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Cannes Lions

Cannes Lions Predictions From Former Jury Presidents: Tash Whitmey

By Published on .

Each year before the Cannes Lions International Festival of Advertising, Ad Age asks creatives execs around the world for their thoughts on what will nab big honors this year. For 2017, we checked in with the festival's former jury presidents for insight into what they believe works best for each category and for their advice to this year's judges. We'll be counting down each day until the festival with their thoughts.

Tash Whitmey, CEO, Havas Helia
Tash Whitmey, CEO, Havas Helia Credit: Havas Helia

Today, we hear from Havas Helia CEO and last year's Data Lions Jury President Tash Whitmey.

Since Cannes 2016, what's the best work you've seen/what should win Grand Prix in Data? Last year you called the Grand Prix winner a "beacon for creativity" that made data beautiful, easy to digest for the layman. Have you seen other work this past year that's proven that as well?

Honestly, I believe "The Next Rembrandt" really raised the bar for all data work in 2016. It was beautiful, tangible and emotive. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and so far this year, I've seen nothing that comes close.

That piece of work used AI at its heart. At Havas Helia we also developed an AI project that was the first of its kind in 2016. As part of ITV's coverage of the U.S. presidential election, we developed an artificial intelligence that analyzed billions of social posts, shares and online searches to create a sentiment analysis of voting intention across America. The result was an AI (EagleAi) that predicted a Trump victory when no other pollster or commentator had done the same. The insights the AI offered formed a vital part of ITV's coverage of election night, helping it to be named winner of the battle of the U.K. broadcasters.

Any other work, regardless of category that made you jealous or that you expect to win big?
It may not win big in Cannes, but I really like "ReSearch" by Swedish product development company Semcon. It's a free browser extension that gives men and women equal space in image search results. It tackles stereotypes around "male" and "female" job -- think engineer for the former and nurse for the latter -- by automatically performing a parallel search in order to gender balance the results, before showing both sets of results side by side.

Importantly, the software is open source and, while currently in beta mode, it already covers more than 65 different professions (including CEO, childminder, pilot, stockbroker and makeup artist). It's a relatively straightforward but undoubtedly smart idea to help tackle gender equality, and far from being a gimmick, could do some real good in the world.

Data has an even bigger presence this year at the festival--with Direct and Media Lions adding sub categories such as Data-Driven Targeting, Data Strategy, and Use of Real-Time Data. Is this a good thing?
My view is that we should not be creating a whole new set of awards that focus on data alone. I say this because data should be embedded in the work we do today and have a measurable influence on the outcome; whether it is a quality insight that helped the creative process, or an innovative analytics approach that led to better engagement. Any brand that isn't using data to generate insight, engage their customers and therefore sell, is not worthy of an award.

By introducing yet more data awards, you miss a vital opportunity to evolve the Lions. In truth, all you do is continue doing what you've always done -- overlooking how the landscape for all marketing has changed in the last five to 10 years.

Cannes could lead the way in starting a fundamental shift in how all marketers see data; not as some complex, slightly risky, stand-alone thing to factor into a marketing campaign, but an indispensable part of the process -- as important as the brains of the creative and copywriter.

In general, what needs to go away at Cannes? What does it need more of?
We need to start being more focused on effectiveness. Across the board at Cannes, there is evidence of great ideas, beautifully executed, but I don't believe enough of the campaigns deliver meaningful impact for our clients. It's too easy for data, technology and AI to remain as a "nice to have" addition to a business strategy while the marketers within it see it as just icing on the cake. The only way we're going to bake our disciplines into the wider recipe is if we start proving that it won't work without us.

What trends in the work did you see from judging last year that you hope won't happen again this year?
There's a bit of a theme developing here. My greatest concern about some of the work I saw last year, is when data or technology come as an afterthought.

Any trends you do expect to see?
Connected devices, wearables and the Internet of Things have begun to trouble award juries, and it's a trend that will accelerate further as take-up increases and initiatives become more mainstream. Specifically, there are some very interesting developments in how to connect products and services back to consumers.

Diageo teamed up with Johnnie Walker Blue Label to create a smart bottle which used NFC labels to provide information on the outside of the bottle including its quality and its history. Using thinfilm technology the bottle also could tell if it had been opened and the seal broken, ensuring the quality of the product. The company was also then able to track bottles and identify if they were being sold in different countries illegally or as counterfeit. It was a great driver of trust in the brand and in useability for the consumer. It's worth nothing that by 2020 it's expected that the IoT market will be worth in excess of $7.1 trillion dollars -- so a ripe area for innovative creative thinking.

What advice do you have to jurors and jury presidents for this year?
Focus on long-term impact, effectiveness, performance and measurement. I am appalled by the continuous focus on short-term measurement and the lack of focus on what long-term impact or behavior change has been achieved. We are still working within the mindset that achieving a higher than usual click-through rate is a sign of success. Media agencies are so strong now in managing efficient programmatic targeting that we, the data/CRM agencies, need to take it a step further and conclude what the long-term impact has or will be of that investment and what needs to be done to capitalize on it.

Too many companies are still relying on general and aggregated analysis from sources such as Google Analytics without looking at individual behaviors across the journey. If I was a judge I would be looking for those entries that have successfully connected my digital behavior data with my personal data and understanding what it means about they way I interact with brands. That's the ultimate win in data right now.

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