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The definition of advertising is changing - and fast

02 Jul 2015  |  Ben Murphy 

SapientNitro's virtual reality shopping experience at Cannes Lions 2015.

As technology evolves at a rapid pace, planners and brands face a number of challenges, writes Quantcast's Ben Murphy.

This year's Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity heralded a new era, both for creativity in advertising and the data-driven insights that facilitate it.

We've reached a point in the industry where creativity in advertising is measured against its effectiveness and ability to drive consumer emotion and thus action. Ad tech experts, including Quantcast, were in force this year. The reason, simple: the creatives want to generate new ideas and know that the data-driven insights are crucial.

While it was my first time at the Cannes Lions Festival, I'll believe the regulars who have told me that this year, it was bigger and better than ever; although I'm sure it is every year. But in fact, the real shift that I saw is in Cannes becoming a creative festival that not simply tolerates technology, but embraces it and caters to it.

Virtual experience

This year the Lions Innovation effectively broke away to form its own part of the festival, aiming to bring a stronger focus on data and creativity. The festival kicked-off with Google winning a Mobile Grand Prix for its Cardboard Virtual Reality (VR) Project, for the simple reason that it had made so many other campaigns possible.

In fact, VR turned out to be a consumer tech theme that advertisers and agencies all seemed interested in exploring this year. I don't think it's the first or last time we'll see VR at Cannes.

A unique experience I had was at SapientNitro's Penthouse where it had a virtual store where visitors could look up an item and find out more about it. Rather than being a sideshow gimmick, this trend towards VR has value that will definitely not be lost by the brands engaging with it.

Given the richness of the data that can be harvested from seeing what users engage with in virtual worlds, brands could be better able to predict user behaviour in all kinds of scenarios in the real world.

Creative Data Lions

Another first was the introduction of the first ever Creative Data Lions award, signalling a shift towards embracing data's ability to drive new ideas, creativity and innovation. The Grand Prix was awarded to Cinder, an open source software development platform for creative coding, used for music visualisation, education, research, physical installations and mobile apps.

The added benefit of being open source, encourages users to share their work with the world too and report back bug fixes. It's innovative, intriguing and essentially at the heart of what the Creative Data Lions is all about - bringing creativity, tech and data together to create a new category of advertising.

Changing the formula at Cannes

As a result of all this new tech entering the market, I'm conscious that we're also going to see many new and interesting players emerge in the media and advertising landscape.

It's going to be challenging for media planners and brands to grasp how these technologies fit into the media plan - similarly to how in the past they have had to get their heads around the birth of the ad exchanges, demand and sell-side platforms and the many other intermediaries due to the growth of the programmatic space.

Having worked on the buy side for years, we're aware of how important it is that people don't start off being wary of new technology - and that it's packaged in a way that's accessible to everyone in the industry.

This is why we invited David Coulthard to come and speak on stage with our CEO Konrad Feldman in Cannes, since the similarities between how data is influencing F1 and advertising are quite stark. The challenge for both is to improve performance mid-campaign or mid-race, versus correcting problems after the event.

So what of my first year at Cannes Lions? Seeing representation from across the spectrum of the industry for me meant we're seeing a new era of advertising, with new categories popping up and room to grow for everyone - from tech companies to mobile exchanges, data companies, publishers, creatives and media agencies.

At the final session of the festival Twitter, Nestle and Wunderman talked through their tips on how to foster innovation, speaking about their increasing reliance on data.

It was a great way to end the festival, thinking about how data is defining the future of media conversations - and seeing the creatives at Cannes starting to appreciate how data can help us think more broadly about what advertising is and what it can achieve.


Ben Murphy is UK sales director at Quantcast

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