CANNES – Shortened by one day this year, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity attracted fewer agency people. But there was a 30% increase in attendance by brand marketers and a 20% rise in the number of consulting firms, according to MediaLink Vice Chairman Wenda Harris Millard.

So the Festival is still a “very important watering hole,” says Millard. In this interview with Beet.TV, Millard says data, diversity and consultants encroaching on the agency space were three main topics of discussion.

Millard is perhaps closer to the year-to-year center of gravity of Cannes than most people because Ascential plc, which owns the Festival, acquired MediaLink just over a year ago. MediaLink and its executives have long been fixtures at Cannes.

“I think what is absolutely palpable is the number of agency execs who are not here this year,” she says. “The conversations this year are more on the gravitas side. In years past, we focused on a lot of what isn’t working at all. This year, I find the conversations about we can do for the industry, for society at large.”

She feels that the Festival listened to the feedback it received from attendees leading up to last year’s event and that its subsequent modifications have been positive.

“It feels a little bit different and I do think that part of that is Cannes Lions’ response to a number of different constituents who said, ‘hey we’re looking for a little bit different experience here at Cannes.’ I think cutting it down by a day was a very, very smart, important response to it.”

Contributing to the “different feel” this year are “perhaps a little less frivolity and subjects with a little bit more gravitas.”

On the much-discussed subject of the utility of data, Millard cites the recognition by brands that “their data needs to be owned by them and better understood perhaps than in the past.”

There was more of a focus on equality and diversity this year, “not just in our business, but in our world. That will continue. That’s very much here to say.”

The third major conversation revolved around “the classic consultants encroaching on the previously owned relationships that agencies have with the brand marketers,” says Millard.

This video is part of a series produced by Beet.TV at Cannes Lions 2018 about advertising accountability presented by Mediaocean. Please find more videos from this series here.