Thought Leadership

AI, Fandom and the Boldest Move at Cannes LIONS 2023



We’re going strong after Cannes LIONS 2023 – even after hosting more than 5,000 people at SPORT BEACH. The emerging themes still on our minds: 

  1. The consensus at Cannes was that generative AI is no passing fad. But brands and marketers need to understand how to use (and not use) AI to truly realize its potential.


  2. Brands need to understand the risks of embracing polarizing issues. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t stand for something.


  3. Fandom is even more valuable than you think. How else could a dish soap company like Dawn have more fans than tech and entertainment giants?  

Get ready, because we’re diving deep into all three … 


The message at Cannes LIONS from OpenAI, Google, and other tech companies was the same: AI won’t replace creatives, it will make them more creative. 

  • BIG TECH SHOWCASE: Meta positioned AI chatbots as a way for brands to interact with fans, and stressed that AI could help generate and target hundreds of versions of ads. Expedia touted its new ChatGPT app integration. And on the sand, Microsoft Beach dazzled visitors with otherworldly sea creatures made by artists using AI tools. (Check them out in this gallery, created in partnership with Instrument.)
  • DON’T SET IT AND FORGET IT: Generative AI is a useful tool. But Google’s Robert Wong stressed at the Palais that humans with taste still need to be in charge, comparing AI to “raw clay” that will take people with “curiosity, creativity and compassion to harness.”
  • BRIGHT FUTURE: Overall, people at Cannes LIONS thought AI will change marketing for the better. Code and Theory’s co-founder and executive chairman Dan Gardner envisioned the rise of “true creativity,” where innovative people can create whatever they can imagine, regardless of their technical skills.  

READ MORE: 3 Quick Things from Cannes 2023: AI will lead to an ‘explosion of creativity’  


How AI and AR Will Transform Sports 


There was plenty of debate over purpose-driven ads at Cannes LIONS this year. But that doesn’t mean brands can’t embrace causes – as long as they’re consistent with their politics.  

  • REPRESENTATION PAYS: At a SPORT BEACH panel hosted by the ANA CMO Growth Council and SeeHer, the message was clear: accurately representing people with disabilities isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s a smart business move.  

Robyn Freye, Chief Growth Officer at Stagwell, shared this stat: only 1% of prime TV ads include topics, visuals, or themes related to people with disabilities. That’s despite the fact that more than a quarter of the U.S. population lives with a disability. Ultimately, brands have a huge opportunity to reach people who don’t feel seen in ads.  

  • BOLDEST MOVE AT CANNES: On the sustainability front at Cannes LIONS, per Adweek, Stagwell’s GALE stood out by becoming the largest agency to sign the Clean Creatives pledge not to work with fossil fuel companies.  

READ MORE: 3 Quick Things from Cannes 2023: Making the World a Better Place


The Intersection of Sport and Sustainability  


There were plenty of Spike Lee fans at SPORT BEACH. But it’s not just filmmakers, athletes, and musicians who have fans. It’s also brands.  

  • WHY FANS MATTER: Fotoulla Damaskos, EVP, Brand Strategy and Innovation at Stagwell’s National Research Group, used Cannes LIONS to reveal the Fandex, based on a study of 12,500 people who were asked about 250 brands. It found that fans are…

3.5x more likely to advocate for a brand than the average consumer. 

3x more likely to stick with a brand even if it does something they don’t like. 

  • BIG SURPRISE: Dawn had the fifth highest brand fandom score in the Fandex, topping buzzy entertainment, tech, and sports brands.  The lesson? Any brand can attract fans if it creates community and connect with consumers’ values (think #Cleantok and clean baby ducks, respectively), as well as innovate new products that people love. “It’s a purposeful journey that brands need to take,” said Damaskos. “And while there isn’t any one formula to create and build fandom, there is a playbook.
  • THE FUTURE OF FANDOM: Personalization at scale, fueled by AI, predicted GALE’s Brad Simms. 

READ MORE: 3 Quick Things from Cannes 2023: Fans, fans, fans for your brands, brands, brands 

What Turns Customers Into Fans



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