Marcus Tesoriero: Cannes 2024 – Relax, We Can Laugh Again

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Marcus Tesoriero: Cannes 2024 – Relax, We Can Laugh Again

Marcus Tesoriero, chief creative officer at The General Store writes about comedy’s comeback at this year’s Cannes Lions.


Amidst the AI hype, Elon Musk buzz, and typical rosé-fuelled shenanigans, there was something more authentic in the air at Cannes this year. Something many thought was lost in the creative ether forever. Something that made every creative rub their eyes twice, maybe a third time, and then look again. At the Cannes Lions 2024, we finally saw the comeback of comedy and a strong focus on awarding work for established brands.

Yes, in recent years, Cannes has evolved to become ‘the festival of creativity’, but it feels like the Lions this year has made a solid stance, pushing back towards its marketing roots by awarding work that solves business problems for brands, often in humorous ways, with much less recognition for purposeful thinking on NFPs, charities or loosely branded innovation.

Personally, this is music to my ears. And from the discussions I had around the festival, everybody is on the same page. I recall a bit of a push for awarding more work on commercially-driven brands when judging D&AD and One Show last year, creating some hot chatter in the room, but you can tell the decision from the Cannes Lions this year came from the top. And it’s reflected in the work.

In 2024, every Cannes Grand Prix winner across the 34 different categories were for brands with impactful commercial outcomes. Of that top work, over half of it had a humorous lens. Even the Health and Wellness Grand Prix recognized a mockumentary around a farewell to the barf bag for a motion sickness tablet.

In fact, ‘humour’ was a new subcategory to select within every category this year, drawing out plenty of interesting work from around the world. Among many standouts, I loved the work for Specsavers in Ireland, who ironically do hearing tests. They had a play on misheard song lyrics and got people’s attention by rerecording Rick Astley’s 90’s hit.

One of my favourite talks at the festival this year was ‘The Return of Comedy’ from VML featuring Saturday Night Live star Kenan Thompson. Even seeing the title ‘the return of comedy’ made me instantly jot down a profound note on my pad, “Thank fuck”. As Kenan puts it, “Making someone laugh connects them with a brand. It’s a uniting front. People drop their guard and let us get a little closer to sell shit.” He said, “Humour never goes away, our tastes just evolve – and there are stats to prove humour works.”

Not every piece of work needs to be funny though. Some of the best ideas awarded this year were still pure, clever thinking or genius innovation. Probably my favourite piece of work this year was for Orange Telecommunications in France, who sponsor both the men’s and women’s national football teams. To prove that women’s football is just as exciting leading up to the Women’s World Cup, they ambushed the attention of viewers with a simple idea that every creative wished they’d cracked.

And no, purpose hadn’t disappeared completely from the Cannes Lions this year either. But it seemed that only brands who were using creativity to drive legitimate change for good were awarded in favour of those looking to insert purpose for the sake of it. Watching a talk from famous podcaster, Jay Shetty, he says find a purpose that feels connected on a human level and organically fits with your brand through adventure, humour, inspiration or surprise. One of the nicer, purposeful pieces of work I saw this year was for PEDIGREE with a genuine mission to end dog homelessness. Also, one of the most creative uses of AI at the festival.

Finally, what a way to end the week with a powerful ode to creativity and brave thinking. The shared Grand Prix for Film went to ‘Play it Safe’ for the 50th Anniversary of the Sydney Opera House, teaching the world about Australia’s inherent culture of playing down anything overly flashy or different. The term known only to Aussies as ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’. In the 1970s, the Sydney Opera House was panned by the general population, and today stands as a beacon of creativity.

So, in light of banishing Tall Poppy Syndrome, I say bloody well done to The Monkeys for flying the Aussie flag high at Cannes. And I look forward to everyone else’s flashy, creative ideas with a touch of comedy in the years to come.