Ad Creative vs. Digital Analytics…Yes We Cannes!

As I attend the sessions here at the Cannes Lions festival, it strikes me that data analytics-driven processes, platforms, and marketing strategy is still competing for attention and budget with the likes of creative in the digital arena. Performance vs. creative, awareness vs. targeting, programmatic vs. the tent pole – and on it goes. I am tempted to call it a passé debate and move on. But, because of its effect on the livelihood of every single person in the marketing and advertising industry, we must work to close the debate and find the honest and real answer.

My simple answer is both. We must have great teams doing both creative and analytics. A great creative idea without the right platform, targeting, or media buying mix will be the tree falling in the woods with no one to hear it. The great retargeting and programmatic buying strategy becomes a massive suck on budget without amazing creative ads that evoke emotion and action. In short, digital advertising just got a lot harder, as we need great teams and execution on both ends. Here are five things (and one final answer) to look for in the news coming out of Cannes that will make or break your budgets for 2014 and 2015.

5) Awards for Rewards in ROI.

Look for the campaigns winning awards based on ingenious creativity that drove results, such as shares, likes, viral views, and so on. These campaigns achieved real results beyond just the reaction of “Wow, that was cool.” To see a great example, check out the winner of the Creative Effectiveness Lion. It is basically where amazing ideas converge with amazing user experience to drive amazing results (where we all strive to be). The interviews with Jony Ive and Bono are also great fodder to learn from.

4) Video Is Emperor, Where Content Is King.

Can’t go over it, can’t go under it. And trying to go around it is simply not an option when it comes to video. Sixty-nine percent of Internet time is spent watching video (that is more time than is spent on Facebook), so watch for some of the great ideas and conversations coming from sessions like Google’s “Digital Future” and YouTube’s “Art of Storytelling.” Every Tom, Dick, and Harry in advertising (and marketing in general) needs to get their video A-game in gear. My favorite question that comes from such conversations about video is, “why spend so much on the networks when YouTube has much greater effectiveness?”

3) Programmatic Becomes Creative’s Best Friend.

Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg (both ex-Googlers) will be on stage and their whole futures ride on the concept of making advertising scalable, targeted, and useful. This is at the heart of technology driving real-time bidding (RTB), programmatic buying, and even things like dark posts. The cool thing you will see on the agenda is that now we need 100 derivations of that one ad campaign we created. For those who say technology is killing creative, I say we need 100 more creatives to write and conceptualize our new massive inventory expansion. Keep an ear to the ground about the conversations around this. It is like Performics (a performance agency) and JWT (a brand agency) agreeing that creative and performance are the basis for the perfect ad symphony.

2) Social Networks Like Facebook and Twitter Are the New Newspaper.

The dust has settled and the newspapers have lost the war. Google won and the social networks of Facebook and Twitter (LinkedIn pulling up third) are in an all-out race to own the mindshare of the world and, of course, the precious ad dollars that come with it. Google (GDN) owns the roost on the search side of this equation, so when thinking of your advertising, you will need to think of daily habits. These used to include reading the newspaper in the morning, but now, it is scanning Facebook from your phone while still in bed. Watch how the big brands that are measuring lift and attribution drive us into the 21st century on this front.

1) All About the People…Brand and Data Show the Way.

In scanning the list of attendees, I noted how diverse the set of folks attending the scene had become. Yes, you have your art directors, global creative leads, and the normal set of agency folk. But I also saw a plethora of CEO titles, talent officers (love this title), marketing directors, and social media, digital marketing, and analytics titles to boot. What this tells me is that these worlds have already converged, with creative being a part of the conversation at every level. And the digital data analytics side of the house is finally recognizing that landing page optimization, big data, and programmatic ad operations are not the end game. They are just the facilitator for the great creative work that comes from great creative minds at great creative agencies and brands.

So, creative or data, who owns the conversation? Both!

Anyone who is attending Cannes Lions and would like to continue the debate on the Croisette, feel free to drop me a note on LinkedIn or Facebook. Or maybe #CreativeVData.

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