Five Powerful Trends in Full View at Cannes

Eric Hadley
Eric Hadley


This past week, the marketing world descended on the south of France for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to discuss innovation in creativity and learn lessons that will drive us to be better marketers. I have attended the festival almost every year since my days at Microsoft, but I always come back feeling more inspired than the year before. This year we learned the importance of developing personalized, relevant conversations with consumers is the strongest way to lead them towards customer loyalty.

Along the Palais, some of the most senior executives from the world’s largest, most influential and most disruptive industry players in business are thrown together in the unique microcosm we all know as the Croisette.

There is something about the ‘creative’ energy at Cannes that we don’t see at other events. For instance, during CES or SXSW you are often torn between choices and if you don’t plan appropriately, the plethora of sessions, events and parties will make your head spin. But at Cannes, there is always a sense that good business conversations happen no matter where you are along the Croisette and relationships are strengthened.

The past few days have been a whirlwind, but we must keep in mind the key insights that will bring marketers to the next level.

1. Data-driven insights are increasingly becoming part of marketing and business decision making; brand advertisers want to gain more precise control over consumer targeting. We learned this week how data can empower us and fuel creativity. The world of micro-targeting has completely changed the job of creative agencies’ and made it much more challenging. While in the past they might create one TV ad that ran across all channels (and maybe one or two more for “niche personas”), today they know exactly who they reach – they have all the data – and can potentially reach that person with the right personalized creative message.

The question then becomes how can creatives really scale it? One example is a Lexus campaign that created individual ads for 1000 consumers personas on Facebook. But this approach is still very much an outlier. Most creative agencies will struggle with the new order of things. That said, it will be a sad day if data trumps creativity resulting in deadly boring ads, targeted at just the right audience, but memorable for all the wrong reasons.

2. The rise of ad blockers has changed the way marketers think about content execution and delivery. Technology has allowed us to explore a world where formats don’t matter anymore; however, we’ve learned that consumers will not engage with content without intent. Marketers must develop non-intrusive formats such as content marketing. Marketers are increasingly turning to Content Marketing and the power of content-driven customer journeys to drive results. It’s important to support content marketing strategies from the first touchpoint, through conversion and beyond. Users deploy adblockers because they hate terrible ads and we, as an industry, need to ensure that we strive for breakthrough creative ideas, made better with data and targeting and not vice versa. Think of the ads that you have loved; Nike, Beats, GoPro, Redbull – all great content marketing examples that you would not wish to be blocked.

3. Digital marketing is moving beyond a simple call-to-action — brands are looking for ways to address the complete customer journey. Technology can be put in place to work harder, but partners must be able to provide actionable insights that lead to more meaningful relationships with customers. Proof of success in digital marketing is not CTR or PVs. It’s Sales, Awareness, Perception – and when done well with the right balance of art, science, data and creativity it’s enjoyable, entertaining and effective. Let’s go all-out to do more this.

4. The move to mobile devices. Look around any event at Cannes this week and no less than 50% of people’s faces were buried in their phone, Rose in hand. It’s time to stop debating mobile, ‘mobile first’ and ‘mobile only’ and start focusing on ‘Mobile Best’. We need to showcase the best creative in this most personal device. Nothing will drive people to dislike ‘advertising’ faster than awful stuff taking up real estate and bandwidth (yes, I exceeded my data pack daily in Cannes watching great content marketing) on their phones.

5. It’s still all about Storytelling. Cannes has changed dramatically since I first made the trip, back when it was mostly for the production companies and creative teams, but regardless of the festival’s unquestionable growth, the core reason everyone is still there is to tell (and listen) to great stories. Stories that have creativity at their heart, but which are designed to drive sales, awareness, perception… results. This theme could be seen throughout the week’s programming, but was summed up for me as I listened in passing to two people as they observed the adtech boats and the “Programmatic Academy” banner on the Palais, comment: “sure your system can talk with mine and exchange data, but what’s the point if you don’t have a great idea to start with?”

Consumers have the ability to choose media and content, and also the platform or App that they prefer to use. According to eMarketer, mobile will account for 71 percent of digital ad spending and 32 percent of total advertising expenditure by 2020, up from 55 percent and 19 percent estimated for this year. And at this week’s big adfest, large tech companies such as Yahoo and Facebook launched mobile targeting capabilities that allow marketers to deliver messages through mobile more effectively.

Facebook Instant Articles, Snapchat Stories, Twitter Moments, Apple News and now Google AMP via the mobile browser, are all changing the user experience – speeding it up and allowing marketers to present content more suitable for a mobile experience – and 100% of the best example are CONTENT driven. Ultimately changing how, when and the frequency of mobile content discovery.

By the end of 2016 people will be nearly as likely to watch a video on their smartphone, as on their desktop. And that’s great for advertisers because we know video is a great opportunity for brands to tell our stories and create relationships with customers and prospects.

All of this said, the backbone of Cannes is still ‘creativity’ but the disruptive nature and influence of the Cannes Festival is what brings me back each year.

Eric Hadley

Eric Hadley

Eric Hadley serves as Head of Global Marketing at Outbrain. He joined Outbrain in 2015, and is responsible for the company’s global go-to market strategy and for driving strategic value and large scale opportunities with its premium brand and agency partners. Within this capacity he oversees all marketing efforts inclusive of product marketing, sales marketing, industry and agency initiatives, digital marketing, brand positioning and communications. Mr. Hadley has over 20 years of experience in marketing leadership positions in consumer, media and technology companies. Previously, he served as Head of Partner Marketing at Pinterest leading the social network’s agency outreach organization. Prior to his work for Pinterest, he held roles at Yahoo, The Weather Channel, and Microsoft. While at Microsoft, he was involved in the launch of its search engine, Bing.