A Look Back at Cannes 2023: Shattering the Tradeoff between Creativity and Commerce

Publicis Digital Experience is a network of top-tier agencies designed for growth. Partnering with our clients to provide scaled access to the digital capabilities of Publicis Groupe, we power brands, empower people, and create value at the intersection of technology and experiences.

On the Tuesday of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Publicis Digital Experience hosted a State of the Market Advisory Breakfast in collaboration with Forrester at Microsoft Beach. The conversation between Jem Ripley, CEO of Publicis Digital Experience, and Keith Johnston, Group Director of Forrester, delved into strategies to enable brands to grow through creative commerce, emphasizing differentiation and profit-driving, navigating a complex economy, and preparing for Generative AI.

The following day, we hosted a panel alongside partners and clients, including Colgate-Palmolive, Delta Air Lines, McDonald's, and Microsoft. The session, “Total Commerce,” focused on the rising cost of customer acquisition and the mounting challenges posed by data deprecation making it harder to create and deliver impactful customer experiences. Brand leaders are confronted with expectations of customers who want to purchase anything, anywhere, and everything, everywhere.

Beyond our time spent in the hot seat and on panels, our colleagues and leaders dedicated their efforts to meeting and advising clients on the ever-evolving digital landscape, exploring technologies that inform strategic decisions, and embracing the disruptive potential of Generative AI as a valuable tool. The real opportunity lies in our ability to standardize our approach and utilize AI for the greater good, adopting a pragmatic test-driven approach to continuously learn and refine our strategies. We are also actively engaged as a steering committee member for the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA), a joint development foundation project that aims to unite tech and media organizations to set standards around content authentication.

Overall, the week was full of powerful dialogue to help drive the work forward and be better partners, and to open doors for new commerce opportunities in an omnichannel environment where we can all connect, thrive, and grow business anywhere – and everywhere – all at once.

Creativity solving growth hurdles: Cannes is a celebration of creativity, so it was energizing to join sessions focused on the impact of our work. While many clients came home with hardware for large scale campaigns, we noticed other marketers’ goals to find business solutions. Our discussions with clients and partners ranged from how to balance global brands with local cultures, emotional resonance with technology, and brand-building with innovative, growth-oriented commerce solutions. The time we spent offstage in smaller sessions helped us calibrate how we need to approach business in a challenging economic environment to stretch marketing dollars. We confirmed our operating hypothesis that successful marketers were taking on a broad purview of the business working to evangelize the voice of the customer across the enterprise.

Thinking beyond the hype-cycle: On the surface it would be easy to come away thinking that Connected TV, Retail Media, and AI were the stars of the show. Despite an outsized presence for each, our takeaway is that these are all tools to accelerate a robust strategy, rather than a standalone strategy. AI was the talk of the Croisette, but it was refreshing to have balanced conversations with our clients, who are looking to unlock the potential of Generative AI, while also establishing frameworks for responsible adoption.

IRL as a catalyst to connect dots: The quality and quantity of time spent with clients and partners (current, former, and future) was extremely valuable. From engaging breakfast meetings and informative content sessions to casual dinner conversations, every interaction held significance. However, Thursday emerged as a standout moment for all Publicis Groupe as we presented on the main stage to kick off a new chapter of Working with Cancer. Although Publicis was awarded the Grand Prix for Good, this is really a win for the entire professional community. Cannes was abuzz with our call to action, which involved an open brief to create campaign platforms aimed at raising awareness about Working with Cancer. This rallying cry reverberated throughout the event, setting the tone for the remaining time we spent together. It reaffirmed our commitment to lead with empathy, created a connection among those in-person, and had a halo effect to our teams and industry colleagues around the world.