The Anticipation

In the weeks leading up to Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, our team was buzzing with excitement. We meticulously planned our schedule, eager to dive into the festival’s rich array of sessions and networking opportunities with our members. We sought event recommendations from our network and Cannes Lions experts, Propeller Group, our amazing pro bono PR partner. Excited to engage with industry leaders and innovators, we embarked on our 16-hour rail trip…

Aims and Achievements

From the outset, our primary goals were clear: Networking and Door Opening. Cannes Lions provided the perfect platform to condense months of networking into five intense days. We seized every opportunity to build relationships with both existing and prospective members along with allies, forging partnerships that will strengthen our mission in the months and years ahead. 

The CAN at Cannes team included CAN co-founder Jake Dubbins, CAN advisory group co-chairs Tina Fegent (FCIPS) & Dino Myers-Lamptey, and CAN Membership & Engagement Account Director Nafissa Norris.

Raising CAN’s profile at Cannes Lions was another key objective. The festival of creativity offered a unique stage to raise awareness of our work and showcase our expertise to an audience of industry leaders and potential partners. Through panels, roundtables, and informal discussions, we highlighted the critical importance of conscious advertising and the enforcement of platform policies, positioning these not just as moral imperatives but as essential components of commercial success.

Day One: Setting the Stage

Our debut at Cannes Lions was marked by a compelling panel co-hosted by CAN and VCCP, and expertly moderated by CAN co-founder Jake Dubbins who wasn’t shy of asking the difficult questions. Titled ‘a murky, misinformed future – or the golden information age? VCCP & CAN explore how future technologies can be harnessed for good’, the discussions delved into the dual-edged sword of AI in advertising—its creative potential and the risks of misinformation. We also tackled the waste in the programmatic supply chain and the monopolistic grip of major tech platforms on advertising. The conversation on climate misinformation, spurred by our “Cost of Confusion” report with dentsu, was especially poignant. Here are some stand-out quotes:

Jake Dubbins (Co-founder of Conscious Advertising Network): “Sir Martin Sorrell earlier today on a panel said that AI will create millions of personalised iterations of an ad – the implication being that this is somehow a good thing. I think that’s a bad thing. The climate footprint and also just the consumer facing clutter is overwhelming in that vision.

Michelle Sarpong (Commercial lead at the7stars):“Clients don’t care about carbon calculators, but they do about cost impact”

James Shoreland (CEO at VCCP Media): “Strategy is just as much about you don’t do and what you do, do… you want more impact for less effort”

Paul Frampton-Calero (Global President and CEO at CvE – Marketing Consultancy):“If AI is used well, it can start to identify where the bad actors are”

Philippa Tilley (Head of Brand, Radiant & Care at Unilever): “Is my brand getting into a space where my brand should not be? We used to know the media we were buying … and we don’t have that anymore… Which is now terrifying”

Day 2: Provocative Dialogues

CAN co-founder Jake Dubbins took on tough questions about the cost of sustainability at the LBBonline – Little Black Book & Friends Beach. Industry leaders like Mindy Barry from Mars and John Osborn from Ad Net Zero shared their insights on sustainable consumer engagement and the fight against greenwashing. Anastasia Leng from CreativeX underscored the importance of reusing creative work, pointing out that over half of produced content never reaches consumers. Jake passionately highlighted the overlooked sustainability concerns at Cannes, especially the environmental impact of AI-driven personalised ads.

Day 3: Continuing the Conversation

The discussions around ad fraud and brand safety continued with UKSAFC members and our own Membership & Engagement Account Director, Nafissa Norris. The collaboration and commitment to best practices in advertising were evident as we planned further joint efforts post-Cannes Lions. In addition, a private roundtable hosted by dentsu’s Jessica Tamsedge and Jordan Hunter-Powell in partnership with CAN enabled candid conversations about creating impactful advertising without harmful outcomes, promising quarterly follow-ups to keep the momentum. Special thanks to Gail Gallie for expertly moderating, and to special guests MelRose Wild (Bickerstaff), Julia Linehan, Linn Frost, Amy Williams, Sase Aimiuwu, Amy Bryson, and Tia McPhee. Our day concluded with the infamous Campaign UK party!

Day 4: Diversity and Celebration

Supporting our members at vibrant events like the BA Diversity Media Inc Riviera Rainbow Brunch, where we engaged in crucial conversations about diversity in media and advertising – including a spotlight on GenBTV – Generation Black TV. The WARC Riviera Reception at the Contagious villa was another highlight, providing a relaxed atmosphere to connect with industry peers while enjoying men’s Euros football, resulting in England 1 –1 Denmark. However, despite maintaining our professionalism all day, we couldn’t resist the must-visit experience of the infamous Gutter Bar!

Day 5: Engaging with Members

Our journey wouldn’t be complete without a series of meaningful meetings with our members. These intimate gatherings were a testament to the dedication and passion within our network for driving positive change in advertising. Discussions covered practical strategies, boosting membership collaboration, and added humour on navigating this intense week of networking and theatrics. After all, when else would you have a meeting while seeing the Olympic flame go by?

Reflections and Moving Forward

As we journeyed home for 16 hours via rail, the echoes of Cannes Lions lingered—a testament to the power of collective action and dialogue. The festival renewed our commitment to conscious advertising and ignited our determination to drive industry change.

Looking ahead, we’re energised by new partnerships and commitments, many of which were formed with The Marketing Society, Goals House, Clean Creations, Stagwell and others. This experience is not an endpoint but a catalyst for ongoing advocacy and collaboration. Whilst the topic of AI was on the forefront and sustainability on the backfoot, there’s food for thought on how CAN could make bigger waves in Cannes next year. In fact, we hit the ground running as soon as we got back on Monday 24th June with the release of the United Nations Global Principles on Information Integrity, of which CAN were leading advisors on this framework to enhance digital safety worldwide, read it here.

In a statement, co-chairs of CAN, Harriet Kingaby and Jake Dubbins, called the framework “a huge step forward in the fight against misinformation and hate speech”.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to making our Cannes Lions experience unforgettable.

Here’s to the future of ethical advertising and the transformative impact we strive to achieve.

Until next year, le Croissette!