‘From content scarcity to content infinity’: The major themes of Cannes 2024 so far

AI is a hot topic — but so are humans.

People mingle in Cannes 2024

Diane Schwartz is CEO of Ragan Communications. 

Public relations is a powerful undercurrent at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, where those in marketing, advertising and other creatives gather to be inspired and connected.

While there has been a smattering of communications executives on panels about storytelling, reputation, DE&I and media relations, the Cannes Festival is not yet the place where communications takes center stage.

Yet, the lines are so blurry between marketing and PR that it’s clear what a powerful role PR quietly plays to fuel the creative industry.

The consequences and creativity of AI

While talk about generative AI flowed like rosé, they’ve evolved since last year. Flush in the early days of the AI boom, 2023 focused on the possibilities of AI, while this year focused on results – and risk. The danger of signal loss amid the focus on AI presents a unique opportunity brand storytellers to shine.

To wit, Microsoft’s activation this year includes the tagline “AI is not creative. You are.”

That ethos was seen in effect as, for the first time, the Cannes Lions awards entry form required disclosure if AI was used in any element of a campaign’s development. The tools were welcomed – but only if their presence is understood.

The advent of AI is leading to cost-cutting on activities like research and copywriting– a positive for clients but a more difficult new reality for agencies.

But even as the realities of the limitations of AI come into focus, its possibilities still remain heady.

“We’re going from content scarcity to content infinity,” noted Tamon George, CEO of the Creative Theory Agency. “AI will be a tool to help us win.”

Brand leaders also advised to listen closely to employees when developing campaigns, whether through AI or the old-fashioned way. And don’t take for granted that younger generations are adept at AI use: everyone is learning this together.

Putting the customer first

But even amid these technological advancements, humans are still at the center of both creative work and the customers that work seeks to reach.

“We are guest-obsessed,” said Brandi Pitts, senior vice president of brand marketing and media at Ulta Beauty, where customers are referred to as “guests” and where 95% of those 43 million guests are members of Ulta’s loyalty program.

Ulta’s retail associates, some of whom double as Ulta influencers on social media, play a critical role in helping customers unlock stronger self-identities through simple acts such as choosing a bold lipstick. That’s the kind of innately human interaction that just can’t be replaced by even the savviest AI.

Ragan Communications CEO Diane Schwartz makes connects at Cannes.


Always innovating

A throughline in many conversations among brand leaders is the necessity to take on an experimentation mindset.

Best-selling author Deepak Chopra referred to AI as his guru who provides the key to “all the wisdom throughout the ages.” He shared the key elements of his creative process, which can be accomplished with the help of technology or on a purely human level:

  • Outcome
  • Information-gathering
  • Analysis
  • Incubation
  • Insight
  • Inspiration
  • Implementation
  • Leap to a new story, or reincarnation

These themes of finding new ways to foster creativity, the need for balancing humanity with technology and putting customers first are sure to continue to resonate through the rest of the festival and beyond. Come back to PR Daily for more Cannes coverage in the days ahead, including the PR Daily/Ragan Communications Roundtable.

Topics: PR


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