The 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity opened this week and will run for five days celebrating “the value of creativity in branded communications”. Billed as an exchange between brands, creative agencies, professionals and opinion leaders, the festival aims to award the best global creations of advertisements and other products from creative communications industries. Held in the Palais des Festivals at the shore of the Mediterranean Sea of the French Riviera, the 65 years old festival will host around 20,000 officially registered delegates. Another 60,000 to 80,000 attendees will fly in from all over the world to network and spend thousands of euros each in just a few days of drinking rose wine and stumbling from one pool party to the next.
This year, the festival has seen a 5% rise in award entries from China… and while this increase is promising, it still makes for a small total amount of entries from the second largest economy, as China’s presence in this and many similar festivals has always been scarce.
For years, previous CEO of Cannes Lions, Terry Savage, was personally making efforts to attract and bring China further into the Festival. This push translated for two previous years into a “China Day” on the official program where the country was praised for being at the “forefront of the mobile revolution”. The festival also celebrated China’s efforts and innovations from QR codes to augmented reality and artificial intelligence. Some of China’s biggest companies such as Alibaba, Tencent and BlueFocus were big sponsors of the festival, buying main billboards and throwing China-themed parties.
几年来，戛纳节的前CEO Terry Savage，亲自努力吸引中国，将中国的作品带到戛纳。基于这种努力，前两年官方节目中确定了“中国日”，中国因处于“移动革命前沿”而受到称赞。这个节日也在庆祝中国的努力和创新，从二维码到增强现实技术到人工智能。阿里巴巴(Alibaba)、腾讯(Tencent)和蓝色光标(BlueFocus)等中国大公司都成为该节日的重要赞助商，他们购买了主要广告牌，举办了中国主题派对。
China Day party hosted by Blue Focus on the Croisette in 2017
So, we would like to know where the effort is this year!? There is no official “China Day”, and only seven China-focused talks are proposed out of hundreds of lectures. The first lectures, including “An Insiders Guide to China : The Land of Digital Opportunity” , “China and the Health Explosion”, and “Connecting Culturally in China and Awakening the Lioness: The Battlefront for Asian Women” were held already on the first two days of the Festival, but we must admit the attendance was really poor.
The Land of Digital Opportunity | 一个圈内人的中国指南：数字机遇的土地
Generally speaking, each year we’ve seen the traditional advertising companies lose their ground to the rise of social media companies at the Festival. Google, YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, Twitter and Pinterest, to mention a few, are taking over the best placements along the Croisette, making the beaches their main display of money and market power. With many other Chinese counterparts to these massive social media brands it’s puzzling not to see them alongside these other platforms. One of the only Chinese companies making appearance is a new successful mobile short video sharing app, TikTok. Representing a major lucrative opportunity for the advertisers, with their numbers going up to 37 billon views per month, the company is taking different non splashy authentic approach. In Cannes they are focusing on panels and other intimate meetings with brands and agencies on the main stage and new CLX space.
Philip Thomas, the new CEO of Cannes Lions mentioned on CNBC that “What we see from Chinese companies and agencies is the desire to learn and also to teach, because they are a head of the best in many areas, and not so much in creativity. They are reaching out, trying to learn and partner with the people in the West to become more creative and do better work. What we find always that the more barriers are in the way, the less creativity comes to the front”.
While only two days in, on the surface the importance of China in Cannes this year seems to have declined, but let’s hope by the end of the week, we will witness that they have taught the global creative industry a new thing or two.