Cannes Lions line-up reflects an evolving ad industry

With each passing year, the Cannes Lions festival showcases and celebrates the ways in which technology continues to disrupt the traditional agency model. You only need look at this year’s schedule to know that 2014 is no different, with print outlets like Cosmo and The New York Times hosting events alongside established web properties such as YouTube and Twitter.

“The marketers are there in full force, the agencies are there in full force and the publishers are there in full force,” says Terence Kawaja, CEO of M&A firm Luma Partners. And then there are ad tech transaction developers like The Rubicon Project, who this year will be throwing parties and getting everyone talking.

Of course, it’s easy to see why ad tech companies are keen to be noticed at Cannes. The festival and the industry’s growing focus on contextual, personal storytelling tallies perfectly with the way data is being used to craft individualised ads.

“Some might say these preachers of algorithmic buying are responsible for the decline of the very creativity the festival celebrates,” writes Alex Kantrowitz at Ad Age. “But, arguing the opposite, they’re heading to France en masse, throwing lavish parties aimed at attracting the attention of attendees who control the big bucks.”

The consensus seems to be that ad tech companies and their ilk have earned a place at the table. According to Erich Wasserman at MediaMath, a four time Cannes Lions attendee, “the interaction between the creative mind and the means of getting the right message in front of the user becomes a crucial question.”

We’re living in an open source world, and advertising is no different. Collaboration and innovation have always been cornerstones of the Cannes Lions festival, epitomised by the wide variety of talks which pair up ‘odd couple’ panels comprising artists, writers, performers, advertisers and developers at the top of their fields.

This year, Sir Patrick Stewart will be kicking off proceedings by having a sit down with Amex VP Leslie Berland to discuss Twitter and real-time storytelling. Sarah Jessica Parker will be talking ‘fashion, sex, celebrity and character’ with Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan. Award-winning writers and show-runners Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) and Steven Moffat (Sherlock, Doctor Who) will be talking to The New York Times and McCann World Group respectively.

And along with the creativity-themed seminars, there will be experts telling us how data, consumer behaviour and advancements in technology can all drive growth. Alex Kantrowitz puts it best: “Cannes now appears to be a can’t miss event for the entire advertising ecosystem, not just creatives.”

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