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More brands; transparent sustainability; 'creatifying' tech: Cannes 2022 reviewed

MSQ chiefs share their lessons from this year's Cannes Lions Festival

By Creative Salon

With Cannes Lions providing its usual whirlwind of (often) incredible work, (sometimes) incredible insight and (almost always) incredible amounts of rose, MSQ’s festival goers reflect on some of the more important themes that they’ll take away with them from the week.

Peter Reid, Global CEO, MSQ

I’m not sure what I expected from a post-Covid Cannes Lions, but one thing that immediately struck me was the level engagement from brands and clients. With things like the Brand Village, it felt like clients and tech companies overwhelmed agencies for the first real time, which is pleasing in many ways because it shows how much value clients are putting on creativity.

As for themes that were then generated from that new mix of tech, creatives and clients, I’d pick out three things…


Sustainability was always going to be a key theme of the festival, and it was nice to see that there are some things we’re committing to as an industry that we’re actually pretty good at. But it was also clear how much more we need to do too. We need to influence our clients more. We need to put initiatives in place that will genuinely make a difference. We need to be transparent about our efforts and, as Purpose Disruptors’ co-founder Lisa Merrick-Lawless said when introducing Good Life 2030 (an actual focus on the advertising industry’s action) we need to be a hell of a lot more imaginative when doing it.


There was a lot of discussion about it being a bit of a ‘down year’ for great creative work. My response to those thinking that is they simply have to look harder. There was some incredible work on show, it just may not be what traditional agencies think of as classic ideas and execution. The world has moved on – a great piece of CX can be a wonderful example of creativity in our industry now, even if it doesn’t lend itself to a stunning 90-second award video in the way a traditional campaign does.


Naturally I spent a fair chunk of Cannes attune to what the holding company chiefs were saying (during the week and in the lead up). And it’s striking to me just how closely they’re aping the words of the challenger groups. They’re saying what we and the likes of S4 and Brandtech Group have been saying for a while, but there’s a real question as to whether they can actually do it. For me, the shift away from networks to mid-size groups is really accelerating, and from everything I saw and the agency group leaders I spoke to in Cannes, there are plenty of examples of this happening.

Kate Howe, Executive Director, MSQ

For me, one of the most important sessions at Cannes didn’t come from Ryan Reynolds, but Ryan Roslansky. The LinkedIn CEO shared some important findings around the work we do and the way our industry operates, and it’s equally relevant to the B2B and B2C worlds…

Your approach to talent must reflect a changing world

Two points stuck out to me here. The first is that there has been a 47% leap in the share of hard tech skills in the ad industry over 5 years, and a 67% increase of those same tech skills within the Cannes Lions-specific dataset. When we look at the share of core creative skills, by contrast, we see a 17% contraction overall, and a 32% decline of the same creative skills in the Cannes dataset. As Roslansky points out, there has clearly been a big shift in what matters to this industry. For me, the smart businesses will ensure their culture, ways of working and client relationships reflect this shift.

The second point is that looking at LinkedIn’s net job movements across the last five years generationally, we see that Baby Boomers, Millennials and Gen X-ers have followed a similar pattern in sharp contrast to Gen Z, who were the biggest movers during and post pandemic. This generation believes it's not only ok to move around frequently, but it's expected. Motivating and inspiring this generation is going to be critical to the future of the industry.

We’re no longer ‘technifying’ creative

Last year, we shifted MSQ’s description to ‘a creative, technology and data company’. I know businesses can get far too caught up in the nuances of their own brand, but it was a subtle yet important change. Because we know that the clients who will deliver the next generation of 10x growth will look very different to the brands we as agency groups work with today.

Numerous fast growing tech companies are being formed at the intersection of cloud computing, data analytics and machine-learning, and they’re reinventing our world. For Roslansky, that means one shift in particular: The last twenty years may have been about "Techifying" the creative process, but his new vision is that the next twenty years will be about "Creatifying" a new generation of tech businesses. For me, that’s hugely exciting.

Charles Courtier, Chairman, MSQ

One of the things that invigorated me the most at this year’s festival was seeing our Young Lions indulge themselves in the work and talks. Cannes is the ultimate place for networking, prospecting and entertaining, but at its heart should be enhancing creativity.

I don’t think the festival does nearly enough in exposing young talent to the brilliant work and ideas that are shared. The cost can be hugely prohibitive – the Young Lions ticket can still be very expensive, and that’s before you consider all the add-ons, hotel and drink prices that make even a seasoned ad professional wince.

In Annalise and Emma, we had two brilliant, enthusiastic Young Lions representing MSQ who threw themselves into everything the festival had to offer. When I spoke to them about their experience, I definitely felt a level of embarrassment in how the rest of the festival has become a whole load of senior people talking at each other. We need to do more to not just encourage creative talent to join our industry, but to then ensure we nurture our talent in a way that’s accessible to them.


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