Last week, the Pixability team headed to the South of France for the annual pilgrimage to Cannes Lions.
With estimates ranging from 10-30% fewer attendees than previous years, the 2018 Cannes Lions festival definitely saw a lighter crowd. However, the ebbing popularity may have contributed to the event being one of the most productive I’ve ever attended, including when I represented Facebook here not too long ago. Key executives were accessible, discussions were never rushed, and there was a laser focus around critical issues in advertising and marketing, with an eye toward moving the industry forward.
Here’s a number of key themes that were pervasive throughout the panels and discussions up and down La Croisette:

Brand Suitability: Building back trust between marketers and consumers

Brand suitability was a hot topic at Cannes, keeping such industry leaders as John Montgomery (GroupM EVP of Global Brand Safety) busy throughout the week. Healthy — and sometimes passionate — discussions occurred between brand, agency, media company, and technology provider representatives, particularly around who owns brand suitability. Another key idea in this vein was how to standardize ad ‘hygiene,’ and how to move the discussion forward to focus on quality: keeping advertising viewable, fraud-free, in-demo, and brand-safe.
During a 4A’s panel, Edelman reviewed the results of their recent Trust Barometer Study, which showed that the industry has a lot of work ahead to build back trust between consumers, brands, and media platforms. Also during the event, Unilever CMO Keith Weed continued to take a leadership position in building trust throughout the industry by announcing “clear commitments to support and maintain the authenticity and trust of influencer marketing.”
I believe that brand suitability will become standard throughout the industry based on the way that major video platforms (particularly Google & Facebook), agencies, brands, and tech providers are dedicating themselves to solving this complex challenge. We’re already seeing the move toward contextual targeting rapidly gaining momentum, over traditional audience buying — a trend I believe will continue, resulting in growing trust between marketers and consumers.

Creative Impact: Driving effectiveness and leveraging artificial intelligence/machine learning to deliver on the promise of creative

In previous years, the largest event in the industry dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the power and impact of creative didn’t seem to place much value in discussing creative. But that all changed this year: there were many discussions focused on utilizing creative to ensure the age-old promise of delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time. With the explosion of digital video among major platforms, there was a renewed focus around leveraging creative to tell a story, connect with consumers, and drive behavior. And Google/YouTube and Facebook/Instagram each positioned creativity through video at the forefront of their presence on La Plage.
While tech-led creative has been top-of-mind during past festivals, this year the futuristic topic proved to be grounded in reality, with artificial intelligence shown to drive effectiveness in advertising. There was also an wave of conversation around OTT/CTV viewing. With new video environments on the horizon, there were many questions around what creative will work best, and what new opportunities connected TVs will bring the industry during the coming years.
While the crowds may have thinned, with subdued beach events and a tempered AdTech flotilla, Cannes 2018 was nevertheless a remarkable step forward for the industry, driving advertising forward to deliver on the promises of years past.