Has Ad Tech Taken Over Creativity at Cannes Lions?

Over the past week global decision makers from some of the largest advertising and marketing companies in the world have gathered for their annual rendezvous at the Cannes Lions Festival to celebrate the industry’s greatest creativities. But while previous festivals may have been all about embracing the love-in between content creators, ad agencies and brand talent, this year’s event had a different aura about it: technology vendors were out in force.

“There seems to be a lot of anxiety this year that tech firms are taking over. There’s certainly been some realignment in the ad world. We are now seeing partnerships that have never been seen before which is indicative of the way the industry is evolving…. As the industry evolves, technology has had to grow with it,” say Mainardo de Nardis, chief executive, OMD Worldwide.

And judging by the range of tech vendors at this year’s Cannes Lions, technology has certainly grown. While the usual suspects such as Microsoft and Google were pitched solidly on the beach, they were joined by a host of other companies showcasing services such as location-based mobile tech, CRM, social analytics and data analysis for ad targeting. Sponsorship of the event certainly didn’t come cheap either – while the beach-front cabanas start at $40,000, others had hired out yachts which were rumored to begin at $120,000 for the week.

“This is our first time here this year. There’s no other event that gives you access to such a high calibre of seniority with a global representation. If you want to be taken seriously in this industry, you need to be at Cannes,” says Sanjay Dholakia, chief marketing officer, Marketo.

Asked whether he sees technology taking a greater role than creativity, Dholakia believes that technology is allowing marketers to return to creativity. “The old model of advertising is dead and those that don’t adapt will die with it,” he says.

According to Dholakia, marketers are living in a new world of creativity which has seen a shift from mass marketing to personal engagement. Consumers want relationships, he says, adding that technology gives the ability to create the individual conversations.

“Technology is allowing marketers to be creative in a whole new way. It is not just about the content anymore and the hope that blasting out a mass message to the world will still be talked about the next year. Marketers now need to be aware of the whole 360 – from website to digital display, to email to social – and technology helps them do this,” Dholakia says.

Others believe that technology is simply the complement to the creativity. “Creative comes first and then technology. We wouldn’t have the technology if it wasn’t for the creative. While the industry is adapting and evolving, agency execs need to be aware about how to evolve with it. That’s where technology comes in – we’re building a future together,” says Elizabeth Reynolds, senior manager, Open Innovation, Accenture.

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