The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (known simply as Cannes Lions) has a reputation for being the largest and most decadent event of the advertising industry, and it again delivered this year. Yes, there was talk that attendance was down, perhaps due to tightened agency budgets. Publicis famously bowed out of last year’s festivities, and many creatives – whether because they were stuck at Charles de Gaulle during the air traffic controller strike, or because their holding companies balked at footing the bill – were absent. However, tech companies and vendor partners were out en masse on the beaches and piers. There were more parties hosted by consultants and data providers. There was also a noticeable increase in the number of legacy TV players mingling with digital executives.
The advertising industry has been faced with endless obstacles of late. Being an advertiser seems to get harder with every passing moment, what with: the seeming “death of television” amidst the golden age of content; the migration to in-house rather than external agencies; squabbles over the most meaningful KPIs; the rise of streaming, OTT, CTV, vMVPDs, SVOD, etc.; machine-learning, AI, VR, mixed-reality; the omnipresent screens monopolizing our day-to-day lives. Public policy is now decided via tweet and digital “walled gardens” are facing Congressional scrutiny. The world is connected in ways we never imagined, with advertising dollars at the heart of it all.
The recent enactment of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union spurred passionate dialogue between data and content providers. In the age of media fragmentation, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that catering to the right audience at the right time is necessary for real engagement. And although that’s no easy task, GDPR does some of that work for advertisers; it presents marketers with their true core audiences, and those focused fans deliver more value.
With all these concerns – not to mention the atmosphere of more aggressive media consolidation – the industry is at a defining moment. We know we all need to evolve, but the path forward is often unclear. The beauty of Cannes this year, more so than in the past, was the palpable excitement for the future, despite many challenges and more than a few unknowns. With change comes opportunity, and the mood on just about every rooftop overlooking the Mediterranean reflected that.
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