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Cannes Lions Gathering of mad men

Written by Stefan Jermann and Patrick Weiss
Photography by Stefan Jermann

«I understand that this is the biggest gathering of mad men; I am sorry but I have been told that that is some kind of a compliment!»
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

When a little town at the Côte d’Azur unites creatives of all sorts, throws in some of the global tech giants and aspiring start up’s — add’s some Hollywood swank; then you better make sure not to miss that crazy lifetime affair.


Now in its 63rd year, the Cannes Lions festival is no longer an exclusive place where a few gray haired ad executives mingle and drink Rosé at the Croisette. As our world has moved much closer together in all sorts of disciplines, Cannes really is a place where future scenarios are dreamed, conceived and probably molded to some extent. Once you participate you can literally get in touch with every participant, either in person or via the networking App. Of course, after all, this event is still about the most prestigious award in the advertising business – the Cannes Lions. Over 45 thousand entries have been analyzed by an international jury and whoever got one of these Lions or even on the Shortlist has the right to party either at the lush VIP beaches of Cannes or on one of the yachts — all regulars with an all access pass can join too, but it’s still quite an exclusive crowd.

Virtual roller coaster
Port of Cannes becomes lively at night

     So what were the highlights of keynotes personalities and what are the most important challenges we will face in the near future? We must advise you, for first timers at the Cannes Lions the program is simply overwhelming and it is only possible to enjoy a fraction of it, we’d like to present three talks that really moved and inspired us:

Relaxing at the basement of the Palais


Madonna Badger was a very successful advertising exec until the worst day in her life made her decide whether to commit suicide or to go on. Lily, Sarah and Grace — Madonna’s beautiful three daughters along with her parents were killed by a fire on Christmas eve 2014. When Ms. Badger told her story with a somewhat ordinary introduction, the entire audience suddenly was holding its breath when the three names “Lily, Sarah and Grace” appeared on the huge screen, we immediately realized that this was a true story, it couldn’t have been more authentic and raw. People were crying. This mother of three had lost it all, but decided that her being alive must have a purpose and she therefore must continue. In 2016 her agency started a daring campaign to stop the objectification of women toward a more responsible portrayal in advertising. Empathy and respect are extremely important in this 20 trillion dollar industry and objectification is extremely damaging to brands these days.” Maddona Badger affirmed. There are still advertisers and brand people that think sex sells, but Badger counter argues that sex sells exactly one thing and that is sex! It should be evident that brand executives and advertisers have a huge responsibility toward the younger generation, the influencers have an enormous power and they should use it responsibly! You might want to check out her campaign #WomenNotObjects that has been seen in 175 countries and reached over 40 million views.

 Madonna Badger speaking about objectification of women in advertising. Right: VR experience.


What does Anderson Cooper and Anthony Bourdain have in common? For one, their shows both run on CNN and they are both masters of storytelling in their own field. Anthony Bourdain starts off chatting about his experience of eating in a simple noodle joint in Vietnam with President Obama, drinking beer from the bottle. Anderson Cooper asks Bourdain how he decides to shoot a scene, to document the reality in his own way: “Me and my crew are passionate about good and bad films and if we fall in love with the work of a certain cinematographer, then we try to re-create a little stand-alone world, so each episode has its own look, but its my subjective view on how I experienced this place at the given moment:” Anderson Cooper adds that when he started out as a journalist he couldn’t find a job so he faked a press pass and went to shoot little stories with his own camera, pointing out that he enjoys the personal touch Bourdain’s show entails. Bourdain replies in a sober manner and adds:”It’s a manipulative process, even a documentary is a manipulative process… the editing, the music… I don’t have any ethical problem using all those tools. If I want you to feel sad or happy, I will do all of those things..” Being great at what you do doesn’t require a big production, Anderson Cooper demonstrates exactly that with the footage he took all by himself with a small camera after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. He spent one full month all on his own without a crew and produced everything on the spot. Good storytelling is about authenticity and realness and there has got to be empathy so it touches the viewer. Cooper mentions that the stories he sees should keep him awake at night, get him angry and depressed:”If you are the kind of done it all seen it all person then there is no point in continuing.


Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired magazine is one of the most sought after experts when it comes down to how the human species might interact in the near future. While Virtual Reality has surfaced more than 10 years ago, it didn’t break through because the cost was still too high. What is being done today with VR will go far beyond rollercoaster experiences and playing a live heroe in a battle field. Besides the obvious application in the entertainment industry, it could be applied for education, in the health sector and countless other industries. Kelly also points out how much stronger AI (artificial intelligence) will become very soon. This is no utopian scenario as Google is heavily investing in AI, for instance with the acquisition of DeepMind. In rough terms, they created a neural network that can learn based on short term memory. In a mere ten years, Google will become an AI company, according to Kelly. On theories that intelligent computers may take over the world and create fear, Kelly has a straight forward answer: “We should embrace the new technologies so we can steer and engage with them.”

Impressive campaign that got a Lion

What else did we stumble upon at the Cannes Lions? Well, we enjoyed »Shingy« aka David Shing during a few occasions. He is the digital prophet of AOL. And if you think we are kidding you »digital prophet« is his official job title! According to an interview in the Guardian, Shing listens to where the media is headed and figures out how a brand can win that environment. «Shingy» is a crossover of a skate kid gone rockstar and he sure knows how to work the crowd. One of the big topics is how brands can monetize in the digital age. Mirus met up with Marwan Soghaier of Steelhouse, based in Culver City, Los Angeles. Steelhouse will offer (still in beta phase) an amazingly simple ad builder that lets anyone build stunning ads in minutes. Marwan was so kind to invite us to the yacht in the “vieux port” where some tech companies set up office for the time being. “I work 20 hour days and the secret is to drink very little alcohol”, he noted with a grin.



Summing up the Cannes Lions 2016 is impossible. It’s truly an event with an incredible quality of keynotes and panels and the parties at the Croisette and on the yachts have become legendary. You understand, we don’t want to go into details here. Check the Cannes Lions Website for the program and make sure to be there 2017!



Where are we heading as advertising agencies no longer use the term “advertising” for what they do? One of the top priorities is to “start conversations” in multi disciplinary channels and drifting away from solely creating old fashioned ads. If that is mastered it is no longer the impressions or millions of likes, which are oftentimes easily bought, it is the user engagement that sets the top companies apart from the mass. Users must engage with your brand, otherwise your brand is worthless.



There are three groundbreaking new industries that will dominate the market and completely change our planet in the midst of this digital revolution. New opportunities will arise out of those new industries and jobs will ultimately be created. First, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence will set a new tone and they both will merge closer together in the next few years. Then we have 3-D printing which will revolutionize entire industries; from creating personalized hips, to sneakers and maybe even transportation of some sorts. Finally, there is block-chain a further and more secure development of the Bitcoin, which could trailblaze the idea of a new virtual currency and strike fear into the hearts of traditional banks.



 Stairs inside the Palais of the Cannes Lions. Right: An underwater fishing experience with the water proof Galaxy.

And yes, the Rosé was smooth. Cannes, we’ll be back in 2017. Aurevoir et merci!