Why ad tech deserves its place at Cannes

VivaKi's president of global clients responds to complaints that technology companies will ruin creativity

Sunny as it was in Cannes, someone was keen to rain on our parade.  Jon Wilkins of Karmarama warned the advertising community that all the ad-tech companies setting up camp in Cannes were out to get them.  We have all noticed the rise of ad tech at Cannes and of course more generally — how could you not?

Are they aggressively looking for growth?  The answer is yes, but does it mean they want to "dismantle" the creative industry? I honestly think this is untrue. 

In my experience of working within this community, they are on the whole a very bright bunch that understands that to achieve success they need agencies to help them. Each new company that arrives on the scene seems to come with fewer and fewer people to help service clients.  And who do they turn to in order to fill that void? Agencies.  Of course there are those under pressure from VC investment who are willing to circumvent just about anything and anyone to get the next buck but they are in the minority.

I think more interesting (or depressing, depending on your stance) is that Jon Wilkins, famous for being a disruptor in the media business is reacting to an industry that is itself doing the same.  He may not like it, but he should recognize progress.  

The advertising and media industry has changed forever.  As Brian Cox said in his debate this week in Cannes, there is no such thing as too much data.  (A riposte to some agencies and advertisers bemoaning this new phenomenon.) The real issue here is that the old guard just doesn’t like the new twist in the storyline.  Digital itself was already a bit of a pain in the backside for the TV ad factories, but I think in the main they adapted, albeit with some latency.  Now ad tech has come along with a real sting in the tail.

Technology in itself is merely an enabler — there will always be a need for great storytelling, and this year’s Cannes was a great example of this. Yet I don’t see enough creative agencies embracing this opportunity, preferring to resist it as long as possible.  In doing so their threat is not the ad tech community but the media agencies already tooling up to fill the void.  In a few short years, traditional media will be replaced by much faster-moving, real-time media that needs to be populated with content that engages, adapts and is fast to respond.  

Ad tech will help that happen.  All they need are agencies and people to work with them on it. Either that will be left to the Jon Wilkins of the world or the very smart media agencies that are not prepared to wait around for them. 

Naked once turned an industry upside-down and made it a better one. Now ad tech is doing the same; since they have probably between them funded Cannes for the past few years, I think we should all sit down and work out the best way to work together rather than stick our heads in the sand and pretend it is not happening.

Marco Bertozzi is president of global clients with VivaKi.

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