Cannes Lions 2016: Unskippable world - advertising in an age of infinite choice

June 2016

Kicking off Tuesday’s activities at the YouTube Beach in Cannes, Ben Jones, Global Creative at Google, Jonny Spindler, Chief Innovation Officer at BBDO, and Justine Bloome, EVP Head of Strategy and Innovation at Carat USA, gathered on stage to discuss what advertising is going to look like in a world where content and choice have become infinite.

According to Google’s Ben Jones, despite being predicted by many, the future isn’t necessarily going to be defined by the consumption of ever shorter and faster content. He reminded Tuesday’s audience at the YouTube Beach that, while editing has gotten faster in Hollywood movies and chapters have become shorter in best-selling books, both movies and novels are actually getting longer. In Ben’s view the future is not just going to be about choice, but immersion, or as he puts it: “we’re not drowning under a firehose of media, we’re swimming in a sea of it. People have adapted, but brands have not.”

"We’re not drowning under a firehose of media, we’re swimming in a sea of it. People have adapted, but brands have not."

- Ben Jones

Picking up on the idea of immersion, Carat’s Justine Bloome believes that personalisation is going to be one of the keys to the future. With mobile device usage increasing rapidly, and most mobile activity being task-oriented, she sees it as an advertiser’s responsibility not to interrupt, but to participate in a way that enhances the user’s experience. Predicting that the number of advertising messages people see is unlikely to increase, Justine contends that content will have to be nuanced and tailored to the individual in order to stand out.

And according to Jonny Spindler of BBDO, standing out is only going to get harder. Looking back at an age when the quality of TV entertainment was so bad that viewers famously preferred the ads, Jonny believes things have moved on a long way since then. With the likes of HBO and Netflix creating a golden age of programming, he says that now advertisers aren’t just competing with each other for attention, they’re competing against the shows themselves.

With pressure mounting on all sides as the industry adapts to the new reality of copious content and unlimited choice, there was agreement between the panel that organisations and working practices would have to change. Jonny Spindler says that attracting and recruiting a diversity of talent is crucial in this, with a wider variety of skills and backgrounds needed to ensure that marketing is able to cut through the welter of competing signals. And while all of the panel were quick to embrace a model with more emphasis on speed and agility, everyone agreed that unrealistic delivery times shouldn’t be privileged over producing great content.

In the final moments of the discussion, Ben showed off some live research challenging popular assumptions about how mobile video should be edited, framed and oriented, after which the panel gave their thoughts on where the industry is headed next. Jonny Spindler is optimistic about the potential of artificial intelligence to open up new kinds of connection, particularly in Chat and Messenger apps, with machine learning optimising message and tone of voice for each individual user. Justine Bloome then had the final word, agreeing that while new technologies and data would always open up new opportunities, it was important to avoid creative becoming so data-led that it simply acts as an echo chamber for the audience’s preconceptions.

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