Ads for good, green targets, political responsibility, diversity and all things meta, this year's Cannes Lions is hosting a spectacular conference programme crammed with insightful sessions and visionary speakers.
Where creativity meets innovation
Several sessions across the week explore the evolving relationship between audiences, creativity, technology and platforms. WGSN’s Cassandra Napoli will guide proceedings in a session entitled 3 Simple Steps – Brand-building in the Metaverse (10.45, Tuesday; June 21), while Paris Hilton will talk about her experience creating NFTs in The NFT Revolution and What It Means For Brands (10.30, Tuesday June 21). The session also features Gary Vaynerchuck, chariman and CEO, VaynerX and VaynerMedia, and advisor and creator, Swan Sit.
In another future-facing session, WGSN will explore the rise of the virtual influencers in But Are They Real? (13.30, Wednesday, June 22). Featuring a live interview with leading virtual influencer, Zero, created by Offbeat Media Group, WGSN will investigate why the VR influencer economy is on the rise, how it can offer new ways to drive engagement, and which talent agencies are leading this industry shift.
Also in the media space, sessions from TikTok and LADBible Group will lift the lid on the fast-growing creator-led digital economy. YouTube, still the biggest beast in this jungle, will host a session entitled YouTube Reveals Secrets of the World’s Best Stories (11.00, Tuesday, June 21). Here, execs from the social media giant will discuss content trends and what they mean for content preferences, ad effectiveness and the creator economy. YouTube will be joined by some of the platform’s most impactful creators, including former NASA engineer turned storyteller Mark Rober, whose blend of engineering and entertainment grabs millions of viewers each month.
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, meanwhile, will sit down with US journalist Kara Swisher to discuss creativity, innovation, hits and misses, and how the global streaming platform intends to keep entertaining the world by betting big on TV series, documentaries, films and mobile games. Elsewhere, stage and screen icon Patrick Stewart will be in Cannes for Paramount’s Long-term Creative Effectiveness - Building Fandoms With the Star Trek Franchise (13.30, Thursday June 23). Joined by Alex Kurtzman, the creative architect of the Star Trek franchise, the two will discuss why the universe continues to resonate with audiences.
The media cohort at Cannes Lions will also address some of the headline themes around inclusion and diversity. Meta’s session Breaking Barriers and Building Community (14.00, Wednesday, June 22), will see Oscar winning actor Lupita Nyong’o flipping the script on Hollywood, explaining how she has won audience hearts and minds while finding new ways to build communities. Amazon Prime, meanwhile, is hosting When Women Tell The Story - Shifting the Culture of Inclusive Storytelling (11.30, Wednesday, June 22). In this session, actor Regina Hall and Amazon Prime Video & Studios chief marketing officer Ukonwa Ojo discuss storytelling and leadership.
Transformation and inclusivity in sports & health
Team sports remain an area of fascination for mainstream audiences – but the sector is undergoing transformation in the face of digital disruption. In 75 Years Young - Engaging a New Generation of NBA Fans, (14.30, Tuesday, June 21), an expert panel will unpack what it takes to build authentic, long-lasting relationships with a global fanbase. Guests include Zach LaVine, a Chicago Bulls player and NBA All-Star in 2021 and 2022. Separately, NFL stars Cam Jordan, Kelvin Beachum and Russell Wilson will participate in Bold and Undeterred - The NFL is Transforming its Brand (14.15, Friday, June 24).
There’s also a sports flavour to Cannes Lions Health, now incorporated into the main body of the event. On Wednesday, VMLY&R Health will host Inclusivity - the Blueprint for Creativity in Health (12.00, Wednesday, June 22). This session will posit the thesis that inclusivity is the key to creativity in health, and that it is also the best chance of designing experiences that connect with audiences and make a difference to their lives. During the session, Olympic gold medalist and patient advocate Tianna Bartoletta will chat to Walt Geer and Claire Gillis of VMLY&R about winning the race for inclusivity in creativity.
Creativity in a post-Covid-19 world
Of course, one of the biggest regrets for many Cannes Lions regulars during COVID restrictions was the loss of the Saatchi & Saatchi New Creators' Showcase – which has been delighting delegates for three decades. This year’s edition (10.30, Thursday, June 23) will, as usual, provided a unique platform for up-and-coming creators. This year, the shortlist will be curated by British creator Caleb Femi, director and poet; and Vivienne Molokwu, Commissioning Editor of Channel 4.
Finally, Cannes Lions wouldn't be Cannes Lions if someone didn't make an attempt to coalesce the experience of COVID-19 and learn lessons. This is the subject of The Renegades - Welcome to the Fearless, Post-Covid World of Creativity (12.30, Monday, June 20). In this session, delegates will hear from four Cannes Lions-winning creatives who left big networks to start their own agencies or defect to a brand. They will explain why working smaller allows them to think bigger, showcasing work which would have never existed in a pre-pandemic world. They will also attempt to answer a question which will be on everyone’s minds this week – what impact has Covid-19 had on creativity? Maybe this will become clearer as juries start to name their Lions winners.