7 Truths From My First Cannes Lions

Published on July 4, 2022

Emily Cuthbert, Creative at McCann Leeds, takes us through 7 truths that she discovered at her first Cannes Lions, a once in a lifetime prize for winning School of Thought Leeds last August. Take it away, Emily

1. Surround yourself with people and work you admire

I was lucky enough to queue up an hour early and listen to one of my heroes, Malala Yousufzai speak. I’ve long been in awe of her, and deeply passionate about The Malala Foundation’s drive to improve the education of young women and girls around the world. To hear her speak that message in the flesh was priceless and inspirational. We cannot and should not ‘clip the wings’ of girls and young women (a particularly poignant message in the devastating wake of Afghanistan’s education ban for women, and the fall of Roe v Wade). It reminded me that as a creative, you simply must surround yourself with the people and the work you love. In admiration, there is action.

2. Make the future your client

Now, going to a ‘secret speaker’ talk directly after Ryan Reynold’s has finished his main stage interview with the Global CEO of Dentsu, you’d forgive me for thinking that the identity of the said secret speaker would be the Deadpool actor. Well, I was wrong, but I wasn’t in the slightest bit disappointed. Instead, I got to hear from Lisa Merick-Lawless, founder of Purpose Disruptors. Merick-Lawless spoke of the impact of consumerism on our world, and how she could no longer sit back and watch the world crumble when her own daughter was skipping school to join Fridays for Future protests. Her brief to Cannes? Make the future your client, because creativity is our superpower to make a difference.

3. You’ll never regret making a new friend at Cannes

Optimism is infectious. After walking up and down the Croisette for the umpteenth time and queuing in the Palais, you naturally end up speaking to your fellow attendees (whether you’re waiting in line for a talk, or a party). It was refreshing to me how lovely (most) people were. I bumped into creatives, marketeers and media buffs from across the world, each of us exchanging contact details, all desperately trying to type our names into each other’s phones on foreign keyboards. I met fellow attendees from Ukraine, Cambodia, Lithuania, Argentina, Spain and the U.S.A, to name just a few. To paraphrase what 56 Black Men Founder Cephas Williams said in his Secret Speaker slot; if the world was made up of just you, what would be the point?

4. Give it everything you’ve got… then rest

In an age where productivity rules, rest is radical. I was reminded this week that taking time out to appreciate work, and to browse and take a break is essential. Without proper rest and reflection, our creativity becomes stifled and our ideas limp. Easier said than done? Maybe. Necessary for a bright and creative future? Absolutely.

5. Hate something, change something

Now, this much is clear: Work that drives real world change is here to stay. The big winners at Cannes 2022 disrupt you. They stop you in your tracks. They drive something real. From AMV BBDO’s Hope Reef with Sheba, to McCann’s very own Eat a Swede with the Swedish Food Federation, the big winners of 2022 focussed their attention on what matters. As I toured the work in the basement of the Palais, a warm fuzzy feeling I’d been missing for a while perked me up. This is work that can do something good for you, for me, and for the world we live in.

6. You belong

I never expected to be so moved at Cannes, and particularly not on the very last day, at the very last event that I very nearly didn’t go to: the final prize giving ceremony. The ‘penny drop’ moment for me came when former W+K President, Colleen DeCourcy, received The Lion of St. Mark, a lifetime achievement award given once a year to the industry’s best. DeCourcy’s acceptance speech completely decentred herself, instead focussing on an inclusive message towards the next generation of talent. Her message was to women, to people of colour and every underrepresented person in the Creative Sector, and how their time is coming. Her message caught me off guard and captured my heart. So, with that I say thank you Colleen, for gifting me a moment as a young woman that changes everything.

7. You can survive for a week on free canapés alone

Finally, much to my surprise and delight, it turns out that burger sliders, deep fried prawns on skewers, tiny ice creams and strawberry tartelettes are part of a balanced diet. Who knew?