My week in Cannes has been fascinating, inspirational, thought-provoking and super busy. I’ve attended debates, keynote speeches, creative workshops and met up with many people from our global network.

With the festival wrapping up today I’ve managed to catch the festival’s CEO Phil Thomas for another quick coffee to ask him about his impressions of this year’s event. “When you look back over the last few days, what’s your main personal take-out from this year in Cannes?” I ask as we find a table on a shady terrace.

“I saw that this is a baffling, fascinating, multi-national, multi-cultural industry and again, I realized what an honour it is to be able to host this festival.”

“What struck you most about this years’ Lions?” I ask.

Phil Thomas, CEO of Cannes Lions - Around the World in 80 Brands
Phil Thomas, CEO of Cannes Lions – Around the World in 80 Brands

Phil pauses for a moment, then says: “This year it became impossible to define creativity, or rather it has become impossible to say who is creative, who owns the right to ‘be’ creative, and where clients and media and technology fit in.”

“What do you mean exactly?”

“Well these days everyone is coming up with creative solutions: technologists, brands, artists. In the past it felt like creative agencies had exclusive ownership over ‘creativity’. Now everyone agrees that everyone can add creative solutions.”

“I was also struck by the rise of branded content,” I say.

“Yes, that’s certainly something we see,” says Phil. “The blurring of conventional distinctions between what constitutes advertising and what constitutes entertainment. It’s essentially a fusion of the two into one product intended to be distributed as entertainment content, albeit with a highly branded quality.”

“Do you expect that trend to grow over the coming years?” I ask.

“Definitely,” says Phil. “Branded content and entertainment are exploding out of all proportion, from advertorials in newspapers to full-blown cinema-released movies and lots of web TV. We only launched this category three years ago but I think it will become one of the most important categories at Cannes, if it hasn’t already.”

As we ask for the bill, I ask Phil a final question. “In your view, what’s the key brand value of the Cannes Lions Festival?”

“That’s a good question,” he says with a smile. “I would say creativity. Because that’s what makes the difference. In the end most brands and products are alike, but it’s their creativity that makes them stand out. And that’s my mission: to facilitate companies and individuals to celebrate creativity.”

“So you’re not retiring yet then?”

Phil laughs. “No way! After seven years I am still passionate about my job. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!”

Meeting Phil Thomas, CEO Cannes Lions
Read meeting Phil Thomas, CEO Cannes Lions

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