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Cannes Lions 2013 reverb: The big ideas still ringing in my head

July 3, 2013

By Erika Alonso

Wow. Having just returned from my second year at the ad industry’s annual migration to the South of France, I am even more mesmerized by the rosé-colored view of mobile that I experienced and its role not only on the French Riviera, but in the evolution of advertising.

And though there is still ringing in my ears from late nights at the Carlton (and, ah-hem … the Gutter Bar), there is a clear and present – bigger – resonance that remains. Now that I have had some time to decompress, I would like to share some of the noise I heard last month. We, as an industry, need to keep this transformation – and rosé – flowing for an even grander presence for mobile in 2014.




Technology is no longer the mankini of Cannes Lions
We, as the digital peeps, were happy to be part of the landscape last year. We worked on shifting mindset and inclusion further upstream of big creative and media conversation. This year, we ran the show, so to speak.

Rather than grabbing a copy of the Daily for “Where do I go next?” I found that most of us had a mobile sherpa in our pocket. The Cannes application, the tweets and the sharing of geo-tagged photos of “meet us here” seemed to guide the ride.

Kicking off the theme for the festival, Clear Channel launched a social media campaign based on creativity [ #canvas campaign]. It formed the basis of a mural generated entirely from tweets.

The best tweets from each day’s #canvas debate were collated and used to create a live, hand-painted mural located on the grounds of Le Grand Hotel in Cannes.

One of the most debated topics was technology and its impact on creativity: “Is technology redefining creativity?”

Technology has created a whole new set of tools for advertisers, but the fear of the unknown is still overpowering innovation.

As my colleague, Mojiva Inc. CEO Dave Gwozdz pointed out in a recent Cannes blog, whenever a new technology or platform is created, there is a creativity deficit that follows.

Takeaway: If the tech is not seamless, then the content will not matter because it will fall on deaf ears.

Once we learn how to properly marry technology with creativity – so that the right content is delivered to the right audience in real time – then it will have a profound impact on everything we do.

Buy premium beachfront via programmatic advertising
Audiences today are fragmented, their interests are varied and their attention is spread across online, mobile and tablets. This has made it challenging to deliver on the promise of targeting on a large scale.

But, as the buying and selling of digital advertising becomes increasingly automated, ROI is being maximized. Programmatic buying is a labor- and cost-efficient way to reach audiences at scale.

During a buy side panel discussion at Cannes, Xaxis CEO Brian Lesser predicted that the majority of digital advertising will be traded through programmatic systems within the next three to five years, shifting from traditional I/O buying.

Takeaway: As big brands begin to take note of the success that they are having with programmatic buying, there will be more demand for automation tools.

Agencies and brands will want more control and transparency into the data and performance of campaigns.

Great creative thinking rocks the media channel yacht
Mattel’s Scrabble WIFI (Ogilvy, Paris) won a Gold Mobile Lion
for “Creative use of technology: activation by location or proximity”.

In a tweet, the concept was “Gamification tied to Scrabble Ethos Delivers Coveted Free Wifi“.

There was also a wonderful tie-in to the fact that auto-correct has decreased our ability to spell. So the way the game increased in value was tied to personal benefit: “Our goal was to convince smartphone users to play Scrabble … the higher your score, the longer your connection.“

Takeaway: When technology disappears you are left with a multi-layered and unexpected relationship with a brand – thoughts of where it fits in your media mix get stripped away, and you put the endeavor in a category of its own: “surprise and delight.”

Mobile “can Cannes”
As people continue to consume media across a variety of screens, advertisers need to follow suit.

Microsoft aimed much of its Cannes Lions marketing efforts at proving it seamlessly reaches people at work, in their living rooms, and on the go.

The idea came to life within the Microsoft Beach Club designed to showcase the Windows 8 “Connected Experience.” The installation featured more than 50 interconnected Windows 8 devices all running the same apps.

Takeaway: From smartphone to tablet, mobile is charged with the ability to provide even more useful and relevant information and services. This offers up a big opportunity to engage audiences organically.

Personalized content a la carte, not prix fixe
Something on everyone’s mind was the importance of fostering one-to-one relationships at scale.

One company that is adeptly capitalizing on this trend is Yahoo, which is in the midst of personalizing its network.

“Video will become increasingly delivered via highly personalized streams,” said Yahoo video head Erin McPherson in an interview with Beet.TV.

Advertisers have begun to take stock that there is a real consumer desire for personalized experiences, and it is something that they know they can demand.

As Microsoft vice president Andy Hart explained in an interview with The Drum, consumers are now aware that their attention had become a commodity, and they are unwilling to give it away for free.

Takeaway: Consumers are savvier than ever. They know there is a payoff for their time and engagement. However, they have the power of choice.

Personalizing content needs to go beyond entertainment. Advertisers, too, must embrace this philosophy into the creative process and dissemination.

And so, media channel thinking crashes the party
Cannes Lions represents how we should be thinking about “advertising.” Yes, it is a conference with tracks organized via media channels and a narrative theme. But wait, there is more.

Unlike other conferences, it is not just about the “push” of panel after panel content we are meant to absorb.

The story of Cannes Lions is about the narrative experience – much like the stunning scenery alongside La Croisette, the unexpected meet and greet backstage with Jason Mraz (thank you Yahoo and Jordan Bitterman), and fabulous conversation with John Castle about mobile and its impact on autos. An open, informed mind and un-tethered approach requires no PowerPoint.

Erika Alonso is head of global marketing at Mojiva Inc., a New York-based mobile advertising company. Reach her at

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