Cannes Lions Winners: Who did it best, Humans or AI?

As the marketing community convenes in Cannes to ponder the future of creativity, there emerges a prominent contender on the scene that demands attention: Generative AI. Yep, the robot revolution is here and it's going to take your ads away. 

Cannes Lions Winners

Okay, maybe that's a bit dramatic. 

The potential of AI and machine learning as a whole is vast, as it empowers brands to craft personalised content on a large scale, fostering a heightened sense of customer loyalty and engagement.

But the question on everyone's lips at this year's Cannes Lions is: "Will AI be good enough to outdo its creative human counterparts?"

Well, the answer is maybe, but probably not. And definitely not quite yet. But don't click away, confident that your answer has been satisfied. We're delving in deep. Let's jump in. 

What's The Landscape Facing Cannes Lion?

The sentiment around AI at this year's Cannes Lions seems to be collaboration, not competition. Creatives of the human persuasion seem to be valued above all else - after all, it is an awards ceremony and event especially celebrating their talent. 

According to NVIDIA founder and CEO Jensen Huang, Generative AI will "supercharge" creators across industries and content types. And he wasn't the only one who believed this. 

Rob Doubal, co-president and chief creative officer, of McCann London said “Personally, I think it’s really exciting. As a creative person, you’re normally just given what’s there already and you have to do something better.

It’s the same role every time. It’s just an incredible new tool out there to think about or use or fend off.”

Mark Singer, chief marketing officer, of Deloitte Digital reported that “Generative AI has the potential to be the most disruptive thing that this industry will ever face.

And I think it’s a good thing – a lot of us think it’s a good thing. It has been great watching some of our creatives figure it out.

What came out is that generative AI is a great idea-generation tool. You can input words, you can input ideas and images – it makes connections to new things that help you, as a human, figure out there’s another angle on this. You get to stretch creative ideas in very new and interesting ways.”

But this Cannes Lions, we're seeing how different the approach to AI was only a few years ago. Six, to be precise. 

During the Cannes Lions 2017 event, Publicis faced severe ridicule for its decision to halt all awards and conference expenditures, redirecting significant investments towards AI development and the creation of a platform named Marcel.

Publicis Groupe claps back at Marcel AI critics with Cannes ads | Ad Age  Agency News

Fast forward six years, and the French advertising powerhouse is now running a print campaign at the same festival. With the current agenda primarily focused on technology-related keynotes, panels, and presentations, Publicis aims to reignite the memory of the industry's earlier skepticism towards AI and emphasize its enduring relevance in an industry now captivated by its countless applications.

“In a weird way – even though we’re meant to be an industry of creativity and innovation – big things like that are not necessarily met with the enthusiasm and passion as you would expect,”said Carla Serrano, chief strategy officer, at Publicis Groupe.

“We were prescient in understanding AI was a tool that could be beneficial. [But] it was met with ‘oh you’re going to invest in AI so it can take over your talent’.

Cut to six years later and it’s absolutely proven itself as a tool. A lot of people are seeing the benefits now and not only are we celebrating Marcel’s sixth birthday this year, but Cannes and the Croisette are finally accepting AI. So, we wanted to celebrate it with a tongue-in-cheek campaign.”

Publicis Counters AI Haters by Celebrating Marcel in Cannes

Earlier this week, European Union legislators made revisions to the proposed regulations concerning artificial intelligence.

Notably, the updates encompass a prohibition on utilizing AI for biometric surveillance and a mandate for generative AI systems like ChatGPT to disclose AI-generated content.

In the course of the session, Huang emphasised the necessity of regulating the AI industry, emphasizing its far-reaching impact on various sectors including healthcare, retail, transportation, aviation, and particularly governments, where the potential misuse of AI could jeopardize the integrity of elections.

He further underscored the significance of augmenting existing regulations to align them with advancements in AI.

“AI has the capability of great promise, but it has great peril,” says Huang.
“This is an area where international cooperation matters ...Your country and ours need to understand that this is really important to regulate, that we promise not to use the technology for ways that put humanity in harm’s way.”
He also suggested that the U.S. should consider regulations making it illegal to impersonate a human digitally without their permission.
So, the landscape is both states of hostility and intrigue currently. AI has massive potential to change the world of work, but the fear comes from not knowing what this new world will look like.
With regulation coming into place, the face of Cannes Lion AI-generated work may look much different next year. Literally, if faces become copyrighted. 

Who are the winners? AKA Humans Come Out on Top

 Right, then. Let's look at some of this year's winners, starting with the human participants. 

Creative Commerce Lions:

  • Hungerstation "The subconscious order" by Wunderman Thompson, Riyadh

Creative Effectiveness Lions:

  • Mondelez "Shah Rukh Khan-my-ad" by Ogilvy, Mumbai

Creative Strategy Lions:

  • Renault "Renault - plug-inn" by Publicis Conseil, Paris

Innovation Lions:

  • Augmental "Mouthpad^" by Wunderman Thompson Lima and Augmental, San Francisco

Mobile Lions:

  • PedidosYa "World Cup delivery" by Gut, Buenos Aires

Brand Experience & Activation Lions:

  • EA Sports and Apple "Fifa 23 x Ted Lasso" by Apple, Cupertino and EA Sports, Redwood City

Creative B2B Lions:

  • B3 Stock Exchange and United Nations Global Compact "Eart4" by AlmapBBDO, Sao Paulo

Creative Data Lions:

  • Stella Artois "The Artois probability" by Gut, Buenos Aires

Direct Lions:

  • Adidas "Runner 321" by FCB Toronto

PR Lions:

  • DoorDash "Self love bouquet" by Gut, Los Angeles

Media Lions:

  • Dove "#TurnYourBack" by Ogilvy, London and David, Madrid

Cannes Lions Winners

Social & Influencer Lions:

  • Samsung "Flipvertising" by Chep Network, Sydney

Industry Craft Lions:

  • JR Group "My Japan railway" by Dentsu Inc, Tokyo

Digital Craft Lions:

  • Nike "Never done evolving feat Serena" by AKQA, Sao Paulo / AKQA, Portland / AKQA, Melbourne

Film Craft Lions:

  • "We cry together – a short film" by PgLang, Los Angeles

Design Lions and Creative Business Transformation Lions:

  • Microsoft "Adlam – an alphabet to preserve culture" by McCann, New York

Entertainment Lions and Entertainment Lions for Gaming:

  • Clash of Clans "Clash from the past" by Wieden & Kennedy, Portland

Entertainment Lions for Music:

  • Michael Kiwanuka "Beautiful life" by Smuggler, London / Michael Kiwanuka, Los Angeles
  • Apple "The greatest" by Apple, Cupertino

Health & Wellness Lions:

  • Partners Life "The last performance" by Special, Auckland

Health Grand Prix for Good:

  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center "Working With Cancer" by La Foundation Publicis, Chicago / Publicis Conseil, Paris / Le Truc, New York / Digitas, New York / Saatchi & Saatchi Health, New York / Publicis Groupe UK, London

Cannes Lions Winners

Print & Publishing Lions:

  • Annahar Newspaper "Newspapers inside the newspaper edition" by Impact BBDO, Dubai

Radio & Audio Lions:

  • Skinny "Lawyer", "Ad agency", and "Strip club" by Colenso BBDO, Auckland

Outdoor Lions:

  • British Airways "A British original" by Uncommon Creative Studio, London

Cannes Lions Winners

There were two Grand Prix winners that involved AI:

Health & Wellness: "Scrolling Therapy" for Eurofarma, by Dentsu Creative US

Eurofarma created a groundbreaking app designed to assist individuals with Parkinson's disease in carrying out their facial exercise routines seamlessly within their daily routines.

Recognising that people dedicate an average of 2.5 hours per day to social media browsing, the app introduces a unique solution by enabling patients to navigate social media platforms using facial gestures instead. This innovative approach ensures that patients can engage with their favourite online content while effectively managing their condition and enhancing their overall well-being.

Cannes Lions Winners

Entertainment Lions for Sport: "Dreamcaster" for Michelob Ultra, by FCB New York

Michelob Ultra Dreamcaster wins Cannes Lions 2023 Entertainment for Sport  Grand Prix | Ad AgeCannes Lions Winners

In a compelling two-minute film, the challenges of following fast-paced basketball games for visually impaired individuals are brought to the forefront.

The advertisement features Cameron Black, the trailblazing commentator who became the first blind person to provide commentary during a National Basketball Association (NBA) game.

Equipped with cutting-edge technology such as spatial audio and an AI-powered braille keyboard, Cameron skillfully tracks the dynamic action on the court, shedding light on the accessibility innovations that enable individuals with visual impairments to fully engage with the game.

The Digital Craft Category AKA AI's 'Time to Shine' Category

The Digital Craft Lions honour the mastery of technological artistry, showcasing exceptional form and function within digital contexts.

Entrants are expected to demonstrate flawless design, expert execution, and outstanding user experiences tailored for various digital environments.

At the 2023 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the Grand Prix for Digital Craft was awarded to Nike's "Never Done Evolving feat. Serena Williams," created by AKQA São Paulo, Portland, and Melbourne. The winning entries were carefully selected from a pool of 600 submissions, showcasing a remarkable diversity of content and geographical representation.

Jury president Resh Sidhu, the global director of Arcadia Creative Studio at Snap Inc, praised the winners for their ability to amplify unheard stories and communities, highlighting the importance of cultural topics. She described the entries as a vibrant tapestry of untold narratives, which have significant relevance in today's world.

Sidhu emphasized the significance of a return to pure digital craft, cautioning future entrants that relying solely on tools like ChatGPT is insufficient.

She noted that this year's submissions prominently featured AI and generative technology, necessitating a rigorous examination of how these tools were utilized. While technology can be dazzling, it is essential to assess its purpose and effectiveness in driving good design and digital craftsmanship.

Regarding the Grand Prix winner, Sidhu underscored the importance of connecting on a human level in the era of ubiquitous technology. Mastering digital tools goes beyond technical proficiency; it entails forging meaningful connections that resonate with people on a personal level.

So, we're seeing places for humans to shine (and boy, don't they), and also places for humans to utilise AI to its fullest potential to be seen. Okay, okay, maybe it isn't a case of "who did it best", not really. Instead, it's a celebration of the human creatives and the tech that allows them to do more impressive things than ever.