Crystal Balling the Cannes Festival of Creativity

When the wise people at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity put together eight days of inspiring content for the international creative elite, they are curating workshops and sessions to hit the big issues keeping creative leaders up at night.

This year’s lineup looks provocative, marked by a whiff of alarm around how truly difficult it has become to cut through all of the content pollution. After poring over hundreds and hundreds of seminar titles and descriptions, here’s what I expect will be the buzz on the Riviera (click to tweet).

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The boldface speakers in Cannes will be cajoling marketing communicators to invent new ways of telling stories. Innovator Anna Wintour will urge the industry to steal a page from “Hamilton,” which literally invented a new genre of musical theatre storytelling; Academy Award-winning director Alejandro Inarritu will advocate the kind of mould-breaking that produced “The Revenant” and “Birdman,” and Barton F. Graf founder Gerry Graf will rail against group think and insist that finding one original-thinking creative partner is the only path to elusive breakthroughs.

A great rallying cry for novelty.

Nobody will leave Cannes without Virtual Reality and 360 experiences, yet given the ubiquity of these technologies, one has to wonder if they’ll be stand-out strategies or instantly too commonplace. Google is promising immersive experiences that enhance storytelling; Samsung’s VR and 360 showcase will demonstrate how to “engage culture and experience compassion”; and MOFILM will share “View From Above,” its incredible aerial film project that used drones to film 18 destinations where Emirates flies, allowing travellers to experience each city with remarkable perspective.

Trailblazing immersive experiences.

Better connections with consumers may be as primal as plumbing their sexual desires, and this year in Cannes, sex is on stage. My friends at Flamingo believe a generation’s sexuality is a key indicator of its drivers and values and that each generation’s approach to sex is different. They’ll argue that recognizing sexual attitudes are a path to connecting with broader hopes and dreams. Another panel with sex therapist Esther Perel will draw connections between online dating and brand promiscuity today, providing tips for cultivating desire in all kinds of relationships.

Sex plays to our primitive instincts.

In winning over audiences, comedy has long been king – and thankfully in Cannes, “queen.” The female SNL trio of Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant and Vanessa Bayer will make the case for women’s humour; Rashida Jones, a comedy writer and star of “Parks & Recreation” will reveal how humour can shine a light on important issues; and Mike McAvoy, the CEO of The Onion, will caution that “if you’re not having any fun with your brand, you’re doing it wrong.”

Laughter IS the shortest distance between two people.

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Beyond the topics, tone and technology, the length of content – and whether it’s ephemeral or not – takes on added importance in Cannes. The Ephemeral Web is how people consume content every day, so how can brands create lasting messages when they self-destruct? Embracing ephemerality to ignite creativity will be a hot topic. In one session, we’ll consider whether long-form branded video content is the answer to shorter attention spans, based on new research around social media viewing habits.

Size matters, just what size is the question.

And the mother lode – can advertising be saved? One CCO wishes it weren’t such a dirty word, and urges her industry to not let words like content and storytelling replace “traditional” advertising in constructing brand purpose. Conversely, a pair of advertising strategy officers will start a movement to stop advertising to save the industry. At the heart of the debate is ad blocking, and whether creativity and technology can come together to deliver digital experiences that consumers love rather than block. Seems advertising is fighting for its life in Cannes.

Will it survive the week?

Karen is leading a panel this year titled “Content for the Ages, All of Them” that will examine age-agnostic marketing. It is scheduled for Wednesday, June 22 at 14:30 in The Forum.

A version of this article can also be found on ICCOPR.COM.

Karen loves winning trophies for clients, believing awards affirm how much strategy and creativity matter. As Ketchum’s chief strategy and creativity officer, as well as co-lead of Ketchum’s 50+ specialty, she is an evangelist for courage and creativity in communication, and she ensures strategic discipline and creative liberation for the firm’s global network of planners. Her devotion to studying human behavior, crowdsourcing creative ideas and working across silos have contributed to Ketchum winning more awards for clients than any other PR firm. Some of her initiatives include the creation of Mindfire, Ketchum’s crowdsourcing site for fueling creative ideas; the Ketchum Creative Community and related Passion Panels to solve client challenges; and the Ketchum Media Optimizer, the first media planning discipline in the public relations business. As a member of the small minority of female agency creative chiefs, Karen is on a mission to inspire and empower more women to take on lead creative roles.