Jane Austin: Greenpeace for top prize and a four-day-week: my hopes for Cannes 2023

As Cannes week draws to a close, thoughts are already turning to next year’s festival. Assuming the world hasn’t turned into a flaming sack of rubbish by then, the global industry will be back in France for its customary navel-gazing convention. So let me get my predictions in extra early for Cannes 2023.

Cannes Lions Marketer of the Year 2023 has got to be Greenpeace. Arguably, the best work on display this week at Cannes was the Greenpeace protestors storming WPP’s beach dressed in dog costumes. The canine campaigners swooped in on kayaks holding signs saying “This is Fine”- a reference to the meme of a cartoon dog with flames burning round him.

For some reason, Greenpeace has an issue with the industry’s total reliance on fossil fuels. This exercise in holding a mirror up to the hypocrisy of the advertising business is a masterclass in creative excellence and surely deserves a Grand Prix.

Can we also give an award next year to any agency that manages to successfully introduce a four-day week? TBWA Worldwide released a report at the festival that showed widespread dissatisfaction and burnout among creative talent. One obvious way to mitigate this would be a reduction in work time. In the UK this month, over 70 companies signed up for a trial of a four-day workweek and there are hardly any agencies among them. What is holding agencies back? Many leaders point to the difficulty of managing agency fees around a shorter week. This is further proof (if any were needed) that the industry’s decades-old fee-based model needs an urgent rethink.

Along with a shorter week, another thing that would make any future Cannes Lions infinitely better is fewer people. Companies were falling over each other to flog their wares in the metaverse this week, including of course, Meta, who let their imagination run riot and made a virtual Cannes where avatars can play volley ball on the beach. To paraphrase Miranda Priestly: “Volleyball? On the beach? Ground breaking.”

If the metaverse is so amazing, my challenge for the Web3 evangelists is to stay home next year and spend the week in their own virtual Cannes instead. Not only is it the more sustainable choice, but with fewer corporate giants pitching up, there might be some room on the actual beach for us IRL-loving plebs.

Jane Austin is Founder of Persuasion Communications.
Photograph: Bronac McNeill

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