persil, Skip and OMO, Magnum, Vaseline, Marmite and Pot Noodle. Esi Eggleston Bracey, chief growth and marketing officer, Unilever, said: “Our commitment to bold, brave, and more creative marketing is unwavering. Creativity that starts with inspiration, connects to commerce at every moment and resonates with people to build desirable and unmissably superior brands. It is a huge honour to accept this award.”

Reinforcing Cannes Lions’ ambition to contribute to making the world a better place, it has also named Maria Ressa, co-founder and CEO of Philippines news site Rappler, as the 2024 Cannes LionHeart recipient. This accolade is given to a person who has harnessed their position to make a significant, positive difference to the world around us.

Ressa, who will take to the Debussy stage on Friday, has led the battle for truth and democracy, and has endured constant political harassment and arrests.

She said: “We’re standing on the rubble of the world that was: where technology, violence and war challenge our humanity. The Cannes LionHeart reminds us that imagination and creativity — sparking empathy — are crucial to get us through these dark times; that power and money are not enough; and that inspiration ignites the good in each of us.”


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