With Cannes Lions 2017 in full swing, the debate continues: Is the advertising industry's annual event a showcase for Mad Men or Math Men? In other words, does Cannes celebrate art or science? Is it honoring the subjective (campaign creativity) or the objective (campaign performance)?
Ultimately, Cannes Lions is about both. A natural shift has occurred from a traditional media system predicated on brand awareness and a very art-focused approach—the "Mad Men"-style of yesteryear, which is still very prevalent—to something that is shaped more and more by measurable performance across channels. Now when you go to Cannes, there's more of a blend of different media and marketing technologies heavily focused on the value they're adding to brands and agencies.
But there still seems to be a disconnect around art vs. science—i.e., Mad Men vs. Math Men—and it comes down to the maturity of the industry and its relentless fixation with reach. That leads to a mentality of "In front of how many people can I get this highly impactful, beautiful, creative ad?" as opposed to a philosophy predicated on reaching very small segments of highly targeted, responsive audiences. This means that many of the data creativity awards handed out at Cannes are focused around, "How I do target an audience?" as opposed to, "How do I target a person?"
Even so, the shift toward person-based targeting is naturally where the conversation at Cannes Lions will go in the years ahead as the industry wakes up to the extraordinary possibilities inherent in connecting truly relevant, rich creative experiences to the customer at the precise moment when the customer actually needs to buy or expresses interest in a product or service. It's an approach built on customer identity and recognizing customers across all touch points, and while it only fits subliminally into the Cannes conversation here and now, you can't have a conversation about data targeting in real time without identity being part of it.
Enterprisewide identity is the ultimate blend of precision and reach—creativity and performance. It means different things to the different constituents in the industry. From a brand perspective, it's really about building one-to-one customer relationships—an overall cross-channel perspective on what their users are doing. It's a huge competitive advantage.
The use case is fundamentally different for agencies, which are thinking about what helps them do better planning, buying and execution of media to drive return on ad spend. For them, it's very simple: It's "How do I leverage all of that data and onboard it in real time?" That real-time onboarding component coming out of the brand is where the agency will really drive differentiation. Some agencies might even think about building that into their own product offerings around group identity assets to provide their own competitive advantage. They have to compete against the big marketing technology providers that have started to disintermediate them because of the stack approaches. You've also got
The shift to identity isn't about any one segment, however. Industrywide transformation is required. But it has to be driven by the brand first and foremost—specifically, a very, very strong-minded brand driving one-to-one customer connectivity through its owned-and-operated assets, one that's given a brief to its media agency and its creative agency to drive seamless customer experiences. It's also going to take publishers and vendors being highly engaged and allowing that collaboration to happen.
But the shift will occur. As early as Cannes Lions 2018, you'll start to see more of an integrated marketing approach, with the emergence of agencies providing these capabilities, and brands and publishers doing some interesting things as well. There's going to be some showcasing of industrywide collaboration, where identity is the connective tissue that brings demand and supply together with the agency middleman. There will be some really strong use cases around that, one being the agency or the publisher trying to do their upfront deals or showing their creative packaging propositions—it will be a more connected experience across all of those areas. You'll also see specific publishers and agencies or brands showcasing a collaborative second-party marketplace offering, not just around swapping data in segments but with identity being the baseline everyone looks toward as well.
Cannes Lions 2017 isn't alone in where it sits today in terms of the identity conversation. All segments of the advertising ecosystem need to join the discussion because the industry will start to condense itself. The number of gates you go through between demand and supply is going to collapse, and collaboration will be an emerging area. No one person is going to control all of that: no Mad Man, and no Math Man, either.