Five Cs of Creativity: Lessons from Cannes Lions 2023

By Insights for Curious Marketers Archives
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The infectious excitement pulsating through the Croisette always revolves around the world’s most creative minds. Cannes Lions 2023 did not disappoint – from Lizzo to Spike Lee to a sheer-clad Rihanna, the potential for human creativity galvanized delegates hailing from São Paulo to Shanghai.

Creativity is at the core of humanity and here are the 5 Drivers of Creativity that I observed during the Festival - Conviction, Challenge, Courage, Clout, Coalition.


No shortage of strong opinions from the Lumière stage to the Gutter Bar, on everything from Gen AI to DEI to CTV. Creativity requires a core foundational idea and the audacity to execute it despite naysayers - not for the chance of a Grand Prix but for its ability to transform your brand and drive growth. The ultimate prize is business growth and when it intersects with social good, you’ve achieved the highest mark of success.

As Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard, reiterated “effective creativity is one that drives sales rather than just impresses judges”.

At the “Future of Marketing” P&G Alumni Network panel I moderated on the VaynerX yacht, featuring Mathilde Delhoume Debreu, Michelle Froah, Nicole Parlapiano and Zubin Mowlavi, the role of creativity was paramount not only in new advertising messaging and platforms but at the very heart of the art and science of business growth. The CMO must speak the language of business with conviction rather than the marketing acronym soup of LTV, MMM and CTA.


Creativity is also about being bold and challenging the status quo while calling out the “shiny” sacred cows.

Gary Vaynerchuk challenged delegates with his plea, “our industry is changing. Before you all go and try to [expletive] figure out AI, why don't you figure out how to storytell where the actual consumers’ attention is?”

AI was omni-present at the Festival – but there was a distinct lack of depth in unleashing its full power. An opportunity for the industry to go beyond the easy use cases of data analytics and instead focus on business-transforming applications like optimizing internal marketing and data platforms (Omnicom-Google partnership) and cross-AI technology solutions to improve lives (Grand Prix winner, Michelob Ultra's "Dreamcaster" used Gen AI to help a blind man translate basketball data into game information that was delivered in Braille). Using AI to drive this type of human ingenuity is the critical ingredient to profitable growth. The key question to ask is how can AI ensure we are better storytellers and brand-builders -- and not what AI can automate for the sake of automation, without connecting it to business growth drivers.


Courage is to speak up, make new rules and go forth unafraid of potential consequences because you believe in the greater good.

We heard from the Palais to the beach cabanas, that “disruption is inevitable, and smart marketers will follow the consumer, rather than the hype”

Following the consumer means having the courage to put them on an island of safety, as seen in the “Morning After Island” platform built off the coast of Honduras, to give the birth control pill to hundreds of women in need. This Cannes Gold Lion winner in 2022, also won Sustainable Development Goals Lions funding in 2023, totaling $50,000 to support its work.

The courage to speak up also comes from being data-confident. According to the Institute for Real Growth in the last 40 years, the contribution of intangible assets (IP, customer data, brand value) has risen from 17% to 90% of total value– making brand-building an important contributor. However, Marketing Professor, Scott Galloway argued that it is product-focused ads (not brand-building ads) that will be necessary to build up these intangible assets.

A proof point, he argued, is that a lot of “most trusted brands in the world” are cutting back on brand ads. He cites Apple as an example where the emphasis has shifted to product specs and features. This is best exemplified by a 40-second spot iPhone 14 spot called “Relax, It’s iPhone–R.I.P. Leon” which took home the Grand Prix in Film – using comedy to tell a product story. This represents a smart way to tell a product story using emotion, rather than a rational facts and figures narrative.


Clout doesn’t just come from being a celebrity – and there were plenty this year at Cannes - Florence and the Machine, Honey Dijon, Spike Lee, Eva Longoria, Kevin Hart and more. It takes clout to win an army of fans who support your creative ideas and it can be developed at any point in your career. It comes from a swagger of confidence, expertise, and gravitas. The Cannes Lions CMO Accelerator and Young Lions program nurtures it.

The ANA Marketing Capabilities Framework amplifies it by tapping into your human and technical quotient, supported by a strong foundation of must-have marketing skills, including leadership, digital and financial acumen. As co-author of the playbook, I worked closely with Jerusha Harvey, Padmini Mangunta and Lara Vandenberg and the ANA team to uncover how leaders are continually learning, growing and stretching themselves, starting as Emerging leaders and reaching Trailblazer status. Having clout does not mean being a David Droga or Arianna Huffington, it is about demonstrating your expertise, listening with empathy and developing a strong army of allies -- supercharging your personal brand.


Nothing is more critical than creating a coalition of support across the C-suite and your wider organization. This was evident with Mastercard, as CMO Raja Rajamannar and CFO, Sachin Mehra, spoke on the Debussy stage, about the importance of the CMO-CFO partnership. Mehra pointed out that while both CMOs and CFOs are on the same team and aim to drive shareholder value, the significant tension between functions can stem from a breakdown in trust.

"Sadly only 37% of CMOs believe it’s important to build a relationship with the CFO - this is super depressing” Rajamannar lamented.

Not surprisingly, the strong CMO-CFO Mastercard partnership has yielded strong business and social impact results and even a Grand Prix in the Sustainable Development category, with the Mastercard-led WheretoSettle app, which has helped 20% of the 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland find a place to resettle.

During Cannes, the Institute for Real Growth released its Achieving Stakeholder Impact (ASI) study which focused on capturing what it takes to win in the shift from shareholder to stakeholder growth. It is essentially the playbook for developing the strongest human relationships and how to create a flywheel of multi-stakeholder success.

The Creative Road Ahead

As the Carlton Beach fireworks on the closing night at Cannes bids adieu to the 70th Festival of Creativity, it is the potential of the human imagination that unites us to succeed. It is this potential that drives us to build high-performing businesses and brands that push us to new frontiers of sustainable, profitable and inclusive growth!

Posted at MediaVillage through the Thought Leadership self-publishing platform.

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