Cannes Lions 2024 kicks off today. And with it the Creative Impact content stream, which, in David Tiltmans humble (though admittedly biased) opinion, has become the the world’s biggest effectiveness show.

For those wondering what all this means, Creative Impact is the content programme within the Festival developed by WARC and our colleagues at LIONS. Its goal is to make the commercial case for creativity, and to help Cannes delegates go back to their roles with new tips, tricks and ammunition.

The programme brings together leading effectiveness thinkers (including, for the first time in Cannes, Mark Ritson), plus leading brands, researchers and strategists. Seriously, check it out

So what are we looking at this year? If I had to sum up this year’s priorities in one word, it would be this: brand.

We really need to talk about brand

In Cannes last year, professor and podcaster Scott Galloway argued that the era of ‘brand’ was over. In his view, brand is declining as a business asset; tech innovation and supply chain rule the day. Which means marketers need to think carefully about the value they add to a business. And, in his argument, the entire industry dedicated to building brands is in secular decline.

That’s a pretty pessimistic take. And there are already plenty of people out there vocally disagreeing with him. But it’s an argument that the industry desperately needs to counter, because Galloway’s take reflects what many outside the marketing function believe. And it goes to the heart of the challenges facing marketing – from CMO influence in their businesses, to the struggle to find a sustainable business model for agencies, to the dominance of performance marketing techniques.

That’s why this challenge – reframing, and even rebranding, ‘brand’ – is one of our key themes for Creative Impact this year.

Because if we can’t make a compelling case for brand, how do we talk about creativity as a business driver?

What questions do we need to answer?

It’s a big hairy challenge we want to help meet. So we’re asking some chunky questions within the Creative Impact agenda, and getting some super-smart people to help us answer them. They include:

  • Does a strong brand really matter to new-economy and scale-up brands as well as the legacy players?
    We have two digital-first brands, Instacart and Doordash, talking about what brand means to them and why it matters within their business. Mike Cessario, the CEO of Liquid Death, will also be one to watch here. 

  • How do we disentangle brand-building advertising (one of the 4Ps) from the much bigger act of building a brand (all of them)?
    We’ll hear from e.l.f. Cosmetics and Marcus Collins about the role of brand in community-building. And Ritson’s talk – Creativity is Not Enough – is certainly heretical, but his focus will be properly understanding the role of creativity in marketing as a whole.
  • How do we redefine brand-building so that it resonates more with leaders outside the marketing department?
    Plenty of fodder here: Morgan Flatley from McDonald’s will take to the stage with her CFO to tell us how she has done it, and we’ll be hearing from Mars about reimagining the value of marketing. There’s new research on brands in the boardroom from EY and The Womb in India, and a session from our friends at the IPA will focus on brand as pricing power. Finally, don’t miss the Extraordinary Cost of Dull – an amazing reframe of creative brand-building as a way to save money, rather than spend it.

There is much, much more besides. If you’re in Cannes, check out the agenda and see you there! If you’re not, don’t worry: there’ll be a fresh WARC Podcast from the Palais every day this week, and we’ll be wrapping it up in the weeks that follow. Don’t miss it!