Cannes Lions 2016: Let’s get human with our media again

Cannes Lions Festival 2016: Let's get human with our media again

This post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse

People are changing faster than brands can keep up. We’re adopting new products, technologies and platforms at a pace never before seen in the history of advertising. In this dynamic world, it’s clear that the old ways of marketing and media no longer cut it.

And this is why the Cannes Lions Festival is so important. Although the week has become many different things to many people, it ultimately provides us with a forum to connect as a global advertising community and be inspired through creativity & innovation.

I first touched down at the Cannes Lions in 2005. Back then I was known as one of the “Young Media”. Now eleven years later, I’ve just come back from my second visit. As my older self, it was definitely a much different experience, but at the same time reinforced the importance of staying “young” at heart. More than ever we need to be relevant and keep up with change.

Just a few short years ago, we would have never believed that the Palais would be plastered in yellow, with a white ghost. Or that there would be the ad tech yacht row and the likes of Deloitte, Oracle and Accenture at the Festival of Creativity. Or that we’d be watching people strap on headsets to be transported into virtual experiences. Or that live streaming and 360 video would be so prevalent. Who would have guessed that augmented reality would be in the midst of a resurgence through purpose-driven activations around the world? Bryn Mooser, co-founder of HuffPost RYOT (AOL’s newly acquired company that specializes in immersive content creation), proved this out through some powerful cases: from using AR to create Hologram protests and gender neutral washroom signs, to transforming ISIS flags into gay pride rainbow flags.

What has become very evident to me is that people need to be at the centre of everything we do. This requires a shift from traditional media connections to more human connections. In Cannes, this theme came through time and time again. At UM, it was important that we got together as a team to gain insight into the great work. Our Behind the Scenes Look at Cannes session led me to a couple of realizations.

First was that there was more rewarding of great brand work than ever. However, there was not as much coming from Canada – where submissions often fell into the trap of using tech and data just for the sake of using it, with no clear insight or strategic link to the brand. It seems we’ve been stricken with a case of “AdTechitis” in North America. As we heard in The Art of Curation session at the Palais earlier on in the week, there’s no algorithm for cool, insightful or beautiful. Art is about humanity. Unfortunately, as technology underpins how we experience the world, we’ve been shifting to quantity over quality.

But there’s hope. I’m an optimist. The 2nd realization was that data, technology and algorithms are best used in service of individuals. To enable greater storytelling that can influence more people, in turn causing change.

That might sound lofty, but in seeing the work there are many proof points that this can be our reality in Canada if brands and agencies put people at the centre of everything we do. A shining example of that is UM’s award winning “Pay with Blood” campaign in Romania. Launched through Facebook, people were offered a free ticket (in the form of a tourniquet wristband) to the summer’s largest music festival in Transylvania, in exchange for a blood donation. For the first time, young people starting donating blood – at a 10x increase vs. the previous average, helping to change mentality and stem the country’s blood bank crisis. Another winning campaign out of Australia called, “You’re Accepted,” used the Facebook platform to allow LGBT youth to anonymously ask their friends if they would support them coming out. Friends could reply back directly with positive messages, finding out how many of their friends would support them coming out.

As we look to create the connective tissue between data as an industry, this past week has reminded me how critical it is to not lose sight of using data & technology to create more dynamic, meaningful experiences.

Over the next year and beyond, let’s commit to not losing the craft. Yes, the brave new frontier of storytelling will be enabled by data. But data & tech needs to lead to simple, powerful insights in the service of creating immersive human experiences – it can’t just be about using new platforms in isolation from a brand’s strategy.

Matt Ramella is VP, Digital at UM Canada

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