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June 5, 2024 | By Garett Sloane

Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is never a dull affair, even for a festival about commercials.

It draws the world’s biggest ad companies, showcases the most-awarded creativity, features cutting-edge technology and sees major deals made in the corners of ritzy hotel bars. The stakes are high this year, amidst the ongoing war in Ukraine, unrest in the Middle East and a U.S. presidential election.

In the advertising world, AI is sparking debates over automation, brands are navigating shifting internet ad markets as cookies phase out and TV continues to evolve into a streaming landscape. Adding to the intrigue, there’s the recent fallout between Michael Kassan, often dubbed the “king of Cannes,” and his former company MediaLink.

This year’s Cannes promises to be unpredictable, with potential dealmaking among major agencies, brands and platforms on the Croisette. It’s also more expensive than ever, so attendees need to make every moment count.

Yet for the companies looking to make a splash at the beach, and to secure deals, it’s a price worth paying.

“We’re going to get back to the roots of what Cannes has always been about, which is the work,” said Kassan, founder and former CEO of MediaLink. Here are the top predictions for the ad festival. 

AI culpa

Google will have its usual beach presence at Cannes, a YouTube “sunset social,” and a Pride celebration. But AI is the most important technology it has to promote.

“AI continues to dominate conversations around the world and in the last year many more businesses, developers and communities have been able to experience generative AI for themselves,” a Google spokesperson said in an email. “We’re looking forward to showing the industry how to put Google AI to work for them, to power productivity, creativity and growth for advertisers, agencies and creators across Ads, Cloud and YouTube.”

Last month, Google updated its ad and search businesses with AI tools, which were quickly tested for flaws. AI search returned nonsensical answers in some cases, such as suggesting glue as a possible adhesive for cheese on pizza. At Cannes, expect Google to reintroduce its AI and explain to marketers why, despite the headlines, the technology will be a powerful ally to advertisers.

Play Video

The other platforms, too, have AI on their minds, including Meta, Amazon and TikTok. For a bold AI prediction, expect conversations about Apple, coming out of the Worldwide Developers Conference just the week before Cannes, to focus on it playing catchup in the AI department. Apple is expected to return to Cannes this year, and although it will maintain a small presence at the Carlton, it will look to grow its inroads in advertising circles.


The TikTok watch is on at Cannes, yet again. It seems every year the viral app is both a creative wonder for marketers and under duress. Last year at Cannes, TikTok CEO Shou Chew was months removed from a contentious hearing before the U.S. Congress, defending the social video app from skeptical lawmakers. This year, the spotlight is turned up, thanks to the passing of a law forcing TikTok to sell its U.S. assets from its Chinese-based owner ByteDance or face a ban.

“There are historical issues where some advertisers stay away from that platform,” said one major ad agency holding company executive. But TikTok is a global business, and it will continue to be attractive and “advertiser friendly,” this executive said.

TikTok will not be shy, or back down from the U.S. pile-on, and the company will set up at the garden at the Carlton hotel, as it did last year. TikTok has creators to court, commerce to promote and even new AI tools to showcase. Cannes is an international festival, and the brands that are all-in on its trendy content and commercialization will need a global strategy no matter where the app lands, according to marketers.

Reddit is also back at Cannes with its two-story cabana near the beach that serves as a showcase for the site. Reddit went public earlier this year, making Cannes an important place to lock in more advertisers and to promote its developing platform.

“We’re showcasing how Reddit seamlessly blends the best of search and social features, creating a unique ecosystem that accompanies consumers from discovery to purchase,” a Reddit spokesperson said by email.

Then there is Snap, which moved its party from a seaside mansion in years past to a beach party on June 17. Snap execs will be speaking around town throughout the week, too, at venues including JW Marriott and Influential’s beach.

“I anticipate that AI will continue to take the spotlight among advertisers, specifically around how they’re leveraging it to help improve business outcomes from both a creativity and performance perspective,” said Patrick Harris, president of Americas, Snap. “Based on the sessions we’ve curated with creators for Cannes, a hot topic I imagine will be on brands’ minds is on how to best work with creators to bridge the gap between online and real life experiences for their audiences. Snap will also look to highlight Snap Nation, its partnership with Live Nation, Harris said, which brings Snapchatters behind-the-scenes content.

Sporting chance

Sports have become an increasingly integral part to Cannes, and with 2024 Paris Olympics kicking off just a few weeks after, expect the festivities to include even more athletic pursuits this year. Stagwell’s Sport Beach has very much become the epicenter of sports at Cannes and it will continue to hold that title this year. Football bros Travis and Jason Kelce will host their “New Heights” podcast from Stagwell’s spot. It’s unclear if Travis Kelce’s girlfriend Taylor Swift will be seen around town, but Cannes has been known as a hot spot for celebrity couples. Last year, Rihanna made an appearance at Spotify’s A$AP Rocky concert.

Sports commentator and Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe and his “Nightcap” podcast co-host Chad Ochocinco Johnson are also expected at Stagwell’s Sport Beach, as well as free-solo climber Alex Honnold.

MediaLink’s beach will host athletes and marketers, including college basketball phenom JuJu Watkins and Justin Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs. “We’ve got creator talent coming into the space,” said Christopher Vollmer, managing director, MediaLink and partner, UTA, “an intersection for creators and culture, and sports are a linchpin for consumer engagement right now.”

Come for the commerce

“Commerce and retail media are used interchangeably, but they really shouldn’t be,” said Joanna O’Connell, chief intelligence officer at OMG.

“Retail media brings brands closer to where commerce happens but there are other dimensions to it,” O’Connell said, “if you only think retail media equals commerce you’re missing the bigger picture. For example, with Amazon, there is a blend of retail media, creators, shopping and content with Prime Video and other channels.”

O’Connell expects that Cannes will offer an opportunity to foster a larger conversation about that intersection of “commerce and advertising.”

“We expect it to be front and center,” she said.