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Cannes Q&A: The future of creative rooted in ‘evolved tech’

Karine Courtemanche, CEO of two of OMG’s national Canadian agencies, PHD and Touché! Canada, and Chair of the Canadian Media Directors Council, share insights from her time at the 2022 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Which festival theme really stood out to you this year?

Cannes Lions participants leave with a different point of view depending on the sessions and conferences they choose to attend. My media colleagues and I were heavily exposed to the theme of sustainability. I would even broaden that theme to the overall notion of “purposeful media choices”. By it, I mean that media experts have great power because they manage the bulk of global advertising budgets. And how we invest in media budgets has a big impact on our society. Media groups have varying carbon footprints, hold different political points of view, deal with changing data privacy issues, can choose to support professional journalism and fight fake news, etc. All these issues confront the media industry with the importance of doing a better job of educating its professionals on the impacts of their media investment choices. Every company, brand, and leader has heightened awareness of their responsibility to be sustainable. 

What surprised you most about your involvement and experience in the festival? And why?

On top of the conferences, Cannes is filled with great networking opportunities. Yet despite these social events, the conferences and sessions were more popular than ever. It was impossible to get into many of them unless you waited long before the gates opened. It felt as though participants really sought inspiration over networking. I guess two years of remote working puts your creativity to the test!

Under the duress of the pandemic, businesses turned to creativity as the ultimate problem solver. Do you agree with this statement?

I believe this is what should have happened but unfortunately, with the pandemic, many businesses reverted to traditional tactical execution such as promotions and short-term sales pushes. With the global supply crisis, many brands and advertisers were left short of products to sell. This context did not create a very fertile ground for creativity. As a matter of fact, especially in the media category, I believe 2022 will be remembered as a transition year for the Cannes Lions.

Another big Cannes 2022 theme, however, was the notion of courage: how advertisers can make bold marketing moves despite the pressure they face to go for the safest commercial options. A lot of Cannes’ sessions focused on that theme, so there is hope for a bright creative future ahead of us.

There is an abundance of research that proves that creative campaigns are more memorable and will therefore always create disproportionate growth versus short-term, price-based initiatives. I hope that we will strengthen our focus on this marketing principle, but faced with the fear of a recession, our industry has a responsibility to constantly educate advertisers on the power of creativity and innovation.

In terms of creativity, where does Canada stand on the global stage?

Canadian agencies were awarded a total of 43 Lions, including nine Gold. It is the third-highest total for Canadian agencies in a single festival. And our global ranking is trending up at #6.

The future of creative is: rooted in evolved technology. The notion of commercial creativity is always evolving, so what was considered “creative” a few months back is already yesterday’s news. As an industry, by keeping ahead with the pace of innovation, we can bring added value to Canadian advertisers by helping them stay relevant to their consumers.

The Globe is the official Canadian representative of Cannes Lions — the world’s most prestigious and coveted advertising and marketing awards. Since its first outing in 1954, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has been bringing the creative communications industry together every year at its one-of-a-kind event in Cannes to learn, network, and celebrate.

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