Monday 20 June 2016 5:00 am

Cannes 2016: Of Mad Men and Maths Men – Is it not time for fewer awards with a greater focus on integrated work

As we enter adland’s largest global conference, its dramatic evolution over the last few years is evident. Once all about the creative work, it is now split over three distinct districts – the Palais creative hub, the tech media giants on the beach and ad tech alley near the port.

In 2014 and 2015, I was part of unofficial Cannes conversations around the importance of data, in which creative and media leaders were equally represented. This year, we finally see the emergence of “Creative Data” Lions, which is significant. Many still fear that the data and algorithms of the Maths Men are destroying the foundations that the Mad Men created over the decades. I don’t subscribe to that.

In Don Draper’s time, creative and media were together, but media was in the back office. Media then grew into a strong, independent discipline in its own right. There is no practical reason for tension between the two, because both are equally important for brands to succeed in telling meaningful, human stories.

While we will continue to see increasing automation in marketing, this will free up talent to focus more on strategic thinking. It’s difficult to argue that the wealth of data signals we have today are not valuable in determining both media and message decisions.

But it is the separation of medium and message which is contributing, at least in some way, to people blocking out ads.

The ad industry does not have a divine right to tell stories for the sake of it. They must have a deep relevance to a moment in time or a cultural trend. We have an overload of tools that produce the necessary insights to ensure content can be useful and entertain, so why is advertising not delighting more?

Programmatic is a case in point. It shouldn’t be a dirty word for creatives. We need to reimagine and potentially rebrand this discipline so it is one that creatives lean in to, and not away from. It’s a chance for Mad Men and Maths Men to collaborate on equal terms.

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Airbnb is proof that being data and tech-driven can work poetically alongside a brand purpose of creating richer communities. Last year, chief marketing officer Jonathan Mildenhall sparked debate, when he explained if you don’t get talented people managing the data, you risk demolishing a creative idea.

It’s time to reimagine how medium and message work together to better serve people, not mindlessly serve ads. I wholeheartedly agree with Mildenhall – it must be technology steered by talent, not talent led by technology. This week, I expect that we’ll see a lot more of the marketing tech players at the festival, such as Adobe, Oracle and IBM who will support this ambition. Next year sees the opening of Havas Village in Kings Cross where the walls will be brought down between agencies and we can orchestrate our 1,600 talent and depth of capabilities to best serve the needs of a brand’s challenge.

The Lions have always celebrated work in individual categories – whether that is direct, social, entertainment or innovation, and the number of categories increases every year. Is it not time for fewer awards, but with more of a focus on integrated work, where the orchestration of all elements is rewarded, instead of the constituent parts?

This year, it will be interesting to see whether the three Croisette districts feel like part of the same town this year. Or whether creative, media and tech are still worlds that only join around the edges.