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July 5, 2022 //  //       //  Opinion

Cannes Lions Reflection: A Conversation Between Consumer Brands Partner + President Lisa Rosenberg and EVP + Creative Director, Consumer Brands Emily Sawyer

Lisa: I can’t believe Cannes Lions has come and gone. It has been three long years since the marketing and creative community have been able to gather in person and I was looking forward to it from the minute I booked my ticket. While Cannes is always a very long week, it really does go by in the blink of an eye. This year was extra special, as our client Anheuser-Busch InBev was named Creative Marketer of the Year, and it was great to be together to celebrate. Instead of Rosé popsicles on the Croisette, we had Rosé beer! As a first-timer, Emily, what stood out to you? 

Emily: In addition to the immense heat and lack of iced coffee, what stood out to me was the true simplicity in the winning ideas. As I walked the display of awarded brands in the PR category and beyond, it was the ideas that were based on a true insight and conveyed in a single poster that really knocked it out of the Palais. A great example of this is a campaign by Sephora that started with a simple yet horrifying insight that highlighted differences in search results and indicated that Black beauty content and imagery were underrepresented. Unlike searches of “K beauty” that turn up South Korea’s influences on makeup and skincare products, or of “French beauty” that result in images of the country’s people and cosmetics brands, a search for “Black beauty” on Google typically points to author Anna Sewell’s 1877 coming-of-age novel about a horse — or its numerous movie adaptations. 

Sephora set out to change this with an insight driven campaign that led to the launch of a short film called “What You Need to Know About Black Beauty” and the promotion of a Google hack and CTA for consumers to
mark relevant content with the #BlackBeauty hashtag to influence search algorithms over time to recognize Black beauty content over content related to the horse. Sephora also became the first retailer to accept the 15 Percent Pledge challenge, promising to set aside at least 15% of its shelf space for products of Black-owned companies. A brilliant campaign driven from one simple insight.  

Lisa: Agreed. The power of a strong insight is hard to beat. This year, one of the things I found really interesting was the shift in the purpose conversation. When I was last here in 2019, purpose was the buzzword and marketers were really starting to talk about the importance of a brand finding its authentic purpose. This was further reinforced by the work I judged for 2020 and 2021, where brands that looked to take on some of society’s biggest issues really stood out. And, while purpose absolutely had its place at this year’s festival, I think the emphasis changed to the importance of being topical and the need for brands to move at the speed of culture. Personally, I love this, as we’ve been saying that cultural relevancy is a big part of what drives brand love. What do you think? 

Emily: I agree Lisa. The need for brands to move quickly to intercept culture was reinforced in many sessions. I personally attended a talk at The Wall Street Journal House with Peloton’s SVP and Head of Global Marketing Dara Treseder. As a long-time Peloton fan and owner, I was very interested to hear Dara talk about what is next for the brand that rode higher than high in early quarantine and then hit some major roadblocks, including an all-time low stock valuation. The brand took a major hit when the Sex in the City reboot “And Just Like That” killed off Mr. Big while on a Peloton bike. The brand famously clapped back, just two days later, with a short film created in partnership with Ryan Reynold’s Maximum Efforts Productions.    

Since we’ve all experienced the corporate red tape and hurdles agencies have to jump through to push through quick-turn ideas, I was especially curious to hear how Dara pulled this off. Dara talked a lot about the trust needed to move quickly in times of crisis and stressed that the most important skills for marketers are agility and flexibility. Dara shared that when the crisis struck, she immediately knew that she wanted to clap back, loudly. She took her idea directly to CEO John Foley, who gave her the green light, and then was off to the races. Dara mentioned that had she had to get sign off from multiple executives, a board of directors and message test the film, the moment to clap back would have passed.   

Lisa: Great example of a brand moving quickly and ultimately changing the narrative. Really love this. There was so much great work shared at the festival – that’s part of what makes Cannes so inspiring.  I was really impressed with what Mastercard has been doing to position itself as a lifestyle brand. The whole concept of immersive multisensory marketing is very cool, and I thought dropping its first album on Spotify and launching it at the festival was smart, or perhaps I should say “priceless”! We saw lots of brands lean into immersive experiences, and I think when they hit just right the payoff is huge. For me, my absolute favorite experience at this year’s festival was the Vogue X Snapchat collaboration. The use of immersive AR technology made this exhibition super memorable, and with Snapchat’s try-on lenses I was wearing Balenciaga, Stella McCartney and Kenneth Ize all in one morning! Did you have a favorite festival moment, Emily?  

Emily: I found Ryan Reynold’s session called “Creativity at the Pace of Culture” really inspirational. He talked a lot about brands and about how to him, “brands are IP without a movie.” He also called the ad space “an empty swimming pool filled with broken glass” and talked about how his company was created to disrupt convention and produce quick turn content in 48 hours. While the ad execs I was sitting next to were clearly threatened by this notion, as they pride themselves on long form content that takes a long time, I was intrigued. Ryan shared that brands need to “move at the speed of culture to become the conversation.” I could not agree more and will be looking for new and innovative ways for our Consumer brands to TapIN quickly and impactfully this year.   

Lisa is a partner and president of Consumer Brands at Allison+Partners. She has more than 30 years of experience leading brand initiatives across the beauty + personal care, CPG, Food + Beverage, Automotive, Travel + Hospitality, Consumer Health + Wellness, Luxury Goods and Retail sectors and has been a hands-on force for many successful brand journeys. 

Emily is a seasoned communications professional with nearly 20 years of experience developing integrated communications strategies and driving creative ideation for clients, including international hotel brands, world famous chefs, airlines, CPG products, restaurant chains and more. She is known for her creativity and breakthrough thinking and has been responsible for many large-scale award winning and results driving campaigns. 

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