Actions louder than words at Cannes

Nick Mawditt, Managing Partner at Talon reflects on the messages and focus at Cannes Lions 2019. 

Twitter’s “One Day I’ll be on a Billboard” banner rose above the clutter on La Croisette this year championing the people with its #StartWithThem approach, a reminder that one of Cannes Lions’ genuine plus points is that it celebrates global creativity. This year’s festival certainly highlighted global synergies from Branding to AdTech, but we notably continue to debate many of the same issues from previous years, albeit in a more global framework.

Global Creativity and Tech: Cannes Insights

The first Outdoor Lions winner to be announced was Nike which had huge global impact, playing out in the social and news space. A reminder that good creative can deliver truly emotive content and resonate globally. Other winners spanned big brands being creative and deserved social causes including suicide prevention.

Outdoor is in excellent health right now and global themes in digital, AdTech and creativity make for useful debate. Ocean Outdoor launched its new neuroscience research that redefines digital OOH’s impact on human engagement. There’s a sense of an industry moving forward and joining the already huge party.

Going into Cannes, Talon had picked up 6 of the 8 campaign awards at the OMAs in the UK the week before and had another campaign recognised by the D&AD. Both are a pretty big deal and wins ranged from a placing a hugely impactful creative idea for McDonald’s (sticking a Big Mac into the Imax for the product’s 50th birthday – human engagement right there) to showcasing the different uses of data in media planning (a different McDonald’s campaign and for Hiscox). One showed the application of location data to plan, optimise and measure audiences for McDonald’s Saver Menu; the other delivered dynamic creative in real time showing the real effect of cyber security for Hiscox.

Lots of factors working together and a strong dose of AdTech – data, platforms, footfall measures – that transition quickly from smart to amazing with great creative.

Many of the sessions at Cannes adopted this thread and focused on how creativity and AdTech can work together. Or not.

The UK Advertising Association – omnipresent in Cannes – held a panel debating the motion that creativity is the most important factor in a business beating its competitors. Of course, in Cannes there was a (guilt-ridden) one-sided vote in favour. But the arguments from panellists and audience alike – including James Murphy, Sarah Jenkins and Tracey De Groose – heralded not just creativity but the supporting infrastructure to that process. And how it is getting more crucial to not only deliver in this space, but to get it right and truly make a difference.

Big business is certainly recognising creativity more but the counter argument is now that execution is everything, even in the ad sector. Perhaps particularly in the ad sector. It was well aired here and at a discussion that featured our own group CEO Barry Cupples. The Campaign Magazine moderated session on the Game Changing Moves in OOH put measurement and AdTech at its heart, after Spotify’s Global ECD Alex Bodman’s genuine acclaim of the brand’s own (brilliant, by the way) use of OOH as “tangible, cultural and valuable”.

Talon’s Cupples also referenced the huge potential of OOH in attracting him to the sector following 30-odd years agency side with Omnicom. This inevitably centres around the creative application of a channel that still mass reaches populations, but is becoming more about that supporting infrastructure which, in OOH’s case, now delivers “the potential to drive measurement and effectiveness” and “an evidence economy that programmatic has consistently failed in”.

Calling for more collaboration – particularly welcomed by the audience – Cupples also challenged OOH’s share to double from 10 to 20%, with investment and leadership needed in equal measure. With Talon rolling out AdTech platforms Plato and Ada that allow customers to engage seamlessly with OOH to deliver meaningful outcomes, OOH can now genuinely take on all media and prove real value and effectiveness.

Across all the debate and discussion throughout the week – and reflecting the global landscape as well as any event – words still supersede actions. Too many are still not addressing relevant evidence solutions or delivering platforms that solve real issues. Marketing Directors are meanwhile left doing the rounds at Cannes to peddle the same hopes on issues from media accountability to diversity across the industry. Just with louder voices than last year.

Perhaps the festival will provide the focus to return to a delivery mindset for many. With the global play becoming more relevant and prominent, there was sufficient focus in our own circles of a game changing approach that will help get those great ads in front of more of the right audiences. The world of OOH is not standing still. One day soon you will be on more than a billboard.