The things that made us go OH, YEAH, WOW or AHA at Cannes Lions 2015

After Midsummer, we had the pleasure of enjoying an intense week of talks, seminars, galas, screenings, workshops, networking events and nights out at this year’s Cannes Lions. We departed from Nice airport with a bittersweet feeling: sad it was all over, but super-inspired to get back to the office after the holidays to make use of all the new energy and knowledge. Trying to sum up our week at this notoriously hectic festival in one blog post is challenging, but we’d like to share some of the most interesting findings and trends that are creating waves, big and small, in our industry at the moment. Here we go:

1) Combine purpose with purchase

After years of talking about corporate social responsibility and sustainability, we noticed that the discourse is shifting towards finding ways to monetise these efforts. This might sound cold, distant and too capitalistic to many, but actually could be an amazing opportunity, and may bring about a paradigm shift in the way we do business. Consumers expect more and more from brands when it comes to taking a stand and participating in various societal issues, some of which have challenged brands to find ways to harmonise them with their business goals. A study revealed at Cannes by Edelman calls out the mismatch of marketers’ tendency to emphasise innovation and the freshness of their offering when consumers are actually looking for the reassurance of trustworthy, honest and real brand experiences. Call us idealistic, but we are quite excited about this.

Take note: Nobody talked about social media, everybody talked about social.

Take note: Nearly all of the big prizes went to campaigns that had successfully combined a purpose with a purchase, e.g. the “Like a Girl” campaign challenging our perceptions on gender stereotypes.

2) The Millennials

Of the dozens of speeches, workshops and presentations, we can’t remember too many that didn’t mention Millennials. These digital-native, highly aware consumers are the largest generation in human history: there are two billion of them already. Pharrell Williams and Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel (guess which one is a Millennial himself?) shared the best points on how to win them over; only by being genuine, emphatic and real can brands create content and experiences that appeal to this tough-to-please generation of consumers. Millennials have the highest media literacy and can see right through your goodwashing and greenwashing efforts, they are quick to call bullshit and have the tools and skills to let the world know immediately. Snapchat’s Even Spiegel emphasised that brands shouldn’t act as though they are your friends, and Pharrell advised marketers to have intention and genuineness as the number-one ingredient in everything they do. Marketing in the age of the Millennial can be seen as an immense opportunity – as long as you don’t act creepy and do actually add value to your offering.

Fun fact: Snapchat, the Millennials’ favourite, has grown in valuation from 3B$ to 19B$ and from 10 employees to 450 in just over a year.

Take note: Even though “Millennials” has become an almost ubiquitous buzzword in the last couple of years – and is still going strong at this year’s Cannes Lions – many speakers also reminded us that we will go terrible awry if we continue oversimplifying this complex audience into a unified and cohesive target group.

3) Are women the next big thing in marketing?

It has become increasingly clear that women and marketing are two words creating varied and important meanings in the world of marketing communications. Marketing to women is the biggest opportunity our industry faces at the moment according to Bec Brideson, founder of the Australian agency Venus Comms, which is specialised in marketing to women. At the moment, women decide upon or influence nearly 90 per cent of all purchases, but nearly the same amount of them feel misunderstood by most marketers. Globally, women’s financial power has risen to a staggering 28 trillion dollars a year. As Bec Brideson said, “women and men who can think like women are going to change the history of marketing”; pure economics will prove this.

Marketing for women can be understood as using marketing as a tool for promoting equal opportunities for women. This year Cannes Lions saw the birth of a whole new prize category, the “Glass Lions”, which honoured the various campaigns that had made a difference to women’s lives globally. Aside from this distinct category, many prizes were awarded to campaigns empowering women. The call for marketing communications to make a difference (in speaking to and for women) is getting louder, and there is huge potential to be harvested when answering that call – also in Finland.

Take note: Colouring a Bic pen pink is just pinkwashing. There is no insight, it’s not scientific and it is not marketing to women.

4) The coming AI revolution

Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly has said that everything we formerly electrified, we will soon cognitise. Just think about how the Internet has changed the marketing industry in the past 20 years, and then think about how the Internet of Things, embedded with artificial intelligence, will change it in the next 20. We live in exciting times as the pace of change is getting faster by the day – this revolution will surely keep marketers and agency people awake in the coming years. AI can mean driverless cars, already proven to be safer than human-driven ones. It will soon mean frictionless personal assistants who can automatically book you the perfect vacation for that one week in February, and make possible adjustments along the way without interrupting you with constant minor decisions.

5) The big winners

Cannes Lions is as much about the seminars, the networking and the cocktails as it is about the glory and glitz of the award ceremonies. The release of the shortlists was an exciting moment each day as the prizes are highly coveted. Unfortunately, this year no Lions were awarded to Finnish agencies. Not only should we learn to package our work better to create interest amongst the juries – but also to serve our clients in a fashion up to par with our international colleagues.

A winning idea seemed to always be: a) simple and creative, b) making use of technology, and c) carrying a societal or (pop) cultural meaning.


Fredrik Heinonen, Lauramaria Havu and Mikko Hakkarainen represented Miltton at this year’s Cannes Lions in Nice, France and came home with some noteworthy takeaways.

Twitter: @FredrikHeinonen, @LauramariaHavu and @Mikmo