I’m Amy Chen, and I’m the CMO of PepsiCo’s Snacks business in China. A few weeks ago, I spent an incredible few days at the Cannes Lions “International Festival of Creativity”. ( The annual event – now in its 65th year – brings together thousands of marketers, agencies, and creative communicators from around the world to “learn, network, and celebrate.”

The festival features hundreds of panels and presentations, as well as tailored programs like the CMO Accelerator that I attended, all geared towards discussing and defining the future of creativity.


Here are a few of the biggest themes from the week:

1.     Social responsibility, purpose, and morality come to the fore. In the era of #MeToo, it’s no surprise that there was much grappling with gender inequality and the (lack of) diversity in the creative world. “Creativity needs diversity” became a rallying cry for a more diverse future, as well as an acknowledgement of the critical role that diversity plays in driving creative breakthroughs in the first place. There was a broader undercurrent as well this year about the responsibility of advertisers and businesses to create the world that we want to live in. It’s a good challenge for all of us to think about! “Goodvertising” became a term of art, and the “Change for Good” Hackathon ran throughout the week. The United Nations mobilized creative support for the Sustainable Development Goals and unveiled a new “Lion’s Share” program to protect wildlife. Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivors shared the power of conviction in driving meaningful change. And Unilever’s Paul Polman, who was awarded the “Lion Heart” award, gave a clear and impassioned call to action: “poverty is not a sustainable business strategy for anyone”, he said, and “it is becoming increasingly clear that sustainable, purpose-led growth is the best way to meet the long-term needs of consumers and society.”


2.    From science vs. art to science and art – the ongoing (over-hyped) debate about data, technology, and creativity. I knew this would be a big topic when I saw the huge billboard at the entrance to the festival: “Remember when creatives didn’t ‘do’ data?” Once you turned the corner, you encountered a cheeky response: “Shift happens.” Speakers drummed up drama by debating whether data and technology would be the “downfall” or “savior” of creativity; one session even teased that it would “pit real-life audience members against the algorithms that run their lives”. By the end, I think most concluded that data and creativity is not an either/or, but rather a challenge of how to most effectively integrate the two. A number of companies shared how they’ve approached this question, with inspiring case studies of how artificial intelligence is accelerating creative productivity, data is revealing deeper consumer insights, and technology is charting new creative frontiers in health and even beauty.


3.    (Too) Big tech? Between Cambridge Analytica, fake news scandals, and privacy breaches, the “golden child” shine of the tech industry has dulled a bit. NYU professor Scott Galloway continued his crusade to “break up big tech”, and there did seem to be a palpable anxiety about the control and influence that these companies have on our lives as individuals and as a society. At the same time, most people I talked to seemed deeply conflicted on the matter. Think of it this way: even if you know it’s bad for competition and are frustrated that Alexa systematically biases search results to favor Amazon’s house brands, you’ll probably decide that Amazon Prime is just too convenient to stop using. And even if you’re uneasy that Google has a near monopoly on search, you’ll probably keep googling regardless. And if you’re Cannes Lion, you’ll have panels debating the virtues of big technology companies, but still award Google the coveted Marketer of the Year!

4.  China on the Rise. Tech giants Alibaba and Tencent (and KFC, JD, Huawei, and a raft of other Chinese companies) were at the festival en masse, anchoring a “China Day” program that sought to dispel any doubt about China’s ascendance on the world stage of creativity and innovation.


China was the only country to have a dedicated forum, and the speakers covered a dizzying array of leading edge case studies on everything from breakthroughs in omnichannel commerce and marketing to “superapps” like WeChat; the emergence of the world’s largest market for e-sports and electric cars; and creative ways that brands are preserving thousands of years of cultural heritage by making them fresh again for new generations. Martin Sorrell (founder of WPP) went so far as to declare that China’s imminent dominance was undebatable

5.   The more things change, the more they stay the same… Creativity and innovation will still win the day. There was a lot of (inside baseball) chatter about the changing nature of the creative industry: the shake-up at WPP, the entry of consulting firms like Accenture and Deloitte into the creative space, the disruption caused by data and new technologies. But amidst all of this flux and chaos, my clearest takeaway from the festival was still the raw and tremendous power of creativity. Creativity inspires us, moves us to tears, makes us laugh, and allows us to believe that the future can be different than the present.

As I’m sure you can tell from even this brief post, it was an incredible week in Cannes. I’m coming back to my team and business inspired to help create the future through brands, ideas and experiences that matter in the world… and I hope you will join me on this journey!


Au revoir,




Amy Chen is the Chief Marketing Officer of PepsiCo’s Greater China Region (GCR) Snacks Category. Amy has been with PepsiCo for eleven years and has held a broad range of roles across functions and operating divisions, including sales and customer management, operations, innovation, and marketing. Amy is a passionate believer that business – and brands – can be a force for social good. She currently serves on PepsiCo’s Global Human Rights Operating Committee and is an executive sponsor for Food for Good, a PepsiCo initiative focused on inner city nutrition that she founded in 2009.   Before joining PepsiCo, Amy worked as a strategy consultant for McKinsey & Company. Amy has an M.B.A. and a J.D. from Stanford University, as well as an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Harvard.