Cannes' future is just as unpredictable as future of advertising

...and that's exactly as it should be, writes Ari Weiss, CCO of DDB North America.

It felt like the question du jour at Cannes this year was around the future of the festival. And I don’t mean to be dismissive, but who cares? It’s not that I don’t care about the festival; in fact, quite the contrary, but why are we so obsessed with defining the undefinable?

This question came up a few times while we were sitting in the mobile jury room: "Will there even be a mobile jury in five years?" It’s a compelling question, but it’s purely academic. How does that help my business today? How does this help serve my clients’ needs right now? Whether it exists or not in five years is irrelevant; the question we needed to focus on was, "are these the very best creative business solutions for today?"

As marketers, we are obsessed with predicting the future, but I would argue that more of our attention should be focused on the present. Our clients have very real business needs that can’t wait to be solved in the future. The same is true for our agencies. We’ll never make it to the future if we don’t solve our very immediate business needs. Cannes doesn’t hold the answers to the future. It is not a predictive tool. It’s simply a reflection of the best creative thinking in the industry at that very moment (and in some cases moments dating back 11 months).

The world is changing way too quickly for it to be predictable. Which means guessing what the future holds is a futile task. Instead, we need to be flexible. Technology has forced us into an always-in-beta mindset that extends far beyond technology. Now even the stories we tell for our brands are always in beta. We get real-time feedback like improvisational actors in front of a live audience. For the first time in the history of marketing, we can adjust our stories in real time to get the reaction we want from our audiences.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the category that seeks to award the most future-facing ideas of the moment: the Innovation Lion. This year’s Innovation Grand Prix went to My Line, an incredibly simple, smart idea that brought Google Assistant to flip phones – that’s right, flip phones. Future facing? I would argue no, but an incredibly smart hack to solve a very real problem in the present, and worth every accolade it received.

Our industry is not for predicting the future. Let’s leave that to the fortune-tellers. Our industry is for bringing brilliant creative solutions to our clients’ businesses in order to give them an unfair business advantage in the present. Cannes always has been a celebration of those creative solutions. As for what Cannes looks like in the future? Who the hell cares, as long as it continues to celebrate the world’s most creative business solutions – and that’s exactly as it should be.