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This year, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity gathered over 15,000 people, including advertisers and marketers, AdTech companies, agencies, and more to celebrate creativity at its finest. The week-long event left attendees with new connections, bits of inspiration, and strategic takeaways that will shape the future of advertising through 2023 and beyond. Whether you were able to make it to the French Riviera or not, here are five takeaways to keep in mind for your upcoming brand campaigns.
AI is everywhere, especially generative AI since ChatGPT entered the conversation. Amazon, Snap Inc., Omnicom Group and others put a spotlight on their AI initiatives at Cannes. For instance, Snap Inc. showcased their conversational AI product, My AI, which can act as an ad targeting and social listening tool and even improve advertising on the app.
Throughout the festival, some industry leaders obsessed over AI and its productivity potential, while others warned that AI is not a substitute for human creativity and content creation. There’s no doubt about the growing importance of AI for advertisers. A recent survey from EMarketer has shown that 70% of brand marketers are most excited about generative AI’s ability to accelerate market research on prospects and customers, as well as create content. AI is sure to remain at the forefront of advertising development, so now is the time to experiment with this new technology.
At its core, Cannes brings creativity into the limelight to celebrate creative excellence across the marketing community. ‘Clash from the Past’, a two-time 2023 Grand Prix winner, harnessed the power of nostalgia by creating 40 years of faux history and lore for the game Clash of Clans. The campaign went back in time, using fun and fandom to tug at their audience’s heartstrings and show how nostalgia is a powerful tool for brand exposure and lift.
Video games aren’t the only thing that sparked fandom. The festival also welcomed the Stagwell Sport Beach activation with sports playing fields featuring professional athletes playing sports, giving lessons, and chatting with brands. The activation found a clever way to connect sports fandom and marketing by following Apple’s Tor Myhren approach to successful advertising: embracing the product, being confident, and having fun. Ultimately, brands that found their version of fun made the biggest waves at Cannes.
Many CMOs at the festival shared that they are going “back to the basics” with marketing budgets and staying true to their brand’s values. P&G’s Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard mentioned returning to the fundamentals in an interview with Ad Age and sticking to areas of advocacy within your brand’s wheelhouse. Other brand leaders stressed the same importance for brands to show up authentically in response to the recent political backlash Bud Light faced after their influencer campaign with Dylan Mulvaney.
Ad Age recently published an ANA report which found that “$20 billion out of $83 billion in open programmatic ad spend was wasted going to ineffective ad placements on bad websites,” which indicates that marketers may need to pay closer attention to where their ad budgets are going. Sweta Patel, VP of Growth Marketing and Merchandising at Roku shared with Business Insider that tighter marketing budgets are driving greater focus and incremental success as teams home in on goals and measurement. Moral of the story: going back to basics isn’t just playing it safe and can have a hand in protecting brand health and marketing budgets.
Retail media continues to grab the attention of both advertisers and networks, especially with retailers’ ability to utilize first-party data to target their audience based on their direct needs. According to eMarketer, retail media advertising spend is expected to hit $45.15B in 2023 and more than double by 2027 with spend is expected to reach $106.12B.
Although retail media has the potential to dominate, it has also missed the mark in key areas like measurement and data standardization. At Cannes, Albertsons pushed for more data transparency by proposing a retail media framework that aims to “create common definitions and standards among retail media networks (RMNs)” for metrics like ROI, conversion rates, and more. The framework serves as a call to action for the industry to come together and discuss how we can better enable retailers to compare their data across the media activation workflow. We expect to see more on the adoption of Albertsons framework and RMN standardization in the months to follow.
Purpose-driven marketing remains prominent as campaigns for a cause generate brand equity and maintain audience attention. A study by Porter Novelli found that 78% of survey respondents are more likely to remember a brand with a strong purpose. While Dove took home a 2023 Grand Prix award for its campaign called #TurnYourBack aimed at combatting false beauty standards, ‘Working with Cancer’ also won for its global campaign focused on erasing the stigma and insecurity of cancer at work.
Along with social impact, sustainability became one of the most talked about issues at Cannes as CleanCreatives called on agencies to stop working with fossil fuel companies. Sustainable media also came into play as the same ANA report revealed that not only are made-for-advertising (MFA) sites wasting value advertising dollars, but they’re also contributing to large carbon footprints. Cannes brought valuable attention to the report and began to discuss ways to make sustainable media buying more appealing. When it comes down to it, people want to buy from brands that are making a difference in areas like social impact and sustainability.
Overall, the 2023 Cannes Lions served as a reminder of how fast the advertising industry can change as new technologies come into play. A few things you should consider in the coming months: AI continues to evolve as new capabilities emerge. Retail media networks are expected to gain more traction given the insights retailers can provide to advertisers. Chief marketers are erring on the side of caution to stay authentic, while purpose-driven marketing still resonates the most with audiences. And when in doubt, lean on fun creative and nostalgia to help make your next brand campaign successful.