Stuart Sullivan-Martin, chief strategy officer at MEC Global Solutions and EMEA, and Chris Worrell, strategy partner, MEC Global Solutions and EMEA, reflect on their Cannes highlights.
1 – Smart data knows what you did last summer (and next summer too)
Parse it, ingest it, or scrape it. Data washed ashore in Cannes this year in a big way. While technology is now an established theme at the festival, this year the conversation shifted from ‘how much data can I collect?’ to ‘what can I do with it?’
A host of smart, intelligent data led applications for brands were in evidence:
– To power a more emotionally intelligent response to digital interactions
– To build self-learning bots that have algorithmic conversations with the consumer
– To generate augmented and virtual experiences for the consumer
– To accurately predict consumer behaviour.
These are not the pipe dreams of technologists. David Rowan of Wired speaking at Cannes forecasts that 80% of apps will be replaced by bots, whilst Kevin Kelly, also of Wired, suggested that AI will be the launchpad for nearly every major start up going forward. He even went as far as to suggest that AI will be Google’s major revenue stream (ahead of advertising) by 2026.
What this means?
Smarter, more intelligent use of data is setting a new level of expectation for the consumer. At the same time, in a hyper personalised, predictive communications future, what’s the role and relevance of the brand? Brands must use data and technology to reimagine how they can be even more useful, entertaining and memorable to their customers.
2 – Micro hugs
Many brands have enjoyed success from championing good causes on a large scale, Dove and OMO being perhaps the most famous examples, but this year’s Cannes winners demonstrated how brands are leveraging technology and data to make everyday differences to people’s lives.
Insurance brand IF introduced its ‘Slow Down GPS’, the satnav which changes to a child’s voice in the vicinity of schools and areas where children congregate. Toyota turned its Landcruisers into an emergency Wi-Fi relay system for people in trouble in the Australian outback. And Valpsar paint helped create new optical lenses which allowed colour blind people to see colour for the first time: never before seen sunsets and your children’s eyes.
What this means?
Do good every day and give micro hugs. Spot the gaps where creativity, ideas and technology can combine to make a positive difference to people’s daily lives, and enjoy the resulting brand love.
3 – Look to the edges
The speakers, exhibitors, delegates and, most importantly, the award winners at Cannes represent an increasingly eclectic set of creative interests. Data specialists, drone technologists, app developers and more. Innovation in all its forms is happening at the ‘edges’ – where these new technologies, data and of course consumers collide with increasing frequency.
Brands and agencies need to look at these edges to identify new opportunities for creativity and commercial success and act quickly, before emerging innovations at the ‘edges’ are brought in to the centre and become mainstream. The sentiment in Cannes is that everything, from food to banking, is ripe for ‘disruption’ that begins at the edges, and winning work from the Digital Craft and Innovation categories provides an illustration of the opportunity.
Emad Tahtouh, Innovation Lions jury president, describing Alpha Go, an Innovation Lion winner for Google that uses machine learning to play the board game in a human-like way, said: “I’m sure we’ll be seeing more and more machine-working projects over the next few years, and I think awarding this a Grand Prix is a great message that this is the future.”
What this means?
What is happening at the edges is not incremental, it is brand new, requiring new skills, models and approaches, not bolt-ons and lip service. Marketers and agencies alike should avoid the temptation for incremental change, and take bold steps to experiment ‘at the edges’, before it’s too late.
4 – Seven billion storytellers
Live streaming video is here. Properly here, now that Facebook Live and YouTube Connect have just made it even easier to do.
But while we’re all potential film directors now, the craft of video is at a crucial juncture, dramatically illustrated by a number of tech companies who wowed the Palais crowds with what’s new in drone technology and 360 video.
The Phantam 4 drone has a new visioning system which allows it to target a subject and create footage unachievable by man and helicopter. And 360 video says goodbye to the director’s singular, structured vision, and creates an immersive world where the viewer can look anywhere. Film ‘directors’ are being replaced by Film ‘Preditors’ – producer/director/editors in one. How long before VR experiences and gestural interfaces are the norm?
Brands who experiment in this area are getting a head start. Lockheed Martin overhauled the windows of a school bus to create an unforgettable ‘Field Trip to Mars’ for the children inside – a group VR experience. Intel used a range of new technology in partnership with Lady Gaga, transforming her live performance and giving her motion control of the stage.
What this means?
360 video, VR and drone tech represent exciting new opportunities for brands to tell stories. But the craft is different and narrative, structured sequenced story telling doesn’t apply It’s not easy, it’s new territory, but those brands prepared to give it a go are getting a head start.
5 – Self-conscious Cannes
As Artificial Intelligence develops, so does the collective Cannes consciousness! This year saw Cannes continue to drive the equality agenda in the industry, although there’s still some way to go.
While Golds, Silvers and Bronzes continue to feature work that tackles inequalities around the world, including the excellent ‘Alphabet of Illiteracy’ by education company Pearson, many conversations on the Croisette and speakers in the Palais reflected on whether the industry itself is moving fast enough and showing leadership in this area.
Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever, said the company is starting a strategy to ‘unstereotype’ adverts: “The time is right for us as an industry to challenge and change how we portray gender in our advertising.”
Analysis by Razorfish and Contagious revealed that of job roles with the highest Cannes win ratio over the last 10 years, only 11% were women, and this hasn’t changed much in the last five years.
However, we also learned that big cross discipline teams are more successful, that the era of the ECD rock-star may be over (as success at Cannes correlates with less involvement from senior management), and in a poke in the eye to procurement worldwide, that client and agency relationships that last 10 years are more than 2 x as likely to win.
What this means?
Teams win. Lasting relationships with clients win. But it’s still ‘Must Try Harder’ on gender equality in our business.