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Cannes Lions: Marketing trends and what we learned from Kanye West
What We Saw,
What We Liked and
What We Learned
from Kanye West
By Tomas Larsson and Abbie Walker
1The Cannes Lions International
Festival of Creativity is a yearly
celebration of the most spectacularly
creative ideas to come out of our
industry. Just a few short weeks
after Hollywood swoops in to snag
their Palms d’Or, we descend on the
town to hunt for shiny metal lions–
Every year, trends emerge when
looking at the entries, shortlists
and winners–and this year was
For us, three things stood out…
Nice is the new black
Doing great work for a good cause isn’t a new
thing; it’s the oldest trick in the book. What was
interesting this year was the refreshingly diverse
tone, and more importantly that “feel good” work is
no longer just for charity. Nice is in, in a big way.
Here are our favorite examples at this year’s
• The Hair Fest —Brilliantly simple
• Fuck the Poor—Sobering and candid
• Sweetie—Ingenious and innovative
• Pedigree Adopt Campaign—Tear-jerking
• ANZ’s GAYTM—Fabulous
Big Data has been all the rage for a few years, with
so much excited chatter that it’s been destined for
the dreaded buzzword zone. What we ﬁnd truly
interesting about Big Data isn’t the data itself, but the
meaningful parsing of it and the magically simple
expressions that can come out of it.
This came through in two pieces of work we
• British Airways, Magic of Flying—Accessible
• Honda, Sound of Honda Visceral and powerful
Big data is really simple
Long have we debated the golden ratio in the
equation of “value to the consumer” versus “too
much private information”. As the digitally native
generation grows up, consumers are less and less
paranoid about sharing their personal data.
What is your personal data worth? Less and less,
it appears—and brands stand to take advantage.
This was evident in a couple of stand-out examples
• Molson Canadian, Passport Beer Fridge
• Coke, Happy ID
Privacy value exchange
Yeezus, it’s a bridge
What’s really profound about the Cannes
Lions is that of all the stellar work on
display, the most brilliant ones win across
multiple categories—which is to say,
great ideas transcend media. But this
phenomenon means that the most unique
and fresh ideas become part of culture,
the moment, the zeitgeist. And if you want
to come back next year as a Grand Prix
winner as opposed to a Bandol-swilling
spectator, you’d best be making trends—
not following them.
How to get there? Follow a true cultural
innovator. Love him, hate him, but whatever
you do, let him ﬁnish: Kanye West.
Indeed some of the best lessons of Cannes
came from a terriﬁc panel organized by
Translation with agency founder Steve
Stout, visionary tech investor Ben Horowitz
and the great Kanye. Billed Technology,
Culture and Consumer Adoption: Learning
to Read the Cultural Landscape, the real
message was simpler than that. The stark
stage became a forum for Yeezus himself
to impart his gospel to a packed crowd
hanging on his every word.
In the moment, it was hilarious and cringe-
worthy, but in reality and upon reﬂection
it was profound. Here, dissected, are the
golden nuggets of what we learned from
Kanye… at Cannes-ye.
How to get
a true cultural
him, hate him,
you do, let him
6Kanye’s commitment to working with the best
illustrates an unwavering focus to be the best and
to produce the best work. He wants to be the
best, so he’ll only be with the best. Too often we
compromise, marking it up as pragmatism, but
ultimately it leads to just-okay work. If you align
yourself with the best, you open yourself up to
being challenged by new and brilliant perspectives,
which in turn help you grow. You are the product
of your environment.
The greatest work is always for other people.
Understanding a greater purpose in everything we
do spurs innovation and progress. This is one of the
biggest failures of the marketing world. Stop being
a sycophant to the lowest common denominator,
and start partnering with the brand to make the
world better for the people we serve.
I only work with the
We don’t make
things for ourselves.
We make things for
Ultimately, with knocks comes great understanding,
and incredible skill. You learn the most from
mistakes, so we should all try and make a few,
now and then. As marketers, it makes us more
human, and more authentic.
Just know that if you
want to be a boxer,
you are going to get
your face bashed in
constantly, but you
may end up being a
Understanding that sometimes your creative output
isn’t going to be understood by everyone is the
greatest gift you can be given. Kanye has obviously
thrived in the space of backlash, upset and
accusations of poor taste. Brands and marketers
can do that, too. Honey Maid learned this with
their wholesome families campaign.
You have to swim in
More often than not, when an idea has never
been considered before, it might on the face of it
seem like a bad idea, despite its genius. Lots of the
things that have changed our world—Twitter and
Facebook, to name two examples—were initially
dismissed as terrible ideas by outside observers.
It seemed merely a cheeky way to end the
session—but really, like so many Kanye golden
nuggets, this really captures the marketing
opportunity of our age. We are sitting on the cusp
of another golden age of culture, and one that
brands can play a huge role in creating. To play
that role, however, they’ll have to support the very
best content creators. Funding or encouraging
mediocrity is suicide.
If people are saying
you are wrong, then
it’s a good sign that
you are a genius.
Empower the best
content creators or
So what to make of all of this?
It’s really quite simple: be a creator.
Brands, challenge your agencies to create
Agencies, challenge your clients to
He may not let on, but Kanye West is just
one man. Imagine what this kind of swagger,
bravery, risk and imagination could mean
for a global brand.
At Jack Morton, we believe we could
change the world.
Tomas Larsson and Abbie Walker respectively lead the creative and strategy
teams at Jack Morton’s New York ofﬁce.
for brands and agencies
So what to make
of all of this?
It’s really quite
simple: be a