The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which began on Monday, June 17, 2024, is shaping up for its biggest year ever, as the advertising industry’s premier event continues to evolve and expand.

Despite initial concerns about the macro environment and potential impacts from recession and geopolitical problems, major partners like Amazon, LinkedIn, TikTok, Meta, and Google have stepped up their involvement, signalling a strong showing for the festival.

“As we came through the spring and the summer, it became obvious that it was going to be a really big Cannes and probably almost certainly the biggest ever,” says Phil Thomas, Chair of Cannes Lions, in this video interview with Beet.TV.

Registration and Sponsorship on the Rise

While final numbers are still being tallied, Thomas confirms that registration will definitely increase compared to previous years. The festival continued to accept registrations even as it kicked off.

Sponsorship has also seen significant growth, as evidenced by the expanded activations and presence of major players. Thomas attributes this to the ongoing evolution and excitement in the advertising and media industry.

“Our whole industry’s changing. Think back to when Amazon first came – they are now a media platform. A lot of other people are getting into that space as well,” Thomas notes.

Integrating the Cannes Experience

In recent years, the festival has worked to better integrate activations and events happening outside the Palais des Festivals into the overall Cannes Lions experience. Nearly all of the activations along the Croisette are now done in partnership with the festival.

“There was a period when we did what we did in the Palais and then everybody did their own thing outside of the city. That has now integrated into one offering,” Thomas says. “What we want to be able to say to people is, come to the city of Cannes and you will experience Cannes Lions. And probably this year is the first year we can say we’ve absolutely done that.”

The Value of Human Connection

Despite the rise of digital platforms and AI, Thomas believes that the value of in-person, human-to-human connection remains as important as ever, if not more so.

“I think there is that need for human contact. AI, in my view, will probably exacerbate that and make it even more valuable to have human contact because whatever AI can do, which is a lot of things, AI can’t empathize,” Thomas asserts.

“AI has not got the same experiences as you and I. I don’t think it can really spark in the way that human-to-human contact can. So that’s why people come to Cannes, to be together.”