One of the many things I love about the Cannes International Advertising Festival is its consistency: year after year the event continues to be a global mash-up of cutting edge creatives, celebrities, ad industry leaders and talented marketers—all of them fired up for a week of workshops, networking, awards, and of course, parties. (The Cannes ad festival takes place the week before Ironman France, which is hosted just down the road in Nice. It occurs to me that Cannes is a triathlon in its own right, with dining, drinking and dancing as the core disciplines, and linen – not lycra – as the uniform of choice for this endurance fest).
This year offered more of the same great stuff, but there was a subtle, important shift in the Cannes vibe. The mood was, once again, celebratory and optimistic, but still tempered by a new, post-2008 pragmatism. It seems the global economic crisis has created a new reality that continues to find its way to the otherwise vibrant La Croisette. Witness the addition of a new award category this year that acknowledges campaign results as opposed to just rewarding creativity. And just last week, the IAB put a big spotlight on the complex issue of how publishers measure the effectiveness of digital campaigns, and issued new guidelines for measuring and interpreting ad effectiveness research.
I saw evidence of this more practical mindset when I met with advertisers and content creators during the festival, particularly in the wake of our announcement of Kinect-enabled NUads. I had the pleasure of introducing NUads with Kinect’s Creative Director, Kudo Tsunoda. Thanks to great technology, our onstage demonstration was eye-popping cool. But I believe it was actually was the pragmatic nature of the NUads format, and the associated platform capabilities, which got marketers the most excited. (The excitement actually started before the Cannes announcement).
There are two well-established trends that are helping to drive this enthusiasm. First, digital interactivity is alive and well. Interacting with devices and technology has become totally second nature for most of us. For example, glancing at your phone is sort of like glancing in your car’s rearview mirror; the behavior is so engrained, you don’t even think about it. As digital consumers, we now have an expectation of interactivity. The second trend: linear TV is still going strong. The plethora of content choices and broad availability of low cost, HD TVs has driven the TV usage in the household to an all-time high.
When we introduced NUads, people saw two things that have long been at odds with each other —interactivity and television—find a harmonious synergy that was once unimaginable. In Cannes, advertisers also stressed that they want to “activate” their existing content—particularly their inventory of 30 second TV spots—without having to spin up an entire new creative project. With the client’s bottom line more top of mind than ever, agencies are longing for a “just add water” solution. The combination of the Kinect platform and NUads enables agencies to bring scalable, cost-effective innovation to their clients. Even better, this innovation transcends advertising; at its core, NUads is really about natural interaction with content. Regardless of whether you are voting for your favorite flavor of Mountain Dew, or your favorite singer on The Voice, the underlying technology is the same. (In a future post, I’ll be talking about how easy it will be to add natural interactivity to content – advertising or otherwise – with minor additional effort.
Meanwhile, I’ll confess to one Cannes indulgence that has survived the recession: dinner at Le Baoli. Situated on east end of la Croisette, the food is phenomenal and the setting is French Riviera exotica. This year, after about 23:00, the music and drinks conspired to make for one very unplugged evening. Fortunately, the memories are in my head – not on Facebook. Some of what happened in Cannes actually stayed in Cannes.
Mark Kroese - General Manager, Advertising Business Group, IEB
Check out the coverage from Cannes Lions 2011!