Cannes Lions: Hollywood Takes Center Stage at Ad Fest

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
'Star Trek Beyond'

Harvey Weinstein, Gwyneth Paltrow, Will Smith and the cast of 'Star Trek Beyond' are among the stars taking part in the advertising festival in Cannes this week.

The festival that is bringing Hollywood heavyweights such as Harvey Weinstein, Gwyneth Paltrow, Will Smith and the all-star cast of Star Trek Beyond to Cannes has nothing to do with film.

Cannes Lions, which began as an advertising confab, has now rebranded itself as the "Festival of Creativity,” attracting a who’s who of creative, media and tech executives.

And they have nothing to sell, except themselves. Smith, billed as a philanthropist, will be on hand to talk about making an impact, and Quentin Tarantino’s longtime producer Lawrence Bender is back in the beachside town to talk about the power of cinema to drive cultural change.

Executives will take to the stage to discuss the challenges of the new entertainment landscape, including CBS CEO Leslie Moonves. Weinstein will give a talk hosted by Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy that’s being advertised around town on movie-style promotional posters titled The Conference with the tagline, “How a mad man and a movie mogul see the future of storytelling in Hollywood.”

The Paley Center for Media is presenting its "Creativity is the Only Way to Survive" panel for the second year in a row, this time with Rob Delaney, Rashida Jones and Keegan-Michael Key.

Even rocker Iggy Pop is set to get personal in a talk where he will present his new song based on the Dylan Thomas poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night and discuss the deaths of music legends Prince and David Bowie.

Tech has staked its claim as well, with Google and Oracle setting up beachside tents and Twitter, Snapchat, Spotify and YouTube among the sponsors. Samsung also is on hand to demonstrate its VR technology as well as new waterproof phones with a massive space.

To be sure, advertising is still an integral part of the event; the first round of prizes went to Ogilvy & Mather for a health and pharma commercial and the group will sponsor a talk on gender equality in the ad industry, as well as host an interview with Oscar-winner Alejandro G. Inarritu.

The festival is expecting a record of more than 15,000 delegates this year, all of which contribute to the $58 million in revenues parent company Ascential reported from the gathering in 2015. Ascential is an event management company owned by VC firm Apax and Guardian Media. The Guardian is a sponsor, and as the main outlet of Edward Snowden’s NSA files in 2013, will interview director Oliver Stone on politics, culture, and his upcoming biopic Snowden.  

It’s all very vertical.

In addition, Mindy Kaling will address finding your audience in a talk sponsored by Hulu, which airs her show The Mindy Project, while Good Morning America host Robin Roberts will speak on the power of truth in storytelling in a talk sponsored by WebMD, which produces a web series with the star. Ryan Seacrest also will be in conversation with Usher in an onstage interview sponsored by IHeartMedia, of which Seacrest is a key stakeholder.

Over 559 speakers are set to take to the stage during the weeklong festival on diverse topics in separate modules covering health, innovation and entertainment. And while the new entertainment module is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, high-profile guests are appearing all week.

The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity runs through Saturday.