Stories of spotting the likes of Kanye West, Bono and Courtney Love led much of the post-event chatter about the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. It seems that the cult of celebrity has truly taken over and the way to get your session booked in the Grand Audi is to shoehorn a celebrity into your seminar.
While adding a famous person is a great way of being talked about, unfortunately a celebrity cut-and-shut can be a hit-and-miss approach to projecting a strong, clear, coherent and inspiring message. The key is making any celebrity addition relevant to your agency and your content.
For me, one exception this year was Futurebrand, whose understated presence and branding created a credible synergy between the agency and its guest speakers. It gave its platform to Solar Impulse co-pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg to share the story and vision of their solar-powered plane.
Another notable exception was PR agency Golin's use of "The Hoff" – making the whole thing a relevant, transmedia content stunt, which worked beautifully to showcase their communication skills.
More excitingly, however, Cannes 2014 saw the beginning of a renegade movement: an underground network of substance over style; a reaction to the spread of the cult of celebrity in the Grand Audi.
The center of operations was the broom-cupboard-sized theatre, Audi D. It was here that Warc hosted a series of showcases and debates on topics ranging from Creative Effectiveness (i.e. how to win an Effectiveness Lion), to understanding how the smartest campaigns work, and the future of the planning department. Clearly, the planning community gravitated to these sessions and packed out this little room.
In the discussion about the future of planning, for example, Martin Weigel (Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam) made a strong case for planning needing to return to its radical, 1960s' roots, as it was the tonic to unmeasured and instinctive "Mad Men" creativity. He also asserted that 95% of advertising 'is crap because we live in a bubble'.
We're "institutionalized", responded Partha Sinha from Publicis South Asia, "we should be at the vanguard… driving the train, not be in the guard's van!". Neil Dawson from SapientNitro summarised things in a practical way with a call to arms for multiplicity and the real challenges around collaboration.
My view was that many were betting too much of the future of planning on a revision of the past of planning. The world is changing dramatically and, while humans are mostly the same, we ourselves are changing physiologically. So why should the future of planning have any resemblance to what was invented in 1965?
But it was truly inspiring to hear these strategy leaders talking through their best work, followed by profound, challenging discussion – there was real thinking, sharing and learning going on in the room.
Read the Warc report Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions: An Analysis of Entries to the 2014 Awards.
Warc subscribers can also access the 80 Cannes Lions Creative Effectiveness case studies published on Warc and catch up on our coverage of the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.