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The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity pushed the boat out to lure brands this year. Noelle McElhatton investigates whether the move was a success.
Cometh Cannes, cometh the brands, or so the hype around this year's Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity would have you believe.
Nearly one in five of the 9000 delegates attending the festival, staged earlier this month in the eye-wateringly expensive Cote d'Azur town, was said to be from brand-owning companies. These brand marketers mingled with the festival's traditional audience of senior ad agency executives and those latest fans of Cannes, the major technology companies Google, Facebook and Twitter.
When you discover that Procter & Gamble's chief marketer, Marc Pritchard, is pounding the same Croisette paving stones as Jim Farley, his counterpart at Ford, and Keith Weed, the chief marketing officer at Unilever, it suggests that adland's party-town is now the site for the serious business of agenda-setting.
Why do they come, many of them crossing oceans to do so, in an age when technology such as Skype allows marketers to connect virtually with their agencies with ease?
Talk to marketers such as Wendy Clark, Coca-Cola's senior vice-president for integrated marketing communications and capabilities, and it seems the serendipity of Cannes, where senior brand marketers can meet ad-network chiefs and technology-leaders in one 24-hour swoop, is the main attraction.
Coca-Cola threw a party for its agencies on the Wednesday, the first time the brand had put all those on its roster in a room together. 'This should be interesting,' said Jonathan Mildenhall, vice-president of global marketing strategy and creative excellence at Coca-Cola, before the party started. Meanwhile, Anna Crona, marketing director for UK and Ireland at the Cannes 2011 Advertiser of the Year, IKEA, came under her own steam to network beyond the festival Palais' walls, with many of the senior UK and US contingents doing likewise.
What of the content? The festival's owner, Emap, has sought to reposition Cannes Lions as more than a craft-driven jolly for ad executives. One sizeable straw in the wind is the absence of the word 'advertising' in the title for the first time, now replaced with 'creativity'. Another is the introduction of a Creative Effectiveness Lion, a category that requires quantitative proof of a campaign's impact on a brand.
The significance of this was not lost on Rob Malcolm, marketing lecturer at US business school Wharton, and former chief marketing officer at Diageo during the 90s. 'Cannes was, until recently, exclusively the domain of the advertising agencies,' explained Malcolm, who attended this year to host a workshop on global marketing management. This changed when 'about five years ago, Jim Stengel, who was then chief marketing officer at P&G, brought his senior team to Cannes'.
Malcolm believes P&G's inaugural visit was pivotal in developing the lure of the festival for brands, in that it 'made a statement to the world of clients that they should come'.
This year, Coca-Cola's delegation was a roll call of its most senior marketers, with chief marketing and commercial officer Joe Tripodi at its head.
'The creative industry expects Coke to be in Cannes and certainly the awards we pick up are a reflection of the progressive nature of our creative agenda,' said Milden-hall. The team from Atlanta was not disappointed, with Coke winning several Lions …