Cannes Lions: Seven AD COO Tey San Diego shares her 7 key takeaways as a Cannes newbie

CANNES, FRANCE — Going to the Cannes Lions as a newbie is probably similar to the experience of a kid experiencing Disneyland for the first time. You appreciate every little thing, from the pink carpet to the iconic staircase, to the theaters, down to the directional signs to the toilettes.

People watching was fun. I don’t even know most of the personalities but it feels like you’re in the company of the most brilliant people all over the world. Cannes smells of smarts, savvy, and sophistication even if most people are just in shirt, shorts, and slip-ons.


And just like any other Cannes noob, I tried to pack as many talks as I possibly could in a day. The program outline did not just contain sessions on effectiveness, creative excellence, and innovation. There were also a lot of talks about purpose, DE&I, and sustainability. And although I enjoyed the stories about brand transformations and award-winning campaigns, I was inspired more by stories about how people and brands changed the world. Here are seven things that I picked up from the sessions:

  1. Brands need to take a stand and use the power of their platform to talk about important public issues and drive change.
  2. The Gen Zs being the first fully digital natives, have a front seat to all the things that are happening in the world. Purpose is important to them. They demand a better world.
  3. You don’t do Purpose for purpose’s sake. It has to be relevant and authentic to your brand. Dove’s cause on changing the definition of beauty for example, is something that they are credible to speak of as a brand. So choose the purpose for your brand carefully. More importantly, choose a purpose because you really want to help, not because it is a “thing” now.
  4. Purpose should be matched with a great insight and masterful storytelling and craft. Otherwise, it will not be as effective. Speaking about the Grand Prix winner “Long Live The Prince,” Titanium Lions Jury President Rob Reilly said, “Purposeful ideas will go nowhere if you do not bring them to the world in a disruptive way. To sell to teens, you need to craft an approach that feels almost undetectable, you need to ‘sneak’ in the purpose.”
  5. Purpose is not just about ambitious goals as saving the world. It can be about taking care of your brand advocates. At Nike for example, they believe that if you have a body, you are an athlete. And as DJ Van Hameren, Nike CMO said, “Athletes help us to push us to be better. And at Nike, better is a never-ending pursuit because we believe that there is no finish line.”
  6. People are thirsty for narratives of hope, of joy, of change, especially in difficult times. If you are a brand with a good purpose, that moment of upliftment that you give your audience amidst their doom-scrolling on their phones can be not just a moment of respite but a moment that can change them fundamentally.
  7. Lastly, you don’t need to be a powerful brand to be a force for good. You could just be one person with a powerful cause to perpetuate a movement. Malala Yousafzai, an activist since the age of 11 said, “I believe in the power of an individual. Somebody has to say it and somebody has to initiate it. And if that person speaks up, other people will join.”

Tey San Diego is the Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Seven AD, a five-time winner of the 4A’s Independent Agency of the Year award. Before setting up Seven AD, she served as Vice President in Account Management at DDB and Business Unit Director at McCann Worldgroup. As a suit, she won effectivity awards from AME, 4A’s Best in Market Performance, Tambuli, PANAta and YouTube Awards. As an entrepreneur, she took the lead in the 4A’s Best in Management of Business, where Seven A.D. made history as the first and only independent agency to get in as finalist for four consecutive years.

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