Cannes + Tech = A Potent Mix Of Creativity And Data

While Cannes tends to focus on the softer side of branding—creativity and storytelling—the tech conferences concentrate on the harder elements—analytics and automation. For any brand to succeed, these two sides have to work together.

Cannes + Tech = A Potent Mix Of Creativity And Data

The agency events calendar is getting crowded. Cannes Lions is upon us again with its beach parties, creative awards, and networking opportunities along La Croisette. But the celebration of creativity offered at Cannes is only one piece of the jigsaw for agencies and clients.

The diary is filling up with events vying for the title of “unmissable.” Major tech conferences are now part of the annual schedule for media agencies, such as Mobile World Congress in Barcelona every February and DmexCo—the Digital Media Expo, Cologne—in the autumn. Then we have the U.S. gatherings South by Southwest and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The Cannes Lions has made strenuous efforts to adapt to the world of data and automation, but tech events have forced their way onto the agenda for agencies.

Our industry is being disrupted by rapid innovation. Conferences give us an opportunity to focus on the areas where brands and agencies need to up their game. From social media and mobile marketing to virtual reality and data-driven targeting of audiences, marketers and agencies are looking for inspiration. Conferences are great places to see best practices in a variety of areas and also to spot trends that are likely to impact brands over coming years.

Connecting with audiences demands new and exotic forms of marketing as platforms, networks, and devices change rapidly.

The algorithm for Cannes used to be pretty straight-forward: Create a great ad campaign, make a brand famous, and scoop the plaudits from awards juries. But technology has muddied the waters. How do you assess great creativity on social media? How can data fuel creativity? Everything is up for grabs in this rapidly transforming world of brand communications.

While Cannes tends to focus on the softer side of branding—creativity, leadership, purpose, and storytelling—the tech conferences concentrate on the harder elements—analytics, big data, connectivity, and automation. But for any brand to succeed, these two sides have to work together. In reality, the themes of these conferences are becoming interwoven, and discussions that start in one are trickling through to the others.

At MWC 2016 in February, the slogan was “mobile is everything,” and there was much discussion about how brands are moving from a mobile-first world to a mobile-only universe where all marketing will ultimately be mobile. Clients and agencies were out in force at MWC and spent a week immersed in virtual reality, the likely impact of 5G when it launches in 2020, and talks from senior industry celebrity figures such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

It wasn’t just Facebook’s measurement policy that came under scrutiny in Cologne, however. Many speakers over the two days raised serious concerns that common metrics such as CPM hinder rather than help the industry to evolve. Ad blocking, particularly as a way of improving the mobile experience, was also a major talking point that has transcended all the key media events and is likely to be high on the Cannes Lions agenda as well. I foresee the themes on the conference circuit becoming more entwined over the years as technology and creativity collide.

This is an industry, like many others, in the midst of a fundamental transformation. There’s no roadmap to the future, and everybody is scrambling to outline their own version of the route ahead. These events will become ever more crucial to agencies and clients as places to keep up on the latest trends, new case studies, and best practices. They will be the forums that fuel the development of the marketing industry for decades to come.