By Ebru Tuygun: Managing Director, GVGL Global Marketing Management

The Cannes Lions 2024 Creativity Festival showcased groundbreaking trends that are shaping the future of marketing and advertising. Among the most notable were the transformative impact of AI, the power of creating emotions, and the evolving role of CMOs as culture builders. The festival also highlighted the importance of supporting women and elevating sustainability in the industry. In this article, I will share some reflections on insights, examples, and award-winning case studies that I believe stand out as this year’s trends and will inspire others to come.

Impact of AI

Will AI take over Marketing and Agency teams’ roles?

WPP founder and ex-chairman, legendary advertisement guru, Founder and Executive Chairman of S4 Capital plc, Sir Martin Sorrell, who attended Marketing Society’s private session, questioned this and stated that he heard one well known CMO put a brief in chat GPT, got three campaign options and he picked one of them. Is this how it will be in future? People in Cannes discussed that human may win, Elon Musk said human may not win and Sorrell also agrees with that. Sorrell stated in the age of AI, ‘Agility’ is key to win and differentiate your brand. CMOs are going through tough times; they don’t only have to manage their CEOs but also Chief Revenue Officers, CIOs and Chief Sales Officers. However, the big battle is between not only Human vs AI but also the mindset of short vs long-termism. At the end, his advise is to stay curious, ask questions, and stated “what you worry about, what keeps you awake”.

WPP CEO Mark Read at Cannes Lions conference:

“In November, you told us to go f*ck ourselves…. Why did you say that, and what did you mean?“

Elon Musk:

“It wasn’t to advertisers as a whole; it was with respect to freedom of speech.”

One of the most seeked-after sessions was the interview by WPP CEO, Mark Read with the billionaire entrepreneur and engineer known for founding and leading innovative companies like SpaceX, Tesla, Neuralink, and The Boring Company, Elon Musk said, “the most likely outcome of AI is abundance, where everyone has everything they need. And then the question becomes about personal meaning, if AI can do it better than us, people will have existential crisis”. He suggested to teach AI to be truthful and curious. AI can be creative and original. He predicts 20 billion humanoid robots. So as many people have smart phones, in future will we have humanoid assistants? I think the key here is how much that new technology will ease our lives, add efficiency, productivity and make our lives happier.

Generative AI is rapidly transforming the marketing landscape, becoming an indispensable tool for creating personalized and scalable content. Brands are leveraging these advanced technologies to produce tailored marketing materials that resonate more effectively with their audiences. Many panels and discussions at Cannes Lions 2024 have underscored the significant impact of generative AI in various aspects of marketing, including:

“Building with AI: From Hype to Reality” by Google’s Vidhya Srinivasan and Alexander Chen emphasized how AI tools are being used to streamline and enhance creative processes.

“The AI-Driven Future of Marketing” featured insights on how AI can deliver personalized customer experiences and predictive analytics to optimize marketing efforts.

“AI and Creativity: Unleashing New Possibilities” explored the balance between human creativity and AI capabilities, showcasing successful AI-driven campaigns.

Key messages of these sessions and mostly used ways of integrating AI in marketing:

  1. Content Personalization: Generative AI enables brands to create highly personalized content at scale, adapting messages to individual preferences and behaviors. This results in more engaging and relevant marketing campaigns that can drive higher conversion rates.
  2. Efficiency in Content Creation: By automating parts of the content creation process, generative AI helps marketers produce a large volume of high-quality content quickly. This not only saves time but also reduces costs associated with manual content production.
  3. Data-Driven Insights: AI-driven tools analyze vast amounts of data to inform content strategies. They identify trends, preferences, and performance metrics, allowing marketers to refine their approaches based on concrete insights.
  4. Innovation in Creative Processes: Generative AI introduces new creative possibilities, enabling marketers to experiment with innovative content formats and styles that might not have been feasible through traditional methods.
  5. Enhanced Customer Engagement: AI-generated content can be dynamically adapted in real-time, ensuring that customers receive the most relevant and timely information, thereby enhancing engagement and satisfaction.

Top Cannes Lions Grand Prix award winning campaigns that best use AI:

Pedigree – Adoptable

Pedigree has unveiled ‘Adoptable’, an innovative AI-driven initiative developed with Colenso BBDO and Nexus Studios, revolutionizing how shelter dogs feature in global advertising. This groundbreaking technology transforms basic shelter dog photos into high-quality studio images, seamlessly integrating them into any Pedigree digital ad. This move not only promotes Pedigree products but also shines a spotlight on adoptable dogs, amplifying efforts to tackle dog homelessness worldwide.

Creating Emotions

The 2024 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has a new category: humor. Work entered into this category should use wit and satire to provide amusement and create memorable, laughter-inducing connections with audiences. Data shows there’s good reason behind adding a humor category. More than purpose, surprise or novelty, humor is the most prominent factor behind many of the most popular commercials in modern history. The words kindness & humor and showed up frequently everywhere as the industry pushes for more humanity in all we do and how we do it. A highlight was certainly hearing Saturday Night Live’s  Kenan Thompson talk about humor as the greatest connector.

“Humour cuts through the noise. We live in a state of constant assault on our senses, but if something is funny, you’ll seek it out. It doesn’t mean we shy away from tough stuff, humour is one of the best ways to deal with rough things going on in the world”

Kenan Thompson of ‘Saturday Night Live’, speaking at Cannes Lions 2024

New research conducted by LinkedIn, Bain & Company, and NewtonX reveals that establishing an emotional connection with a brand is a crucial motivating factor for B2B buying groups. They explored the emotional drivers of B2B buying and how professional risk-taking influences purchase behavior in the $38B B2B ad market. The duo shared valuable insights on how brands can thrive in this market and #MeetTheMoment by leveraging data, understanding customer needs, and making smart choices.

When asked to recall favorite ad of all time, many people named funny spots such as Budweiser’s frogs, Geico’s caveman and Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?”. The all-time favorite ads manage to have a lasting impact not for weeks or months, but decades. Among those ads, humor is significantly more important.

2024’s humour category attracted 798 entries, including CeraVe’s campaign with Michael Cera and Knorr’s ‘Bouillon Bag’. According to Marian Brannelly, the global director of awards for Lions, this demonstrated “a shift in tone and the rise of effective commercial work designed to entertain”.

Coca Cola CMO, Manuel “Manolo” Arroyo, said in his talk at META beach on Day 3, ‘Trends come and go, but big brands transcend time and appeal to new generations of customers through brand consistency and quality, strong identities and emotional resonance.‘

Cannes Lions Grand Prix top award winning campaigns that drive emotions:


Cemento Sol, a renowned cement company, has introduced an innovative series of cement tiles called “Sidewalks to See” or “SightWalks.” These tiles feature numbered lines designed to assist visually impaired individuals in identifying various types of businesses or establishments they pass by. By counting the lines from left to right with their walking sticks, they can determine whether the adjacent shop is a bank, grocery store, accommodation, hospital, bus stop, drugstore, and more. This thoughtful design aims to enhance the independence and mobility of visually impaired pedestrians.

Loewe x Suna Fujita

Bringing a whimsical magic to the festive season, the SS24 pre-collection featured a collaboration with Kyoto-based ceramic studio Suna Fujita, founded by artists Shohei Fujita and Chisato Yamano. Suna Fujita’s artwork drew on imagination, childhood memories, and life with their son and pet dog to create hand-painted stories on ceramics such as teapots, cups, and plates.

Dramamine – The Last Barf Bag

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Dramamine, a well-known medication for nausea relief and motion sickness prevention, the brand launched a unique campaign focused on an item that its product has rendered almost obsolete – the barf bag. This innovative campaign began with a documentary titled “The Last Barf Bag: A Tribute to a Cultural Icon,” which premiered on Dramamine’s YouTube channel.

CMOs evolving role as Culture builder

I had the pleasure to join Cannes Lions CMO Accelerator Program Alumni gathering in Vayner Yacht party. It was great to see the program designers Suzanne Tosolini and Steve Latham alongside this year’s cohort and Jim Stengel, P&G global ex-CMO and CMO Accelerator Program Director, who had an interview with WSJ and talked about CMOs evolving role as Culture builders in the company. ‘As a new workforce comes on board with different styles, working habits, and ambitions, CMOs are also more involved in company culture building. Today, the line between external and internal communications has largely been erased. Anything a business says inside will get outside, and everything that’s said outside the company impacts the inside. This means the actions of the CMO and the marketing function have a significant influence on employees, and companies are leaning on marketers to set the tone more than ever. It’s always been important for marketers to drive not only marketing initiatives, but also broader business outcomes—yet there seems to be greater emphasis on this today. CMOs are sought after for their opinions on issues such as company strategy, culture, and HR. The question is no longer whether CMOs have a seat at the table; now, it’s what will they do with it?’

Jim Stengel, also ran CMO in the spotlight series in the Palais and moderated a session with The Coca-Cola Company’s Manuel Arroyo and Mondelēz International’s Mie-Leng Wong and Canva CMO, Zach Kitschke.

Reflecting on the evolving role of the CMO, Kitschke sees his role as primarily helping the company achieve its goals.

“As a company we focus on aligning around our values to set crazy big goals and make them happen.”

“If you connect with the value and relevance your brands bring to consumers you have a really magical mix.”

This opinion was shared by Arroyo, CMO of Coca Cola, which won Creative Brand of the Year in Cannes Lions this year.

Supporting Women

The Female Quotient was also this year’s prime spot to hear inspirational talks on elevating women leaders and how to grow women leaders. Their motto for this year was: EQUALITY CANNES HAPPEN…IF YOU WANT IT! GO FOR THE GOLD.’

Top quotes heard this year for inspiring women:

‘Be yourself, everybody is taken – Oscar Wilde’

‘Nothing is permanent, try everything you can in life, what can worst happen.’

‘Keep asking curious questions.’

‘You can do whatever you want as long as you really want to do so.’

‘Start doing things what other believe you CAN do vs you really want to do in life.’

‘Be authentic, choose people who respect that, and network will happen naturally.’

‘Networking is crucial and start conversations by asking how you can help each other,  that often builds better network connections.’

Cannes Lions awarded Brand Prix campaigns that highlighted challenges for women like Orange’s WoMen’s Football, ‘We are Ayenda’, ‘Child Wedding Cards’ and remembering women for their contribution and successes like ‘Errata at 88’.

Orange – WoMen’s Football

Last summer, during the 5th Women’s World Cup, French women’s football faced a broadcasting rights dilemma. Despite the game’s passionate following in France, women’s football remained marginalized due to prejudice about women’s technical abilities. Orange, a long-standing football partner, seized the moment to combat these biases. The strategy targeted football fans, particularly men, who constitute 66% of sports viewership. Research highlighted sexism’s prevalence, with male supporters displaying hostile attitudes toward women’s football.

‘We Are Ayenda’

WhatsApp,  and The Lab, the creative incubator, announced the release of their new documentary, “We Are Ayenda.” This film tells the extraordinary story of the Afghan Youth Women’s National Football Team and their remarkable escape from Afghanistan after the Taliban took power in 2021. Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, women and girls have been denied their human rights, including the right to go to school, work, and play sports. The documentary debuted during the Women’s World Cup and is now available on Prime Video.

Child Wedding Cards

A campaign from UN Women aimed at raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 in Pakistan DESIGNED BY CHILD BRIDES WINS HEALTH GRAND PRIX FOR GOOD. The campaign invited lawmakers in Pakistan to a child’s wedding with invitations designed by children.

Johnnie Walker – Errata at 88

On October 8th, Carnegie Hall hosted a remarkable tribute show honoring a pivotal 1962 concert that helped introduce bossa nova to the global stage. This historic event had featured legendary Brazilian musicians such as Tom Jobim, João Gilberto, Sérgio Mendes, and Carlos Lyra, but notably absent was Alaíde Costa. At nearly 88 years old, Alaíde, revered as one of the ‘founding mothers’ of bossa nova, finally graced this iconic stage. Accompanied by artists like Seu Jorge, Daniel Jobim, Roberto Menescal, and Carlinhos Brown, she performed in “Bossa Nova: The Greatest Night.”

Elevating Sustainability

Top brands and the marketing world can enhance sustainability awareness by incorporating eco-friendly practices into their core values and transparently showcasing these efforts in their ads. Utilizing storytelling that highlights their commitment to sustainable sourcing, reduced carbon footprints, and eco-friendly products/services can resonate with environmentally conscious consumers. By authentically integrating sustainability into their brand storytelling, companies can build stronger, trust-based relationships with their audience. Here are the Cannes Lions Grand Prix award wining top campaigns underlining Sustainability:

Philips – Refurb: Better Than New

The “Better than New” campaign for Philips Refurb Editions launched in Germany, highlighting the brand’s commitment to sustainability with eye-catching visuals and a compelling message. On June 20, a Pop-Up Store in Hamburg’s Rindermarkthalle St Pauli invited people to explore the concept that new doesn’t always mean better. Instead of selling products, the store promoted the idea that purchasing refurbished items can reduce environmental impact while still providing high-quality products with the same two-year warranty as new ones.

Renault – Cars to Work

Sustainable Development Goals Lions jury president, Gustavo Lauria, co-founder, president and chief creative officer at We Believers, United States, said: “The Grand Prix reflects the essential goal we should achieve in advertising. It is an idea that is good for people and good for business. By helping people get the access they need to secure a job, Renault ends up selling cars and transforms consumers into loyal believers in the brand. It is a great example of a brave brand that cares, takes risks, and gets results.”

Top Experiences and Activations at Cannes Lions 2024

Creating exceptional event experiences or activations is crucial because they forge lasting memories and emotional connections with your audience, enhancing their overall perception of your brand. Memorable events make attendees feel happy and comfortable, fostering a positive association that extends beyond the event itself. Additionally, well-executed activations generate compelling content that inspires attendees and their networks, amplifying your brand’s reach and impact. Ultimately, these experiences encourage attendees to remember your brand fondly and desire further engagement, strengthening brand loyalty and advocacy. Prioritizing unique event experiences and activations differentiates your brand by providing insightful, immersive interactions that deeply resonate with attendees. This approach elevates the brand’s prominence and cultivates enduring loyalty, setting the brand apart in a crowded market like Cannes Lions where you have hundreds of events per day.

  1. Female Quotient’ Equality Lounge at the Roof of Hotel Martinez, with their welcoming all, inspirational top notch speakers and joyful activations highlighting women empowerment in every corner of the suit and the amazing and maybe best Cannes view
  2. Dinner at Cannes Carlton Beach with UK Advertising and Marketing Society, with one of the top venue, networking, and adding humor to the show.

3. Cannes Lions CMO Accelerator Program Alumni gathering, brilliant idea to bring the program participants together to build a culture, network and common sharing platform

4. Tiktok Garden at the Carlton – great alternative to Beach activations if you do the experience better. Loved the Tiktok team energy on each activation corner explaining the service and making it fun.

5.Meta Beach – Content and Bringing top notch speakers like Coca Cola CMO, Unilever CMO and so many other inspirational people and welcoming all in a nice hospitality environment.

Recommendations for better experience:

  1. Rehearse the talks and better prep the speakers, names/titles help to bring the crowds but what would make stand out is insights and inspirational talks on knowing what messages you’d like to be delivered.
  2. Better managing the crowds, it is good to attrack people but keeping them wait under sun queuing create very bad experiences when you invest million dollars to build the space – so more thinking on how you will run the space to create better experiences, e.g. Pinterest Beach. They had brilliant ideas to create nice experiences, Lego activations, dye clothes, and so on but little number of people could experience it. Better experience management definitely needed.

3. Cannes Yacht parties: when I had first come to Cannes I had thought of it as the yacht is sailing and we will get to see amazing views. Yacht parties in Cannes means yacht is not sailing and squeezing crowds in the deck of the yacht with rose wine mainly and for some you need to remove your shoes. Very uncomfortable way of having party, the only view you get to see is the next door yachts parked and the music coming from next door yachts getting mixed with yours. Either sail or just a pick a private cafe to have a party.

4. Speaking of cafes, we have seen some media leaders taking over some cafe restaurants and making them look like as if they opened a new restaurant by themselves. I like WSJ activation in that sense.

5. I remember watching Cannes Lions award show live on youtube. I understand Cannes Lions team would like to leverage on digital pass which I had done one year and wasn’t anything close to years when they were putting all on all social media and youtube, maybe they improved this year but Cannes Lions team could have done better with social media live coverage for sharing with the rest of the world what’s happening at Cannes Lions.

An event at this scale requires better social media coverage. Elon Musk’s talk could have been broadcasted live on social media coverage as many people wondered what he was going to say after he told advertisers to f*ck up last year. Better social media live event / inspirational talks coverage could give them more exposure for those in marketing world to see how much it is worth to come to Cannes Lions and watch this great event live.