As the industry converges at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity next week, it strikes me as odd that we are still having debates on who owns the conversation — performance vs. creative, awareness vs. targeting, programmatic vs. tent-pole and so on.
As an industry, we must find a way to close this debate and stop competing for attention and budget. It’s no longer a world in which we can land-grab for every aspect of a company’s business, but rather a time to partner and leverage knowledge and technology on behalf of brands.
I can’t predict who will win Lions at Cannes this year. But I do know who will win the future of the industry: Those of us who can stop arguing creative vs. data long enough to produce work as grounded in art as it is science, producing campaigns that transcend "likes" and clicks to drive real value for our clients.
Creativity and analytics and technology must build upon one another. A great creative idea without the right platform, targeting or media buying mix will be a tree falling in the woods with no one to hear it. A great retargeting and programmatic-buying strategy will be a massive suck on budget without the creative ads to evoke emotion and action from viewers.
When I scanned this year’s list of attendees, I noticed that an increasingly diverse group of people are attending Cannes Lions. Yes, you still have art directors, chief creative officers and the normal set of agency people. But there are also chief data officers; chief innovation officers; and talent, social and search officers, to name a few. What this tells me is that the industry has already converged, with creative being part of the conversation at every level. And the digital and analytics side of the house is finally recognizing that they aren’t the end game. They are partners for the great creative work that comes from great creative minds at great creative agencies and brands.
What is forging these partnerships is the market itself – how people like to "consume" their media. It is an amazing statistic: almost 70% of Internet time is spent watching video on tablet, PC or TV and, increasingly, on the go — on smart phones. Responding to this clear market opportunity, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Twitter and other new media companies have begun touting the effectiveness of their video offerings on mobile.
Agencies need to jump on board and get their video game in order. Great idea-led content, especially video, has an enormous head start in building audiences and fans.
Content can also be targeted more precisely than ever before with rich data signals that ensure every impression reaches the right people at the right price. However, the industry has been too focused on the data and, not enough, on the creative product served through these channels. At Cannes, you will see marketers begin to use the same data signals from their programmatic media buy to inform their creative message.
These trends lead me to now say that it’s time to look for campaign results beyond likes, shares, viral views, and the classic, "Wow! that was cool!" response. The campaigns that are thumb-stopping ideas are based on unique consumer insights and dynamic user experiences; ultimately, these are the ones that will drive business sales and be the winners. Last year, a good example of this was adam&eveDDB’s "Sorry, I Spent it on Myself" for Harvey Nichols which won four grand prix awards.
Agencies and brands that can best combine the science with the art – will be the winners at this year’s Cannes Lions.
So … Creative or data: Who owns the conversation? Both!
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Jonathan Nelson is CEO of Omnicom Digital.