Storytelling: The Main Attraction At Cannes Lions

This past week, the advertising, media and technology industries converged again in the South of France for The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Each year, along the Croisette, the air is filled with the sounds of the tchin-tchin of rosé glasses, the handshakes and back slaps of deals being signed, and the hearty applause of awards given and received.

It’s an incredible opportunity for the industry to talk, share, and establish fertile ground for next year’s crop of  incredible creative ideas.

There were a few key themes this year that kept “bubbling up,” as I made my way through the various client meetings, panels and maybe one or two parties: Technology, Brand Purpose, Data and Storytelling. On and off the stage, these topics were present in every conversation I was part of or overheard.

Each year, a discussion heats up about creativity being stifled by technology at Cannes. This year that conversation took place around the “programmatic invasion.” Now more than ever, brands and advertisers are both accepting and understanding that programmatic technology automates the transaction, creates efficiencies around standard buys, utilizes unique data sets and ultimately frees up more time to focus on unleashing creativity.



The industry is accepting programmatic technology, and getting good at it, which ultimately facilitates a resurgence of brand storytelling. We’ve finally reached the stage where this technology no longer baffles, but enables, creativity.

With the ability to get back to our creative basics, it’s no surprise that the importance of brand purpose and propensity was a salient theme at this year’s event. The main challenge: how can media companies help brands and agencies create more engaging content experiences for their consumers?

Media companies are being called on to take the lead and show their partners how premium content can engage and entertain, all while being underpinned by cutting edge technology that optimizes that process from start to finish.

But whether you’re a brand advertiser or a media company, creating engaging content that resonates with viewers hinges on data. I think, and many of my colleagues would agree, that we are standing at the edge of the cliff and a whole new era of advertising is about to begin. Data, which is now so specific and so useful, can tell us in great detail exactly how, what, when and where we need to get our story out to consumers.

It’s the rise of “dynamic creative,” and brands need to start thinking differently about their approach. Technology is driving a new era of creativity, and we see the potential of what we can do with all this new consumer data that we have.

Storytelling is the culmination of all of these themes into a truly great finished product. This combination of brand storytelling and technology is what makes the Ad Effectiveness Categorystand out to me this year.  This truly is what advertising today should look like: great creative powered by amazing technology, data and insights.

Finally, I noticed more TV executives than ever on the ground, especially in the first part of the week, which has traditionally been a meeting place for the digital advertising industry. The presence of these traditional media partners, such as the inimitable Linda Yaccarino from NBC Universal, in the middle of the upfront season, is a huge sign of the importance of this festival and symbolic of the importance of content on every platform. We are moving fast towards more open ecosystems that complement each other in order to meet the demands of consumers across all screens.

But for everyone on the ground at Cannes -- from creatives, ad tech players, to media old and new alike -- what will continue to bind us together is great brand storytelling powered by great technology.  Our industry needs to be led by great, creative ideas to continue delivering value to brands, consumers and publishers.

Even after the last glass of rosé is finished and the last award presented, let’s continue moving forward with the business of bringing storytelling -- supported by data, technology, and as a driver of brand purpose --back to the forefront of everything we do.

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