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6 takeaways from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity


Published on June 30, 2017

We’re just back from a week in Cannes with tens of thousands of the world’s top creative professionals.

From the presentations, to the awards within the Palais, to the natural beauty all along La Croisette, this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity was packed with insights and intriguing ideas. In our chats with Weera Saad, Marcus Peterzell, Hesta Prynn, and others, we’ve tried to convey some of the excitement from the perspectives of our peers. But I also wanted to highlight a few of the top takeaways from my own experience at the festival.

The enthusiasm behind campaigns for social good

In 2014, Bono described the Cannes creative community as society’s “thermostat”, with the power to create important social change. This year, some of the most memorable and awarded campaigns sought to have a positive impact. Three of them —Boost Mobile’s “Boost Your Voice,” Channel 4’s “We’re the Superhumans,” and McCann New York’s “Fearless Girl” statue—were Grand Prix winners on the closing night of the festival. Tencent’s QQ Alert campaign, promoting a face recognition system designed to find missing children, won the Cyber Lions award.

The shift to true transparency

In their presentations at Cannes, Collin Whitehead and Aaron Robbs from the Dropbox Brand Studio spotlighted the advantages of adopting an open creative process. When your goal is to create groundbreaking work that can shape culture and create real value, we believe you have to start with company culture. For teams to feel comfortable enough to take risks, they need to feel valued as much for their creativity as their productivity—and need to work in high-functioning teams to pull it off.

Collin Whitehead and Aaron Robbs at the 2017 Cannes Lions festival
Photo of Collin Whitehead and Aaron Robbs at the 2017 Cannes Lions festival

Many of the discussions I had at the festival focused on the re-definition of “team” and what it means to bring the right group of people together to create extraordinary work. From our point of view, teams are being redefined because the way we work is changing, and our internal and external relationships are evolving as we focus on co-creation. At Dropbox, we’re super excited about the role we can play in making that evolution easier.

The key to creating a collaborative workplace

A recurring theme at Cannes, and a core part of our company culture at Dropbox, is the foundation of trust required to build a collaborative environment. As Shingy shared with us, companies need to create environments that are safe in order for people feel comfortable sharing their ideas. It’s one of the ideals that drove our development of Dropbox Paper. We wanted to create an open space that encourages teams to share and build on ideas, even at their earliest stages, when they’re raw, imperfect, and full of possibilities.

The rise of co-creation

Throughout the week, we had the chance to chat with creative leaders from all backgrounds. And there was one common thread: it takes a team, a united belief—and a truckload of tenacity—to bring a big, bright idea to life. As we increasingly use data to create and deliver the most relevant creative work, we need teams that can co-create easily and in ways we haven’t seen before. That means getting out of our silos, letting go of our egos, and embracing the fact that brilliant ideas can come from anyone—at any stage in the creative process—regardless of their official role or title.

"I believe in a world where people collaborate and co-create. I believe an idea is in a box. And it only comes out of the box to be free when more people come into it and add to it."
Weera Saad, Facebook Regional Head of Creative Shop, Dubai

Diversity. Diversity. Diversity.

Aside from all the stunning work on display, I was particularly inspired by the conversation around gender equality in advertising. Cannes Lions took a proactive stance to ensure that none of the 41,000 entries could include the objectification of women. We also saw studies proving that brands actually perform significantly better when they depict equality in their messaging. Seeing the power of the industry create real change is inspiring. One of the most memorable panels I attended was “Daughters of the Evolution”, which featured female creative leaders and their daughters, together on stage. As a working mother, I was touched by how proud the girls were of their mothers’ leadership.

"Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations."—Katherine W. Phillips via Scientific American

In her session about her partnership with L’Oréal, Helen Mirren spoke about the importance of self-worth, and the need to feature men and women of all ages, races, and shapes to convey the message that everyone’s life matters.

Machine learning will augment creativity

While big data can enhance our work, it takes human beings to ask the right questions, and formulate the right query. As Eric Edge from Pinterest said, data won’t take over creativity, but it will help companies make sure their users discover what’s most relevant to them. When you’re able to quantify trends in your customer base, you can use data to take bigger bets and embrace bolder ideas. We’re excited about the potential for data to enrich our creativity. And we think Dropbox can play a big role in helping companies tap into their own institutional knowledge.

While the festival might be over, we’ve still got a few more Cannes Lions insights to share. In the days ahead, look out for more creative Q&As, including Spotify’s CMO Seth Farbman, and the musician behind Kenzo’s award-winning video, Sam Spiegel. Stay tuned!