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POV: Cannes Lions 2016

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity draws some of the world’s best creative talent from agencies, clients, media vendors and tech to the south of France. The Lions received a record 43,101 award entries this year. Whilst lucrative for the organisers, it’s also a sobering symbol of a much more cluttered marketing landscape for our clients.

Here are 4 key takeaways:

COMPLEXITY: After reviewing the shortlisted work from those 43,101 entries one thing was clear, as an industry we’re making marketing harder than it has to be. Many campaigns introduced tech for the sake of it. Just because something’s ‘connected’ doesn’t mean it’s useful. It’s therefore essential that we find the most effective solution to address a brand's problem, rather than the most glamourous.

VR + WHAT?: VR hype has never been healthier and if the user experience can be simplified it may well be justified. Cannes saw many tech trends collide and connect with each other. Clay Bavor, Google’s VP of VR demonstrated how a VR landscape was created through Google’s Deep Dream neural network. Imagine a VR experience that was dynamically generated as you explored it, allowing brands to offer a genuinely unique world for every user, every time. Think of it like programmatic imagination. To watch the full session click here.

AI = WHAT?: Cannes had plenty of AI content but little clarity on exactly how we define it. We seem to compartmentalise artificial intelligence into algorithms, neural networks, conversational capacity, Korean board games and so on. To some extent this hides the true impact of AI and the rapid pace of change facing advertisers. The number of internal Google projects based on its machine learning platform TensorFlow has gone from 50 to 2,500 in just 3 years. Products we use today, Gmail Smart Reply allow us to see AI in action. That product took just 4 months from research to launch.

THINK OWNED FIRST: We have more audience data, executions and platforms at our disposal than ever before. But one thing remains the same, a brand’s most valuable media properties are its owned assets. Some of the best campaigns from Cannes revolved around the product itself. Want to prove your coffee is packed fresh every day? Print the morning’s headlines on each pack like Café Pelé in Brazil. Want to draw attention to your environmental conservation efforts? Place a species’ extinction date next to the expiration date on every carton like Global Export in Dubai.

In summary, Cannes 2016 was an inspiring event, not just because of the work, but because it demonstrated that media agency expertise is more far reaching than ever before. Assessing the impact of changing behaviour is now harder, as new technology like AI rapidly evolves from clickbait to everyday feature. One common theme emerges though - every brand needs a bedrock to build on. The better you understand and leverage your own assets the better placed you are to adapt and take advantage of an increasingly complex marketing landscape.