The Return of Cannes Lions: Five Activation-Rich Brand Experiences

Posted on by Kaylee Hultgren

In a normal year (ah, to dream of such things!), the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which attracts thousands of attendees to the Côte d’Azur each June, might draw criticism for being too much boondoggle and not enough substance.

But in 2022, after a three-year hiatus, the air of celebration pulsing through the event felt well-deserved. “It’s a very long time coming,” Julie Hogan, VP, Global Experiential & Industry Marketing at Meta told us as we toured the brand’s activation. “There’s an energy and a desire to gather. It’s very optimistic and gracious, and people are just excited to be back in the industry and learning and experiencing.”

Meta Beach, for instance, was rich in interactive touchpoints, from a Reels creator lab to a VR-driven beach-themed metaverse designed specifically for the Cannes Lions audience. The design of the layout itself leaned into open spaces for gathering. “The stage is a huge focal point,” Hogan told us. “It takes up a good portion of the beach space, and that’s very intentional to be able to create that community and bring people closer together.”

Indeed, celebration of creativity is the point, as the festival’s name indicates. But this year that vibe was reflected—to a heightened degree—in the event’s experiential strategies.

Spotify, whose oversized build occupied a sizeable portion of the beach per usual, focused less on closed-door sales meetings than in years’ prior. Designing open spaces to hold conversations and congregate together was deliberate, according to Spotify’s Keyana Kashfi, Global Senior Director, Experiential & Content Production. And signage with CTAs like “We’re Back” and “Let’s Play” reinforced the message.

Nowhere was this more evident than Spotify’s choice to beef up its entertainment—typically the guestlist to get on—during the evenings. “We doubled down on evening performances and podcast conversations… to celebrate the most creative thing on our platform, which is either podcasts or music,” Kashfi says. “How best to bring that to life than an amazing lineup?”

And then there was Pinterest Beach, whose build echoed that positivity, too. The platform brought to life its annual trend report, Pinterest Predicts, through myriad activities, from Nailscape manicures to micro tattoos to aura photography, positioning itself as both a tranquil oasis apart from the hustle and bustle of Cannes and, metaphorically, a welcome reprieve from the anxiety-inducing toxicity of the internet.

So, grab a beach chair and embark on a tour of the most engagement-rich activations we experienced on the ground, in partnership with CM sister pub Event Marketer, as the industry gathered together once again, at long last, to learn, discuss, create, experience and celebrate.

Photo credit: Luke Hayes

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