*This article originally appeared on mediapost.com
What a pleasure it was to be in the French Riviera once again for the annual Cannes Lions event, bringing together some of the best companies and minds in advertising, media and technology.
Although there were some less-noteworthy, but much-appreciated, changes this year including somewhat cooler weather and more yachts as meeting locations, there were definitely a few major themes this year that either didn’t exist or simply were not as pronounced in 2015.
The first theme that can’t be overstated was the discussion around the Association of National Advertisers report on agency rebate practices. Having been on the client side most of my career, I understand the value in a good partnership between brands and their agencies, and I personally don’t see this as the end to the agency model as we know it. However, there seemed to be a lot more focus and discussion around transparency and aligned client-agency objectives that will undoubtedly be best for everyone in the end.
The second theme I will simply call “simplification.” Brands want to work with fewer partners that offer more capability. In the past few years, the ad tech landscape has exploded and gotten cluttered with an array of solution providers. Many of these companies provide valuable products and services, but the excessive cost of the “tech stack” and the data loss in passing valuable data from one partner to the next is becoming unmanageable. Winners will be those companies that can provide holistic solutions — data, content, media and measurement as a solution set. Table stakes also include the ability to deliver ads across channels (TV, print and digital) as well as across all IP-connected devices (smartphone, tablet, computer and smartTV).
Additionally, people-based approaches (also referred to as CRM-based or deterministically driven) clearly appear to be winning. This movement is being led by both large, registration-based platforms as well as marketing cloud platforms that leverage CRM or customer databases at their core.
Finally, ad blocking remained a major topic of discussion. Many publishers are contemplating ad-free subscription models to allow for the continued creation of great content. Hard to say how this will play out, as users love “free” but in the end there is a cost to great content. A good outcome would be more relevant advertising that is less disruptive and potentially even useful. Some of the advances that leading publishers have made in “native” advertising could also play a role. Truly integrated messaging tied with premium content can definitely win here.
In the end, this event has been rooted in recognizing great creative execution. I probably swim against the current a bit relative to my colleagues, but I always spend a couple hours reviewing the creative finalists at the convention hall. Being a career marketer, I truly appreciate how great creative has the ability to breakthrough the cluttered advertising landscape.
Again this year, some of the most powerful and impactful creative came around extremely worthy causes like preventing child abuse and alcoholism. There is nothing better than celebrities putting their media muscle behind great causes accompanied by raw, hard-hitting creative and messaging to back it up. In addition, the use of humor to make somewhat mundane products seem cool came through in a big way. Hats off to the creative community on another great year.
Some say it’s the weather, beautiful scenery, familiar faces or the abundance of rosé (or all of the above) that makes Cannes Lions a worthwhile event for making meaningful connections and advancing business relationships. I believe the success is rooted in taking folks away from their multitude of daily crises and distractions, truly allowing everyone to focus on improving the business of advertising, media and technology … to that I say, cheers.