Recently the global advertising industry came together for the 64th annual Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, and the RhythmOne team was excited to be amongst them. Speaker sessions and breakout discussions covered everything from data to diversity, with VR and AI sprinkled liberally through much of the agenda.

Every year the event is different, but this year the theme could have been ‘change’ itself. Whether in the workplace, on our devices, or across the global marketplace, the tremors of change are reverberating throughout our industry. And change is what we need to keep our work and industry fresh, engaging, and relevant.

There’s no such thing as a ‘typical person’. Every individual is different, with their own background, heritage, and identity. As a forward-thinking industry, we clearly must recognise, celebrate, and support this diversity, and this year’s Festival certainly made diversity a prominent theme.

As one of the talk titles so eloquently put it, ‘Diversity is Happening’, and it was illuminating to hear five top marketers discussing this topic at #TwitterBeach. Jonathan Mildenhall, AirBnB’s CMO, has been particularly vocal in his disappointment at the lack of ethnic diversity at last years’ festival, and urged the next generation of marketers to live the values they want to see in their industry.

Fair gender representation was a clear priority this year as well, with Cannes Lions MD Jose Papa proudly reporting that 43.5% of this year’s jury line-up were female, compared with only 20% four years ago. Dame Helen Mirren discussed the need for visible diversity with L’Oreal, while Refinery29 hosted a discussion with actress Gabourey Sidibe on the importance of female filmmakers.

Diversity surely sits at the heart of any creative organisation. Fostering inclusivity brings more viewpoints, opinions, innovations and ideas to our industry, as well as increasing the pool of skills and experience available. That was certainly the consensus on the French Riviera.

Made in China
With a domestic advertising market that’s growing at a staggering pace, it’s unsurprising that China’s digital creative industries were a feature of many of 2017’s sessions. In a frank, bold session, Huawei’s CMO Glory Zhang discussed the company’s aim to take on its Western rivals when it comes to creativity, and ‘disrupt the status quo’. The Chinese ad market as a whole is already taking on the West, with China bringing in the second largest amount of ad revenue after the US, with much of this focused on mobile. Earlier this year, eMarketer projected that almost 82% of digital ad spend in China would be dedicated to mobile by 2021, driven largely by the country’s home-grown giants – Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent.

Baidu was certainly one of the company’s focusing on an exciting future at Cannes, as the company’s vice president of AI discussed the brand possibilities of machine learning technologies. It’s clear that the world is evolving at a staggering pace, and the balance of spend and innovation around the globe is shifting. Any company that wants to be a truly international player should already be looking to the East.

Truth or ‘truth’?
‘Fake News’ has been a catchphrase on the global stage in the last year, made notorious by politicians and media pundits. At a time when misinformation is rife, and content creators and distributors are competing in an increasingly noisy online space, content quality has been in the spotlight more than ever before.

This being Cannes Lions, content was always going to be at the core of festival. We learned about the history of Mattel, which recognised the importance of storytelling content around its toys back in the 1950s. YouTube’s VP for original content reminded us that over a billion hours of video content are watched on the platform every day. And Casey Neistat and CNN had a lively discussion about exploring content creativity within the news sector.

The New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick, specifically explored the role and health of news in his ‘Age of Fake News’ talk. Acknowledging that there’s no quick fix to the problem of fake news and misleading content, he issued a rallying cry for news organisations and the international ad industry, calling for us all to invest, support, and keep faith in journalism. As he put it, “the battle has to be fought tirelessly”.

I couldn’t agree more. With as much false, misleading, and poor quality content out there, our industry needs to come together and drive forward with publishers to recover and maintain consumer trust. The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity showcases the best content in the world, but we need to make sure that the standard of content across our entire industry improves. We’re standing at a crossroads and we all need to choose the right path, not just a rarefied few.