Key Takeaways from the Cannes Lions

Whilst agency dissatisfaction with the Cannes Lions event itself stole the headlines this year as Publicis announced they wouldn’t return and WPP’s chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell lamented the cost of €32 chicken sandwiches, there was still plenty of buzz around the emergence of what’s happening in the tech and media world. We asked a selection of ad tech executives what their key takeaways were:

Chris Dobson, CEO, The Exchange Lab:

Chris DobsonLike many industry buzzwords, I believe AI is over-used. There are a few companies – IBM for example – who are doing great things with AI, but many ad tech companies who specify AI credentials are actually using machine learning, and this is not the same thing.

The problem with machine learning is that consumers aren’t always predictable. That’s not to say it isn’t an important and progressive technology, but it needs to be used in conjunction with people. When it comes to the man vs. machine argument in advertising, people will always be key.

Andrew Buckman, EMEA Managing Director, Sublime Skinz:

Andrew BuckmanThere has been a lot of talk about transparency this year. Any vagueness around fees, data usage, and algorithms is now treated with suspicion, as advertisers and publishers increasingly demand transparency. Yet progress is varied – market leaders are changing their practices but commercial advantage is still a key focus for the wider industry.

Another key topic is transparency in campaign management. Advertisers want to know what they make for every pound or euro spent, so publishers — such as The Guardian — are buying their own inventory to understand true cost. We need consolidation – this was meant to be the year the LUMAscape was simplified, but this hasn’t happened as quickly as anticipated – yet the industry expects costs to reduce.

Charlie Johnson, VP, UK and Ireland, Digital Element:

Charlie JohnsonIt was the year of the new at Cannes Lions this year, with the focus shifting from the big brands (who were of course still in attendance and offering the variety of attractions and experiences we have come to expect from this unique event) to younger start-ups and innovative tech platforms. It has been both exciting and intriguing to discover the new ideas and game-changing solutions on the market, revealing what we can expect for the advertising industry in the months to come.

Coinciding with this theme, AI and VR (the hot topics of the year) were a key part of the conversation in Cannes. It will be interesting to see how these new businesses and their technologies integrate into the existing advertising landscape, and how the veteran big name brands react to the evolution of the industry. If the speed of technological developments continues at its current pace, marketers and advertisers will need to think fast to keep up.

Thomas Bremond, Managing Director International, FreeWheel:

Thomas BremondOne of the key themes at this year’s Cannes Lions was the transformation in how people watch TV and video and the impact this has, not only on content, but also the ads around it.

The gap between linear TV and digital video is closing, thanks to the growing adoption of OTT and VOD, and viewers are moving away from their computer screens and back to the TV screen. There has been a lot of discussion about how the industry is reacting to these changes and about the new ways broadcasters and pay TV operators are working together to meet them.

For the video advertising industry to keep up with the changing needs of consumers, all players must promote quality, transparency, and efficiency, and it will take the co-operation of all players – including publishers, broadcasters, adtech providers, and advertisers – to make this happen.

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