Ad Technology

The Cannes Humblebrag

By: Kevin Ryan

The festival is behind us, the data has been collected, and the digital world has had a few minutes to digest the goings on from Cannes. Coming home from Cannes was an interesting journey this year. Not because it was the first time I was invited to speak at such an event, or because I find Rosé scrumptious (for the record, I do not) but because of the hype of many years of hearing about this festival in which the overly indulgent indulge in self congratulations.

I was the guy making fun of everyone’s boozenomics social media photo feed phalanx every year.  When my favorite agency holding company CEO posted a photo at a vendor boondoggle, I couldn’t resist working the pic into a keynote mock session at a later industry event.

In short, my impression of the Cannes Lions Festival was always something big shops sent their Chief Boondoggle Officer’s to, in order to collect awards, suck down someone else’s alcohol and achieve absolutely nothing to move their business forward.

The truth is: I am a big enough person to admit that I may have been a bit harsh on the Cannes bashing for all these years. Perchance.

Old . . .  timers

Events in the United States have become so fragmented; it can be hard to get the old band together.  In the good old days, you’d go to event “X” and you’d see people who are now the senior folks in the business. Many of the same people who took the risk to go to work in the category of what was then known as a passing fad, “digital marketing,” or “that Internet on the keyboard machine that only secretaries use,”  are still around because they love the tradecraft.

While those days are long gone, largely due to the fact that so many events are either vertically specialized or so inside baseball politically that the general public couldn’t care less about, Cannes was a great place to see the people who were there early on in the business before all this political divisiveness started and seemed to be a great Switzerland for everyone to get together.

The net on the net

Top shelf networking is often couched on the yacht sipping rosé. Rose, now strangely in Margaritaville-style dispensers aside, the meat of the Innovation event centered on data. Data and creative at scale is the new clever positioning term for personalization through effective targeting.

Data, in and of itself is getting boring. It’s boring to talk about and it’s boring to use as presentation fodder. It’s so boring that tech companies are going to great lengths to make it sound interesting. It’s also complicated. Very complicated, which leads me to my one all-encompassing observation of the Innovation event, and here are couple of examples to prove my assessment. Wayze has so much information about where people are going its baffling. The real crux of it is, sites like Wayze collecting information (without violating PII laws of course) can also assemble what you are doing, what you are likely to do, and what people just like you do when they’re doing these things. Likewise, Spotify knows what kind of music you like but that’s not nearly as important as what people who like that kind of music do with themselves, where they go, what they drink, and how often.

Topping it off, you have Shutterstock effectively making creative available to anyone building content or ads at such a large scale, the visual or creative method by which you reach people married to the data we have at our finger tips is astounding.

Here’s the challenge: anyone incapable of combinatorial counting or spitting out a recursive Fibonacci on a whim is unlikely to comprehend it all. The other problem (or opportunity depending on you look at things) is that most of this information is such highly protected intellectual property that each provider protects it Fort Knox style.

The net result of this phenomenon is that a brand must choose carefully how they pick partners. Imagine targeting the same person through three platforms, but paying to reach that person three times by serving them ads in the same places. That’s fine if the math works, but making the math work is reserved for a select few. In short, Will Hunting and Dr. Nash are assembling the data and the people with the money . . . well . . . let’s put this in the kindest way, aren’t quite that up to speed. Nor do they seem to want to be.

As Dad would say

Speaking of selecting partners, unless you are unobservant, you couldn’t help but notice the intense pervasive shift from agency courtship to strategic consulting firms in the south of France. As we look forward, (in the absence of agencies very quickly investing in this arena) we can expect more and more of the strategic roles to go to companies like Accenture Interactive,  McKinsey (McKinsey’s Jason Heller opened the event with some eye opening revelations) or . . . ahem, Motivity.

Even if the agencies move quickly, given the billing scandals and other negativity floating around, the role of the shop in this capacity may be forever different or even crippled.

I will plan on heading back next year, but I have a request that I heard from many other fathers in the group. Either turn one of the days into a “bring your kid to Lions day,” or simply move it back a week. No Dad likes missing Father’s day, so give it some thought Lions people, would ya?