Matthew Powers on Cannes Lions

Written by Matthew Powers, Senior Associate, Strategy

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When I found out that I was attending the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, I can safely say for once in my life I was speechless. As a Young Lion, I’m honored to travel to France on behalf of Mindshare to investigate innovation. While New York is a diverse epicenter of advertising, it’s extremely valuable to get off the island every so often to explore the advertising world we live in through a global lens. And even though I haven’t stepped foot in Cannes yet, I envision the week being an impactful opportunity to hear from the world’s most creative minds on how to engage consumers in new innovative ways.

One of the themes I’m excited to see highlighted is the collision of advertising and activism. I’m highly anticipating this coming to life during the ‘Defining Art + Activism’ session helmed by Participant Media, featuring film director Afonso Cuarón. For brands, in order to take a stand on human rights issues it is imperative to do so with powerful storytelling. This means finding a balance between telling the brand’s story, achieving business goals and more importantly, giving a platform to those who don’t have one in order to connect with the consumer. I am a big fan of Cuarón’s work, as Children of Men is one of my favorite movies and is a great example of using provocative and powerful storytelling to touch on important human issues of today.

Another innovation I find fascinating is the empowerment of content through AI, which will be touched on in BEN’s ‘AI vs. Emotion’ session. As someone who watches a ton of Netflix, I find the idea of a robot behind the curtain of my content feed equally amazing and unnerving. Creators can now utilize the astounding ability of AI to test content to tell more effective stories, ultimately resonating deeper with consumers on a 1-to-1 basis.

I’m also looking forward to ‘The Great Paradox of Branding’, where cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Itiel Dror will uncover paradoxes of branding to the mind, including rationality vs. emotion and data vs. instinct. One of the things I find most interesting about advertising is how it is truly a balancing act, a harmony of art vs. commerce, rational vs. irrational, data vs. anecdote. This balancing act with the insurgence of new media frontiers will be what I’ll be writing about during my time in Cannes.

Being a strategic planner on the Volvo team, I am constantly looking for data driven insights to help fuel our strategies. We are always searching for an edge in the hyper competitive automotive marketplace, whether that be through an efficiency or an audience. As the identity of the luxury auto consumer has changed with the growing buying power of young people, particularly multicultural millennials, we are tasked as a brand to engage with a more diverse audience. I hope to use lessons from the experts in Cannes to help provide that spark for our strategies and add a bit of provocation to the way we think.