5 Cannes Topic Predictions and What They Mean for Advertising

June 15, 2018

From emerging tech to agency development to brand marketing techniques

For decades, the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity has attracted advertising creatives to the French Riviera to celebrate, well, creativity. Eventually, brands (read: clients) followed. As media fragmented and overlapped, tech companies proliferated along la Croisette, with brands like Snapchat buying up major real estate within the orbit of the Palais.

This formidable confluence of tech innovation, creative acumen and business influence each year generates a great deal of speculation about the next big thing—and rightfully so, given that the next big thing is likely to be dreamed up by executives attending the festival. More importantly, though, the festival serves as a good barometer for what’s going on in advertising and tech. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on what will be most discussed at Cannes this year.

Context is key when audience targeting

The way brands will market to consumers moving forward is going to change. The Cambridge Analytica snafu and the implementation of GDPR formed a cultural shift as well as practical implications that are already having an impact on advertisers. Context will be increasingly vital moving forward. What device are users on and where? Why are ads being served to them? What role does location play? What length of video ads are being served? What permissions are needed to serve these ads? This complexity is going to require more data, more data science and more audience data.

The days of rampant reselling of consumer information and unchecked third-party information are over. We are moving into the era of people-based marketing, aka first-party data or segment-based targeting augmented by AI.

This formidable confluence of tech innovation, creative acumen and business influence each year generates a great deal of speculation about the next big thing.

Agencies need video to survive consolidation

Bringing ad solutions in-house has been the strategy for brands that are fed up with fraud and the inefficiencies of the current ecosystem. But the massive tech undertaking and legal regulations that now accompany video advertising, not to mention the considerable creative resources that video advertising demands, means that agencies aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, especially considering that video is outpacing every other advertising channel by a wide margin globally. OTT video platforms like YouTube, Hulu and Amazon will only continue to grow.

Vine is back

OK, not really, but its legacy is.

“It’s not always best to be first” is a business axiom that has proven itself time and time again. Myspace and Friendster preceded Facebook, but they never achieved anywhere near the same level of success. Was Facebook an inherently superior product and better executed? Possibly, but mostly likely timing and what the zeitgeist was ready for had something to do with it. There was something to Vine, as evidenced by its rapid rise and Twitter’s interest, which is not invalidated by its unceremonious demise. However, the six-second ad format is showing a lot of activity and is poised for further growth. It has shown to be very effective for brands when done properly. Best practices and new ways to innovate in such a small amount of time are likely to be investigated at Cannes.


The rise and fall of cryptocurrencies have brought blockchain technology front and center over the past six months. The promise of smart contracts are especially appealing to ad tech players, thanks to the tech’s inherent transparency that would expose bad actors. Despite the buzz (and there is sure to be a lot of it next week), there is no stable currency, making blockchain a non-starter for digital advertisers at the moment. However, this trend is one to keep an eye on. 

The dominance of the duopoly continues

This is nothing inherently new, but what is surprising is that YouTube is the fastest-growing social site while Facebook is flat, although Instagram is performing very well. Consolidation continues to be the name of the game in the industry right now. Does GDPR stymie that consolidation at all? Facebook and Google did get hit with $9 billion in fines on day one, after all. Or will it actually accelerate the consolidation since smaller companies may not have the resources to adapt or survive some of those steep fines? Time will tell.

We may not be able to predict with certainty what the future will bring, but what is certain is that our industry will have to adapt. Every industry is marked with periods of relative stasis followed by periods of flux. Privacy concerns have been percolating for years. Questions about how companies are structured and how they operate have been bandied about for quite some time. Those reckonings are upon us, but it’s in these periods of transition that the greatest discoveries are made.


So are we!