Cannes Lions: AI Chatter – of Both Fear, Optimism – Replaces Brands Buzz at the 2024 Ad Fest

There is no question that AI has been the “topic du jour” at this year’s international gathering

Elon Musk attends "Exploring the New Frontiers of Innovation" conversation during Cannes Lions 2024
Elon Musk attends "Exploring the New Frontiers of Innovation" conversation during Cannes Lions 2024 (Credit: Marc Piasecki/Getty Images)

CANNES – There is no question that AI has been the “topic du jour” at this year’s Cannes Lions advertising festival, but with such a plethora of different voices on the Croisette — think everyone from hip-hop stars to tech nerds — it’s hard to know what the takeaway is.

Needless to say, there is both fear and optimism around the rapid development of this revolutionary, industry-shifting technology.

For billionaire entrepreneur and X owner Elon Musk, there’s a 10–20% chance that AI creates a global disaster, as he discussed on stage here. And newspapers are history. Author and guru Deepak Chopra used the fest to present his AI digital twin and the dawn of AI well-being. For Meta execs, a regular walk in the park to generate ideas is enhanced by AI doing the thinking. While for your average Lions’ attendee, the hope is that it could simply mean more holiday time. (Indeed, Musk said on Wednesday, “Why bother doing anything if AI can do it better?”)

Hopes for more free time could be dashed, however. “It was the same when robots were first a thing, and automation. There was fear that they were going to take our jobs,” CJ Branagh, partner at assurance, tax and advisory services company PwC, told TheWrap. “There was optimism that we were only going to have to work X days a week. And now we work more than ever with our phones.”

Feedback at the Lions from PwC partners, Branagh added, was that brands don’t want to have too much information about AI, “but they want to be having AI-plus conversations.” In other words, they know the importance of strategically integrating AI into their business, but goals shouldn’t be all AI all the time.

If we were to boil down the 2024 festival’s most prominent AI takeaway, it is that there is simply no getting away from it. Everyone had something to say about it.

Take Tuesday, when overnight oats were served at the Meta beach pavilion, featuring an AI demo area, while the tech company’s execs chatted about how AI impacts their business.

Meta was followed by a keynote from Musk, who is working on human-AI symbiosis at his company Neuralink. 

There was another official panel by Google that same afternoon, and  dozens more running at other venues concurrently. 

There was additionally talk of Apple Intelligence being a game changer with Apple’s recent announcement it will incorporate AI tools into its phones, and Google and Microsoft both talked up their own AI developments at the Lions. 

Generative AI has “major implications.”

The last year’s faster-than-expected developments in generative AI particularly sparked animated conversation across the fest.

Text to video is not only here, but accelerating fast. Execs at an event from VideoWeek shared online clips between panel breaks on the expanding world of text to video, a major game changer for image makers. 

“People were predicting it was going to be here by 2030–35, but it’s happening now,” Javier Campos, coauthor of “Grow Your Business With AI,” said. “It has major implications for advertising.”

Campos added: “There are a few companies out there working on the latest generation of text to video. Everybody is racing to see how many more minutes of video can be produced, and how realistic the videos can be. The current state of the art is shorter models that allow one to two minutes, but they’re getting better and better very quickly. Now with this, you can have 20 ideas and then pick one. In the short term,  it should help creative people.”

Regulation continues to be a concern.

Excitement and optimism about AI tools did not overshadow underlying concern for regulations that protect artists.

“I  have a positive view on AI. I think it’s in its early infancy, but it will liberate us to think about creativity in a different way, it will democratize access to creative tools,” Nathalie Lethbridge, founder and CEO of Atonik Digital, a boutique streaming advisory firm, told TheWrap. “If you look at the genesis of YouTube, no one thought that user-generated content would be what it has become. The issue is the safeguards around it. The issue is the copyright, the issue is the monetization tools, because with democratization comes a downward spiral in terms of monetization.” 

Andrew Grosso, Pickaxe Foundry CPO and cofounder, saw potential for box office predictions. “I feel like that’s the sexy version that we’re all talking about with ChatGPT and LLM,” he told TheWrap. “But for all of these companies, these content producers, there’s a whole world of machine learning, lowercase AI, things where you can use the power of machines to make smart decisions or get insights at scale.”

He continued: “There are a ton of people in Hollywood who know exactly what an opening weekend is going to do within a range, but they only know about four or five days beforehand. If you put together that kind of machine learning with the analysis and common sense of the industry … you get the machine plus the human and you can actually predict results.”

AI isn’t ready to take common jobs.

Ogilvy’s vice chairman Rory Sutherland approached AI with humor and concern for customer care and quality.

“My concern is that AI customer service is quite bad, rather like self checkout tills at super markets. We’ve got this concern that AI is unbelievably good and gets rid of us. A more immediate concern is that AI is quite bad, but it gets deployed anyway because it saves money,” Sutherland lamented. “My fear is that we get this herd mentality that we must replace all people with AI.”

The executive added that “the entire impetus of the tech category is really job destruction” and that “there are few exceptions.”

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