The vanilla content issue

Getting attention in a blizzard of bland stories

54 percent of brands and agencies will focus on community-focused storytelling as a creative tactic in 2021. Out of eight options, this was the second most selected creative tactic after purpose-led content

Stories will always be at the heart of LIONS because powerful stories can change the world. We’ve been convinced of that for 67 years. So it came as no surprise to us that storytelling emerged as a theme from respondents. What was clear is that it has taken on a new, weightier dimension in 2021. Many of you talked about striking the right balance between fun, empathy and humour; evidence that both brands and creatives are struggling to hit the right tone. We’ll examine the stories that matter right now and the ones that are creating cut-through in a noisy and cluttered environment. We’ve seen some brilliant stories emerge in the last 12 months but the protagonists and the themes have changed. Some have offered the escapism many of us needed while others have embraced difficult truths and been hard-hitting in their realism. The use of influencers was also a prominent theme: how relevant are they in a world with bigger issues at hand? Will influencer and participation strategies continue to be so prevalent? And is the lo-fi trend that blew up in 2020 - borne out by necessity but surprisingly effective - set to continue? As ever at LIONS, we’ll find the best storytellers - the creators, the showrunners, the authors, the directors - from inside and outside of our industry - to share their creative processes and musings on the art and science of storytelling.

What You Said
“A key challenge is towing the line between sensitivity to current cultural issues and brand messaging so as not to appear tone-deaf”
“We need to find a unique voice for our clients in a sea of bland, generic, made-with-stock comms”

These eight themes, along with all of the insights from our research study will set the tone at LIONS for the year ahead. There is so much more insight and opinion to unpack with each theme we’ve identified: this is just the beginning.

We’re excited to build out the programme with creative change-makers, brand mavericks, tech visionaries and innovators this June. If you’d like to be considered for a speaker session as part of the Cannes Lions programme please submit your idea for consideration through our submissions portal here.

We’re also excited to see what creative work will win at Cannes Lions in June as work from 2020 and 2021 is awarded by our global line-up of expert jurors. For more information on how to enter the awards please visit