This year, and as always, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, remains a pivotal event for industry professionals. Four years since my last visit to Cannes, and my first with Oystercatchers, this year’s festival was particularly noteworthy, with several key trends emerging.  

Here are my takeaways and reflections from Cannes 2024.

More clients in attendance than ever…

One of the most striking observations this year was the significant increase in client attendance. Traditionally attended by agencies and creative professionals, there was then a significant shift to tech companies and platform, and now Cannes is evolving again into a hub where brands themselves are keen to participate. 

Brands are no longer content with being passive approvers of creative work but want to be directly involved in the conversations shaping their campaigns, and ultimately, the future of advertising. By attending Cannes, clients are immersing themselves in the latest trends, understanding the nuances of what makes a ground-breaking campaign, and engaging directly with creative leaders. This deeper involvement suggests a future where client-agency relationships are more collaborative, with clients playing an integral role in the creative process from the outset.

…including an increased US presence

The American influence at Cannes has always been strong, but this year saw a surge in their participation. Naturally, we saw attendance from top tech giants and advertisers, but in addition to retail media networks, publishers, and the odd Hollywood actor or two, the representation of American brands, agencies, and media companies was more prominent than ever. 

As the increase in client attendance above, a higher US presence reflects the changing dynamic of the festival. The sessions and panels delivered by US speakers focussed on topics such as digital transformation, highlighting the expanding role of American innovation in advertising and media, and their ambition to lead on the world stage.

Actions and Insight over Celebration

While Cannes is a festival for celebrating our industry’s brilliant creative work, this year the sessions that stood out were those that went beyond sales messaging and applause. The most impactful sessions were those that offered tangible learning, actionable insights, and a deep dive into the mechanics of successful campaigns. 

The demand for sessions that provided practical advice, case studies, and data-driven insights, reflects a growing demand for content that not only inspires but also equips professionals with the knowledge and tools they need to implement new strategies in their own work. 

In summary 

As it had been a while since my last visit to Cannes, I found myself reflecting on the changing dynamics of the festival for this year. 2024 still delivered information, celebration, inspiration, and creativity by the bucket-load as expected, with continued positivity for our industry as seen by the evolving trends which emerged this year. Examples of this include the increasing presence of clients and surge in US participation, highlighting a shift towards more collaborative and involved client-agency relationships, and heightened innovation across the advertising and media landscape. 

However, what also stuck me is that there’s a lot of vanity and self-congratulation. Representing a business that promotes transparency, best practice, and enabling client/agency relationships, that didn’t sit very comfortably with me. Many clients struggled to reconcile messages of agency margin pressure with the spend commitment apparent last week. Moving forward, focussing on genuine collaboration would bridge these gaps and enhance mutual understanding. 

If we attend Cannes with this mindset of learning and improvement, it can undoubtedly help showcase the best of us, both individually and collectively. That’s the approach we will continue to take, as that’s what will allow us to remain in service of this fantastic industry.