Cannes Lions

What's a Data Guy Like Me Doing in a Place Like Cannes?

The Data World and Creative World Are Converging, and Not Just in the South of France

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I've worked in advertising for about a decade, but I've never been part of the annual migration of media and marketing executives to the south of France. This year will be my first time at Cannes.

It wasn't for lack of interest that I didn't go. Prior to last summer, when LinkedIn bought my company, Bizo, I was heads down for six years thinking about b-to-b marketing and building my business from the ground up. With startups, you're always careful with your dollars, and trips to the south coast of France didn't seem prudent.

From my relatively short time at LinkedIn I have learned that Cannes has become incredibly important for product executives like me -- both as a place to share ideas and challenge your thinking and, of course, as a venue to take meetings with brand and agency representatives from around the world. Both within the ad industry and without, Cannes is widely thought of as a stylish showcase for extraordinary creative work, with some yachting and rosé drinking thrown into the mix. But that's not the real reason to go.

I'm going to Cannes because it's where top marketers and agency execs go to think through how they're going to build their brands. I want to be in the middle of those conversations, especially now that I'm beginning to see a convergence of the pure creative world, which still reigns supreme at Cannes, and the pure data world, which used to be siloed in Silicon Valley. I think the blurring of those lines will have an outsized impact on the practice of marketing and how it's measured.

I'm very much a data-driven product guy, so I'm thrilled to see how creative and content are increasingly being amplified by data in the service of personalized experiences. For example, think of how your phone calls to airline customer support may have changed, for the better, in recent years. Instead of the sheer frustration of dialing through a seemingly endless list of menus in order to be connected to a representative, you might instead be greeted like this, "Hello, Mr. Glass. We recognize you by your phone number. Are you calling about your flight tomorrow?"

The kind, knowing voice at the other end came to being through the collection and effective management of data. Customer service hotlines are now tapping into disparate data sets -- probably flight data, account data and even frequent-flyer data in this case -- to quickly provide the information people are likely to be calling for. The result is not only a more loyal customer, but also potentially a halo effect around your brand, since magical experiences get people talking.

Another example of a marketer that's really mastered the marriage of brand and data is Amazon. The proof is in the fact that your experience using Amazon.com is totally different than mine, and the site is tailored to each of us based on what we've previously bought and perused. It's no small feat to create a relevant, personalized experience for each consumer, while at the same time having a strong overarching brand with a distinct identity in the market.

Ultimately, I think that most brands are realizing there's a relevance imperative, and it's being set by changing consumer expectations. Because of the likes of Amazon, people expect the companies they regularly do business with to recognize them at various touch points and create tailored experiences for them. And the only way that can happen is by taking data out of its silos.

I'm going to Cannes to meet top marketers and talk to them about the products we're building at LinkedIn, and to advocate for data's role in amplifying creative. As marketers, we all need to be thinking about creative ways to make each and every experience relevant for the end user. It's the only way to make sure we're keeping up with what consumers have grown to expect. And, I happen to like rosé.