Celebrating 50 years of Cannes Lions, Jacques Séguéla looks back on the evolution of the festival over the years, this year’s major trends and his favourite memories of Cannes and the Havas Café.
What are the main trends at the 2021 edition of Cannes?
It’s COVID’s Cannes this year. COVID has changed the world. Thousands and thousands of humans have left. It is one of the worst tragedies I have lived through, after the war.
But COVID has not killed ideas, and it has been an extraordinary Cannes that has taken place, under the radar sadly. And what a shame because it was bursting with creativity.
“Charity begins at home” so I will start by Havas and congratulate BETC for the film for Lacoste, “Crocodile Inside”, which is a declaration of love to advertising. It is the film that moved me the most this year and maybe one of the most moving I have seen in my whole life. It really deserved its Grand Prix. It is the triumph of Craft in advertising! Highly polished work which possesses a secret touch like the work of the best clockmakers, almost handmade. And it also has a feel of luxury, which comes with a certain cost of course, but advertisers must stop tightening their purse strings, they must invest if they want their brands to make people dream, go beyond the frontiers and time, become immortal even.
The second trend after Craft’s triumph is gaming. Advertising is returning to childhood, a digital childhood where kids are savvier than us, or certainly than me in any case! We have a wonderful film made by Havas Sports and Entertainment in France, l’Enfant Bleu, which already won loads of prizes before Cannes and which has been sanctified at the Lions.
The third trend, is the strive for a “better world”. This is not new. For ten years now, all global brands have understood that in order to be loved by consumers they needed to be generous. Our industry, so often criticized, is the only profession in the world where 10%, or even 20%, of brand spending is aimed at making the world a better place. All causes are concerned, ecology included, and ecologists are mad to want to banish advertising! Advertising must not be banned, on the contrary, if they don’t want to fail, they should ask advertisers to help them heal the world. If ecology becomes too political then a huge part of the global population will turn its back on it. The world can only be saved if everyone works hand-in-hand, and applies some very simple measures.
It’s wonderful to see that in 50 years, we have moved from conviviality to generosity. It truly shows that advertising has a heart.
The fourth trend is putting mankind at the heart of everything – in agencies, relationships, business, companies and thus at the core of creativity.
And finally, of course, the prominence of digital. And I would like to warn both creatives and advertisers. Tech without emotion will ruin mankind. Tech without ideas will ruin advertising. Communication must not become fully digital. People are not data, people are made of flesh and blood, and this is how they should be treated. Nowadays, everyone is saying that data is the new media. False! Ideas are the new media. So Cannes, past and future, will remain the sanctuary of ideas. Advertising comes down to having a big idea.
This year, the number of female jurors reached 51%. Is creativity becoming more « feminine »?
Yes, creativity is becoming more feminine, and it’s just as well! I have been fighting for 50 years for advertising to become feminine and not masculine as it was the case in the beginning when there were only men. And that’s a mistake! First from a marketing perspective, because 70 to 80% of buyers are women. Who better than a woman to address another woman? Second, because advertising is about the art of seduction, and I’m sorry but despite what men may think, it’s women who do the seducing. That’s why they should be given top management roles in agencies.
What I miss the most are the people at the Havas Café, the creatives, because I am usually able to spend an entire week in Cannes and they come to see me one by one to chat for a couple of hours about advertising and much more. I’ve spent my entire life travelling around the world to create these agencies, I’ve met all the great creatives, some are still with us, some have left, some have come back. So what I miss the most is the clan, being with all these creative minds, who make advertising what it is, a poem to life.
This is your 50th Cannes Lions, what are the biggest changes you have noticed over the years?
The first “Cannes” wasn’t in Cannes, it took place in Venice. This festival was invented by a French man who organised it in Venice so that advertisers and creatives would be attracted by such a wonderful destination. And it is only once the city of Cannes saw the success of this festival that the Mayor started making propositions to the organisers in order to move it to Cannes.
We were a small family, we shared all the campaigns between us and at that time the French were the Kings of Creativity. The Festival of Venice was a Latin festival and almost totally “French”. As soon as it moved to Cannes, it became “Hollywoodised” and switched from a festival for creatives to a festival for advertisers which, after all, was a good thing because advertising became industrialised, and of course, without advertisers, advertising would not exist.
What is your best memory of the Cannes Lions?
That’s an easy one, my first Lion. A first Lion is like a first love. It was at the beginning of the seventies, fifty years ago. I was in charge of the client Aéroport de Paris and I wanted to surprise everyone. So my idea was to take everything you find in Aéroport de Paris and put it into a Boeing, that took off from the Champs Elysées. So first you saw the front of the plane, you boarded and discovered all the shops that you usually find inside an airport. Then it took off over the Arc de Triomphe and flew to an unknown destination. The film was a real success and people actually believed I had made a plane take-off from the Champs-Elysées – the film was very well made – and I only told them a couple of weeks later that it wasn’t actually true, it was a “trick”. But “tricks” are OK in advertising because they help create dreams.