Carat @ Cannes: Day One


For Sean Healy, Global Chief Strategy Officer of Carat, Day One of Cannes, was a day that signalled change. In previous years there have been lots of talks on the coming of tech as an agent of change — but this year was a bit different and more human.

First up — structural change

The festival kicked off in a really interesting way with Creative Director of Publicis, Nick Law stating that creatives have lost control of the industry but rather than insisting that the answer was a return to the full-service agency, he followed a different direction.

In amongst many bold assertions and ideas, he came up with the statement that ‘The business is killing the product and the product is killing the business.’ By this, he meant that lots of decisions that are taken in the interests of efficiency are holding back creativity, but equally, creative culture is preventing ‘agencies’ from doing the best possible work.

He bemoaned the fact that creatives were still mistaking big ideas for 30 second TV ad-thinking pushed into other channels. His exhortation was for this to stop and for creatives to become more appreciative of context, media and formats. In short, creatives don’t know enough about the platforms they’re using.

He rounded off by calling for media and creative collaboration rather than reintegration. A thoughtful start to the day delivered in a nice ranty-style.

Next up — a new cohort up for change

Quote of the day came from Myles Loften (a young US-based photographer) who said: “It’s hard to see a future if you don’t see yourself represented.” The differences between Gen Z and Millennials was a big thing for me on Day 1. They’re more ideological and smart enough to understand the full potential of tech and its make or break capabilities. They get it and want to use it to break with convention in many areas.

I saw two sessions that were very different but dovetailed perfectly. First, a big stage talk from Samsung who shared the outcome of research on Gen Z that had led to a couple of really interesting notions and brand language. Samsung was framing Gen Z as’ Dreamers with Purpose’. They are setting out to defy convention. They are up for working with brands, but those brands have to be purposeful. They are activist, tech-smart, with very different notions of identity and what doing the right thing looks like.

This generation is growing up with ‘fake news’, Trump and Brexit — and they’re fighting. Since 1945 broadly we’ve seen living standards rise, improving political rights and social welfare, whereas now, the newest cohort of adults can’t take this for granted and are also looking at urgent issues such as climate change. Smart brand owners such as Samsung are recognising that as governmental institutions fail to take a lead in these areas, brands have an increasing opportunity to collaborate with Gen Z. I loved the notion that Samsung was going to help Gen Z DEFY….

Judo Moments

I was introduced to this idea during a great presentation by Twitter’s, Alex Josephson and Contagious’, Katrina Dodd on ways to gain a greater share of culture by fostering more participation. They had a six-point plan for doing this, backed up with a sprinkling of data from Binet & Field and Byron Sharp. The Judo Moment was woven in there and refers to a point in time when you flip the momentum of negativity about your brand and turn it on its head (like a judo throw where you use the bulk of a heavier opponent against them).

Twitter and Contagious shared a range of daring, controversial and funny case studies from brands such as Wendy’s, Burger King and Crock-Pot that showed the benefits of teaming data scientists (find a relevant trend) and community manager/brand owner reacting quickly and using (often very risky) humour for cultural impact.

This talk really resonated against the backdrop of a sense that the structural rules of marketing are being rewritten in a Gen Z, D2C etc world.

Technology with a human face (literally)

Equally exciting/terrifying was Yumi — an AI operating system, developed by Soul Machine. These AI specialists focus on creating feedback loops between people and machines (in essence) making machines more human. Their verbal signals such as facial expressions are stimulated like humans with digital dopamine and oxytocin. It was mind-blowing. Yumi is their prize creation, has a human face AND a job — it was another real signal of change.


Super-smart P&G skincare brand SK2 has employed Yumi as their first friendly-faced, digital advisor. A major step beyond a chatbot. She is a machine solving a very human problem. In the complex and intimidating world of skincare retail, she has taken the role of digital advisor to people who need advice but don’t want to ask ‘dumb’ questions.

So that takes us from the future power-structure of the industry to the future of retail. Bring on Day 2

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