What Josy Paul learnt from Cannes Lions 2024

What Josy Paul learnt from Cannes Lions 2024

Advertising veteran Josy Paul pens down his learnings from Cannes Lions as he makes 18th visit to the Palais. Josy is a 22-time Lion winner and two-time Jury President. He lets us live vicariously through his creative, emotional affair with the festival.

Josy PaulUpdated: Tuesday, July 02, 2024, 01:47 PM IST
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There was something happening here at Cannes. The creative world was in transition. The old and the new were in a dance of duality. Both mattered, yet everything was fluid. It was too early to draw patterns. As the week unfolded and the Grand Prix and Gold winners shot ahead in the race, some things became clear. This is an attempt to read the wheel while it’s still in spin. Here’s a sense of where creativity is going.

Always about the work

It was an explosion of ideas. A total of 26,753 pieces of work from over 76 countries were judged across 30 categories. Imagine the days and months that went into conceptualising, creating and executing these ideas, then capturing and measuring their impact. Every idea is a labour of love, hope, blood, sweat and sacrifice. I sat in the basement of the Palais des Festivals, where many of the works were displayed and many more were playing out on the countless monitors. And I meditated. I tried to invoke the energy of the people who created all this work from around the world. It was my immersive and overwhelming process of connecting with a million creators.

Unique context wins

Content is king, context is King Kong. Many of the ideas that rose to the top started from a unique place, a changing context. Look at the winner of the Glass Lion Grand Prix. Unilever’s Vaseline for developing a skincare product made with and for transgender women. Vaseline released a lotion that alleviates skin problems faced by the female transgender community while going through transitional hormone treatments. It tells us that the more rooted we are, the more useful our work will be. Because when the context is original, the idea will be original.

Tech, the new oxygen

Tech was the shining star of the show. It dominated most categories, including film. It was in the very air we breathed at Cannes. But of all the tech-led ideas, this one by DoorDash blew my mind. This was business, commerce, promo, brand idea and script, all happening on the go in real-time, enabled by real-time tech. It’s unbelievable how they pulled it off.  You’ve got to view the case video a couple of times to get it. DoorDash’s ‘DoorDash-All-The-Ads’ won the Titanium Grand Prix – the award that ‘causes the industry to stop in its tracks and reconsider the way forward’.

The rise of social and influencer

This was the biggest category winner. Reflecting the state of influence in the world. Great ideas like CeraVe’s ‘Michael Cerave’ won the Social & Influencer Grand Prix. But the influencer idea that I loved most - also my favourite idea of the week - was JCDecaux's ‘Meet Marina Prieto’. The 100-year-old grandma took over Madrid’s subway in October 2023 to convince brands that subway media worked. Marina’s Instagram posts appeared on hundreds of vacant sites across Madrid’s subway system. Her underground content went viral internationally and convinced advertisers to return to subway advertising.

The return of humour

There was a playfulness to many of the ideas that won metal at Cannes Lions this year. The algorithm was shifting. Humour was making a comeback. It was a soft reaction to the weary heaviness of global news. A great example of that was Dramamine’s ‘The Last Barf Bag’, which won the Health & Wellness Grand Prix. Dramamine, an anti-nausea medication, decided to prove the effectiveness of its product by bidding farewell to an overlooked item: the barf bag. It was a fun and light take in a serious health category.

New business models, greater impact

This year’s Cannes Lions Festival reaffirmed the power of creativity to deliver business impact. We saw high impact scores across all categories. Last year we saw how Renault created a new business model for EVs with the plug-in app – creating a circular economy where everyone wins. A great example this year is Philips’ ‘Refurb’, which won the Creative Business Transformation Grand Prix. Every year, ten million gifts are thrown away, contributing to the problem of tech waste. Philips flipped the e-commerce model by selling refurbished products.

Everywhere was love

It was a fulfilling week for me personally as I connected with several other pilgrims like myself. Seekers who had come to worship and be inspired. I was hypnotised by the intense vision of Elon Musk. I had the opportunity to launch the cMBA programme for Cannes Lions with Jenni Middleton at our talk on Tuesday 18th. I had this powerful life-giving moment with the amazing cohort at the Cannes Lions ‘See It Be It’ program. It was pure therapy for me. Cannes was truly a time of renewal and rebirth, a time to reflect and think about why I got into this business in the first place. I felt love. It felt like first love after all these years.

 (The author is the Chairman at BBDO India) 

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