Dan on Cannes: Reflections of the week that was

The week before Cannes your inbox lights up, brimming with emails from long-lost clients, agency friends and Cannes comrades asking if you’re going to the Cote d’Azur next week. Half the industry is buzzing in anticipation, the other half are planning their week of World Cup viewing. For me this year, Cannes was a chance to join my fellow founding members of the Digital Future Council as we strategise over the future of our respective creative and media worlds. To catch up with a number of industry partners, clients, agencies and, well, let’s face it… mates. It’s not all work.

The Digital Future Council had a villa a short walk from the Croisette and the founding members had sessions on the Monday and Tuesday. Sessions centred on Blockchain technology and how it may affect the creative and media worlds. Much more to come on this (watch this space). The event was well attended and prompted lively debate about technology and the future. I spoke with people from varying industries all tasked with understanding new tech roles for their business. It is clear the tech players are beginning to own Cannes. Facebook, Snap, Twitter, Google, Pinterest, Spotify all have prominent spots along La Croisette beachfront. Plenty more had their yachts moored up for intimate chats with the right person. But it’s clear the ad tech world is viewing Cannes with big cow eyes. Rubicon, Trade Desk and MediaMath booked out some nice spaces to party into the night, while the Media Agencies take their usual spots at large hotels. It definitely feels like the tech players and publishers are splashing the cash to get in on the action.

Despite Lions creative heritage and emphasis on being creative, this year’s festival was dominated by technology. Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and printing technology, and how these technological advancements are about to change the face of the creative and media worlds. With well publicised decreased agency presence, the void was filled by digital firms shouting about their tech-based offerings. As well as entertaining the creative community nightly with live music, beaches and of course cocktails, Minuty and Lager beer on tap [they know us so well]. So much entertainment was on offer that chat at each beach party invariably moved quickly on to ’where we going next?’ or ’did you see The Killers last night?’ or ’are you going to watch Duran Duran later?’[incidentally overheard on the Croisette from a young Lion ’I think my mum saw Duran Duran once’ – man I feel old].

So are the awards a sideshow to all of this? I don’t think so. The two mutually exist. While there were several peers I spoke to that by Thursday hadn’t even picked up their delegate pass, there were quite a few discussions about shortlists and awards from that night or the next. I was really pleased to see the hard work I put in with the Cannes Lions Outdoor team come to life on the awards side of things. For too long I’ve written about how the categorisation of Outdoor has almost excluded Digital. It’s now fully integrated into the Outdoor category, though judging by the shortlists and entries it’ll take a few years to bed in on both agency and judging sides. Don’t get me wrong, there were some very worthy winners, but there were also again some technically suspect entries with poor categorisations.

In amongst everything were some real flashes of brilliance, and a real stand out I thought, was McCann London’s, XBOX Dynamic Campaign Outdoor win. A very smart and dynamic way to promote a product they were not allowed talk about. Outside of that, it was great to see our partner Adam and Eve do well at Lions, especially for the great Project 84 campaign, but also in reclaiming the coveted agency of the year award.

Tech tech tech. This platform. The whole thing is pointless without effective creative, storytelling and crafting. So the question is: With all this technology, from sponsors, platforms, publishers, media owners, tech providers and future thinkers are we ruining the ’festival of creativity’?

I cannot see it changing anytime soon. Creative and Media are huge business. And Tech knows it. Tech is rich. Tech is powerful. Tech can woo your client on the yacht while you’re watching The Killers.

We are stood at the very beginning of a transformation of the media and creative worlds in terms of digitisation and technologification. Predictive analytics and artificial intelligence are set to change the way we buy, distribute and attribute campaign work at scale. Smarter integrated campaigns, with better results for clients. Transparent in their process through the implementation of blockchain technology throughout the entire campaign. There is still a race to the be the first. I feel there should be more pressure on collectively being ’the best’ as industries, working collaboratively to build a brighter technological future so that smarter creative can make the whole thing work.

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