Shuttlerock at Cannes Lions 2024: Key Takeaways

Reflections from the Riviera. Hear from our VP of Partnerships, Dani Larimer, as she shares her key takeaways from this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. 


This year’s Cannes Lions took off – literally – on the flight from New York. Not only did it feel like an adult field trip for advertisers, passengers were also treated to a surprise with United Airlines promoting their recently launched media network, Kinective Media, on the seatback screens. Talk about reaching your audience!

After touching down and making it to the Croisette, the whirlwind of panels, events, and meetings raced by in rapid succession. Here are my four key takeaways from another jam-packed and sun-soaked (for the most part) week.


1. The red carpet was rolled out for creators

Creators were out in full force this year; you could hardly turn a corner without bumping into a familiar face from your algorithm. My personal highlight was meeting Joe Ando (He/Him) (the “Can I make you a dress?” guy). What struck me when meeting creators was their approachability. They didn’t seem out of touch like many regular celebs, and it was noticeable that they were engaging with the event as active members of the advertising community. 

The strong presence of creators at this year’s event was no coincidence. It’s the first year the event has made a concerted effort to cater to creators. This can be seen with the launch of LIONS Creators, a dedicated forum with learning and networking experiences for creators and those working in the wider creator economy.”

This recognizes and solidifies the important role that creators play in the marketing industry. As Thea Skelton (She/Her), VP of Events, LIONS, states: “Creators are an increasingly important part of the marketing mix, and their presence at Cannes Lions has been steadily growing for many years. LIONS Creators has been established in collaboration with creators from around the world who all see the value in convening, doing business and learning from each other at the International Festival of Creativity.”

In ‌conversations I had with marketers on the topic of creators, one of the key things that came up was the fact that the creator economy isn’t just about the big-name influencers. In fact, many brands are now focusing on collabs with smaller creators, like UGC creators, to help with scalability and create an even more relatable viewing experience for their audience. 


2. Generative AI is still the talk of the town

For the second year running, AI was the topic generating the most buzz. One of the week’s hottest ticket items was an interview with Open AI’s CTO, Mira Murati (She/Her) by Accenture Song’s CEO David Droga. The session was called “When AI Challenges and Champions Human Creativity” – a title that captures the general consensus surrounding AI’s role in the creative production space.

Last year, there was a lot of “will it replace us?” chatter surrounding generative AI. This year, fears were eased and the discussion instead focused on how ‌AI technology is being used to support and enable creative teams. 

In a panel discussion I attended, Adobe’s VP of Marketing Strategy and Chief Communications Officer, Stacy Martinet (She/Her), touched on this, stating that AI has “sped up the cycles of ideation across teams. [...] And so now you can spend more time on the actual creative aspects, the high-value aspects.”


3. Improvements to be had in areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) was another major talking point at this year’s event. The key takeaway from these conversations is that while the industry has come a long way, there are still many improvements and learnings to be had. 

This call for more to be done when it comes to DEI initiatives was central to AdWeek’s “What Brands Are Doing Right and Wrong In Connecting With the LGBTQ+ Community '' panel discussion. One of the main themes of this discussion was that brands need to go beyond surface-level “pinkwashing”. As Marti Gould Cummings (They/Them), Drag Artist and Activist, put it: “If you want your community to feel seen, talk to them and bring them in to be a part of your brand. Don’t just have an office pride party once a year.”

UN Women and Saïd Business School presented another key session on the topic of DEI, titled “Inclusion = Income: The Business Case for Progressive Advertising”. The session challenged the concept of “go woke, go broke”. This was done by presenting the findings of a study that comprised 58 countries, 392 brands, and four years of data to ascertain whether brands who engage in progressive advertising practices achieve better commercial outcomes. The answer: a resounding yes! The study saw a 3.46% direct sales uplift and a 6.26% longer-term sales uplift. Along with this, they saw a 29% lift in brand loyalty.

While it’s encouraging to see that the market responds positively to progressive advertising, it’s important to note that the “business case” shouldn’t be the reason driving these practices. Brands should be engaging in progressive advertising because it’s the right thing to do.


4. Listen to your audience & tune into culture

How should you inform your creative approach? This was a question that was addressed in many of the panels I attended. Various speakers answered the question by encouraging marketers to be outward-looking. This means taking your creative inspo by listening to your audience and tuning into culture. 

During a panel called “Made for TikTok: The Value of Always On Creative”, Jamie Falkowski (He/Him), Chief Creative Officer at Day One Agency, stated that “Our best briefs are going to come from the comments section”.

This makes a whole lot of sense. Especially in a time where platform-native creative is so important. The only way to be truly native with your creative is to take your signals from audience content preferences and the trends playing out across the platform. 

This doesn’t mean brands should jump on whatever is trending. But they should always be listening, have ears to the ground and act swiftly when there is brand alignment. To do this, brands need to have agile creative production methods. When it comes to trends, the cost of being late is worse than missing out.


Back in New York, battling jet-lag to write this recap, I’m inspired and excited to put the many learnings I’ve taken from Cannes into practice at Shuttlerock.

It was encouraging to see that many of the industry’s key focuses (creator economy, generative AI, creative agility) are focuses that we share at Shuttlerock. However, it was inspiring to see so many different new perspectives on these topics, and I took away countless learnings – too many to list in this recap.


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