Written by Andrew Foote

This week’s Cannes Lions has been packed with inspirational panels, workshops, and interactive sessions on the state of creativity, technology and marketing.

With a thousand plus speakers this year, it was impossible to hear the range of ideas and perspectives shared.

Here’s a quick rundown of what caught our eyes on the ground:

A Smaller Festival

The vibe at this year’s Lions feels much more subdued – attendance is noticeably down, it’s less frenetic, and there are 21 percent fewer entries than last year. It’s the result of a tough agency business climate, as well as the Lions organizers restructuring the event after complaints that it had become too big and expensive.

A Renewed Focus on Creativity

There was a noticeable and refreshing emphasis on creativity this year – how to arrive at culturally-connected creative ideas (the Hackvertising panel was brilliant), how technology enables creativity (Colleen DeCourcy and Evan Sharp spoke about this), using the power of humor to build brands (Conan O’Brien & Shaq led a hilarious session about humor + storytelling), and a new Cannes site called Lovethework.com, which as you can imagine is entirely about viewing and celebrating the work. This is a welcomed change from the past few years, which had drifted too far into media and broader marketing/business topics.

Business-Driven Ideas Start to Make a Comeback

While purpose-driven work continues to dominate the awards and shortlists with powerful ideas like The Talk and Trash Isles, there is a noticeable (and welcome) trend towardscelebrating the value of creativity and innovation in service of good-old commerce and brand-building as well. While the jury is still out, a few of the more commercially-oriented projects that are likely to take home Lions are a fake movie stunt for Australian Tourism, an AR sneaker drop for Jordan cleverly named A / R JORDAN, a music video enabled by the Facebook Live delay, and KFC’s brilliant 11 herbs and spices stunt.

Brand Safety is a Hot Topic

Multiple sessions highlighted the ongoing battle between brands and the social platforms over brand safety (keeping branded ads from appearing next to inappropriate content and comments). During a panel with Unilever’s Keith Weed, Google announced that it will be rolling out a self-serve tool for advertisers to better manage and understand the brand safety risks when buying across YouTube/Google. This is another step in the right direction to give marketers more control.

Big Ideas can Come in Small Packages

The Lions have increasingly acknowledged the importance and power of fast and nimble creative work – content creation, issues response, and audience engagement executed quickly and in a meaningful way. We’re proud that our entry, Samsung Puts Trolls Under the Microscope, was shortlisted in the new Social & Influencer Lions category alongside work like Verizon’s What You Missed and Wendy’s Talk Social to Me.

Overall, the scaled-back structure of the Lions has been well-received by many attendees we spoke with. Thanks to Ascential for revamping it for the better.