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Cannes Lions Recap - The Perfect Storm of Creativity & Tech

From the Croisette to the Cap, from the Palais to the Gutter Bar, Cannes Lions 2016 was bigger and bolder than ever. In the background, the turbulent landscape of a pre-Brexit UK, agency transparency and the findings of the ANA report, the continued rise of Google and Facebook, and the ever present murmurs of acquisition and consolidation in ad tech sector were the industry chatter, along with who got tickets for the Chris Martin gig at the Cap on Tuesday night.

Over the last few years, the creative advertising community has bemoaned the invasion of the technology companies, parking their logo adorned yachts in the marina to the point where now you can spend a whole day there just meeting those in attendance. But this year, it seems like this was a happier marriage than in previous years. Across Cannes, agencies, ad tech companies and publishers set up side-by-side as the advertising community embraces technology as a necessary enabler in an increasingly digital world. Tension undoubtedly remains, but it seems a truce is in effect as we all work out how mobile, creativity, data and the inexorable shift to programmatic co-exist in an increasingly different and complex media landscape.

Key Themes

As a location-centric data company, our message resonated more than ever. Agencies have always looked for innovative ways to target advertising and the location-based audiences that Factual builds for our clients operates at the intersection of mobile, data and the people-based marketing explosion being driven by Facebook and others. One agency spoke on behalf of their client, who was looking to target Chinese residents who frequently travel to certain International destinations over the year and reach them within 45 minutes of turning on their phone when they arrive in one of these destinations. “Can Factual do this?” “Yes, we can”, we happily replied. And with countless other complex use cases, Factual was able to cement our own position as a trusted, neutral and reliable partner to our customers across the ad tech ecosystem.

The vast number of meeting suites booked by Google and Facebook further reinforced their increasing hegemony over digital advertising spend, but tucked away behind the Palais could be found a tranquil oasis identified only by a discrete ghost stenciled on the wrought iron gate. Touting its monstrous scale on video, Snapchat cemented its status as one of the Cannes elite this year. Operating at the intersection of mobile, social, data and video, Snapchat is emerging as the third platform to offer massive scale to the advertising industry and one to be both feared and admired by the media companies trying to maintain relevance in an increasingly mobile centric world. The way Snapchat has made mobile advertising sexy again, provided a much needed antidote to the wider advertising community and their complaints on how digital advertising and programmatic have made advertising less creative, less engaging and less fun.

Finally, this year Cannes highlighted how programmatic is emphatically here to stay. It was only a few years ago that the programmatic platforms dipped their toes into warm waters of Cannes, but several years later, even not being in attendance raises awkward questions of “why?” Agency trading desks and their programmatic units sit side-by-side now with their agency parents in venues and meetings alike and data is a currency discussed as much as rate cards and creative formats. This highlights how far agencies have come in recent years in their transition to technology companies, something that felt impossible a decade ago.

So it’s farewell to Cannes for another year. Rosé consumption can decrease to normal levels. An evening out is not determined by which yachts you can get onto. But many questions need to be answered before Cannes Lions 2017, not least of which is the shock impact of the UK voting to leave the EU, its impact on the global economy and in turn, the impact on our advertising industry. As a high growth technology company, we’re not immune to these macro effects either. Nor is Google, Facebook Snapchat or WPP, Publicis, Havas and the other agency holding companies.

And of course, the most pressing question of all: “should we get that yacht next year?”

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