Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity: All You Need to Know

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is like the Oscars of advertising.

Every June, Cannes in Southern France turns into a bustling hub for creative minds from around the world. The Cannes Lions Festival is where the advertising industry meets to show off cutting-edge adtech and celebrate the ‘best of the best’ in creative talent

What makes Cannes Lions so special? The awards ceremony is a big attraction, and winning (or even being nominated) for a Cannes Lion can skyrocket your career and put your agency on the map. But there’s more to it than that. The festival shapes the future of advertising, design, and digital communication. 

During the week-long event, there are dozens of talks, workshops, and seminars led by big industry players. It’s a great opportunity to soak up knowledge and connect with potential clients or collaborators.

And if you’re a young creative, the Cannes Young Lions competition offers the perfect chance to make a name for yourself, with some big-name agencies in attendance.

All in all, Cannes Lions is a week-long whirlwind of creativity, learning, and networking that has the potential to boost your career – in the gorgeous French Riveria. Let’s take a deeper look at some of what’s on offer.

The Significance of Cannes Lions in the Creative Industry

As well as bragging rights, being shortlisted at Cannes is a stamp of approval, showing you’re at the top of your creative game. A Cannes Lion opens doors to promotions, job offers, and the chance to work on dream projects.

Notable winners and campaigns

Over the years, Cannes Lions has been an amplifier for innovative work. Winners, and even nominees, often become talking points in the creative industries.

Maybe you remember the Fearless Girl statue facing Wall Street’s Charging Bull? It won the coveted Glass Lion Grand Prix award in 2017. The installation picked up multiple Cannes Lions awards, as well as adding to the worldwide debate about women in leadership. 

Cannes Lions winning campaign Charging Bull


Another good example is Burger King’s “Whopper Detour”. This cheeky campaign used a one-cent Whopper to drive up app downloads and playfully poke at their rival – McDonald’s. It quickly became a Cannes Lions darling for its cleverness and ingenuity.

Winner of a Cannes Lions award, Burger King's Whopper Detour ad campaign


The award-winning campaigns aren’t just fun to see. You can use them as case studies in creativity, learning from the latest ideas and innovations. For more examples, check out the 9 Best Cannes Lions Winning Ad Campaigns.

Driving industry trends and innovation

Cannes Lions is a good indicator of what’s hot and what’s not in the world of advertising. Award-winning campaigns often set industry trends in motion for years to come.

When digital and social media campaigns started taking off in the early to mid-2000s, Cannes Lions was right there highlighting the most groundbreaking work. Smart advertisers took note of the seismic shift.

Today, the festival continues to push boundaries with ad campaigns using high-tech tools, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and personalized experiences. There’s no doubt that the event gives you a front-row seat to the future of creativity.

Exploring Cannes Lions Awards Categories

Every year, Cannes Lions features a variety of categories. Each category focuses on different aspects of media creativity. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the main categories:

  • Craft: Artistry and technical brilliance take center stage.
  • Health: Showcasing creativity that can make a difference in people’s health and lives.
  • Entertainment: A celebration of music, sports, and gaming.
  • Experience & Engagement: Immersive experiences that wow audiences and keep them hooked.
  • Classic Advertising: Big ideas brought to life through film, print, and outdoor media.
  • Impact: Campaigns that drive social change and make the world a better place.
  • Specialized Areas: Awards for specific industries and areas, like Pharma, Digital Craft, and Creative Business Transformation.

Judging and selection process criteria

At Cannes Lions, the judges’ goal is to find pieces and campaigns that really make people sit up and take notice. Here are some things they tend to focus on:

  • Originality: Ideas that break the mold and raise the bar.
  • Execution: Flawless craftsmanship and attention to detail.
  • Effectiveness: Campaigns that not only look good but also deliver results.
  • Relevance: Work that resonates with the audience and aligns with brand values.

Each entry goes through a rigorous judging process with careful scrutiny from industry leaders; the winners truly represent the height of global creativity.

Cannes Young Lions for Up and Coming Creatives

Cannes Young Lions throws the spotlight on creative under-30s. The next generation of creative stars get to show their skills under pressure by tackling real-world client briefs. It’s a sort of “boot camp” for a career in creativity.

Participants also get to mingle with fellow creatives and industry leaders, getting valuable feedback and, if they’re lucky, landing a dream job or placement. After all, Cannes is a place where top creatives gather, looking to spot the next big thing.

How to Participate in the Cannes Lions Festival

If you’re looking to get nominated for an award at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, here’s a quick step-by-step guide to make it happen:

1. Choose your battleground

Figure out which Cannes category best suits your work. The Cannes Lions website help page has all the details.

2. Prep your arsenal

Gather your creative work, case studies, impact reports – anything that shows off your project in its best light. Polish it until it shines!

3. Register and submit

Head to the Cannes Lions entry kit page, fill out the forms, and pay the entry fee. 

Pro tip: Early birds might get a discount, so it’s wise to plan ahead.

4. Follow the rules

Each category has specific guidelines for format and length. Follow them carefully to avoid getting disqualified.

Tips for submission success

Here are some key guidelines for submitting your work to the Cannes Lions competition that may increase your chances of bagging a prize:

  • Show your impact: Use hard data and real testimonials to prove how your work made a difference.
  • Tell a story: Captivate the judges with a compelling narrative that makes your work unforgettable.
  • Highlight innovation: Show off the unique and groundbreaking aspects of your project.
  • Quality over quantity: A focused, concise presentation is more impactful than overwhelming them with too much info.
  • Get feedback: Ask trusted peers or mentors for their honest opinions – they might spot something you missed.

What to Expect at Cannes Lions Festival

The Cannes Lions Festival is ideal for networking. You get to rub shoulders with the world’s top creative minds, whether you’re chilling at the Rotonde, grabbing a coffee, or enjoying the daily Happy Hour at the bar!

If you’re looking for a more casual way to connect, there are plenty of interactive sessions and meet-ups. Head for the Rooftop or Terrace where you’ll find a more relaxed atmosphere to chat with fellow industry creatives.

Inspiration is everywhere at Cannes, with workshops and seminars across five main themes: Trends and Insights, Innovation Unwrapped, The Creativity Toolbox, Talent and Cultures, and Creative Impact.

Beyond the talks, there are film screenings, art exhibits, and live performances to feed your creative soul. And the evenings? Award shows and parties galore, where you can let loose and celebrate the best in creativity.

In a nutshell, Cannes Lions is non-stop networking, inspiration, and fun. If you’re fortunate enough to attend in person – it’s an experience you’ll never forget.

How to Rock Your Cannes Lions Experience: Insider Tips from the Outbrain Team

Outbrain is a fixture at the Cannes Lions Festival, and our team has become somewhat expert at navigating both the networking and partying side of the event. Not to mention the hot June sun of the French Riviera! Here are some quick tips from our crew to help you get the most out of every minute at at the event:

“Boulevard de la Croisette is long. Rent a scooter!” – Alexander Erlmeier, Chief Revenue Officer

“Get invited to parties! Drink some water at night otherwise, you’ll feel it the next day…” – Agathe Rakowicz, VP, Demand Enablement B&A

“Be flexible and pad time for meetings. There are so many people there that you’ll run into randomly on La Croisette and you will get into side conversations. It could throw off your schedule if you are already timed with meetings back to back.” – Jackie Carroll, VP Agency Sales

“Be kind and tip well. Water with ice will make it look like you’re having a drink… Don’t get smashed.” Ayal Steiner, EVP Brand Solutions

“Wear lightweight clothing and comfortable shoes. RSVP to every invite you get, and try to get as many meetings as possible with whoever you know is going to be at Cannes.” – Andrew Furman, General Manager, US

“Have backup clothes with you (it can be super hot or it can rain all of a sudden). Have aspirin with you if you’re planning to go to parties… you still need to go to meetings early in the morning! And keep a power bank handy.– Michael Le Lausque, Global Head of Business Marketing & International

The Future of Cannes Lions

Over the years, the Cannes Lions Festival has embraced new tech with open arms. In doing so, they have made their sessions more accessible online and expanded their global reach. This means more virtual panels, digital workshops, and interactive sessions powered by cutting-edge technology to connect with attendees worldwide.

Looking further ahead, the Cannes Lions experience is likely to become even more entwined with tech – a mixture of in-person and digital connectivity. This might include things like more personalized content, AI-powered networking, and virtual reality creative playgrounds.

If you’re involved in advertising or marketing, then Cannes is a great event to attend, especially if you want to showcase your work, learn from industry leaders, or just soak up the creative buzz. 

We’ll be at Cannes Lions 2024 – let’s connect!


When is Cannes Lions 2024?

Cannes Lions 2024 is scheduled for Monday, June 17 to Friday, June 21.

What are Cannes Lions awards?

The Cannes Lions awards are prestigious accolades that recognize exceptional creativity in the branding, marketing, and advertising industries across various categories.

What is the Cannes Gold Lion Award?

The Cannes Gold Lion Award is given to entries that demonstrate excellence and stand out as the best in their specific category at the Cannes Lions Festival.

How many Cannes Lions awards are there?

The number of Cannes Lions awards can vary each year as new categories are added or adjusted, but generally, there are over 20 main categories that can each have multiple award winners.

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