Monday 2 July 2018 4:05 pm

Cannes and adland's evolution: the future of marketing will require creativity and data

The marketing and advertising sectors are constantly undergoing transitions in one form or another. And, not unreasonably, clients always want services that are better, faster, and cheaper.

However, though this is a perennial theme, now brands are also increasingly bringing marketing activities in-house. Even the professional services hegemons are attempting to capitalise on industry weaknesses, with the likes of Accenture having opened its own ad-buying division.

Meanwhile, Google and Facebook’s duopoly over the digital media market continues to grow.

Read more: Cannes you believe it? Advertising festival aims for restraint

When you throw more fleeting issues such as Facebook’s data sharing and targeting policies, GDPR, and industry gossip surrounding the king of adland himself – Sir Martin Sorrell – into the mix, this makes for a heady concoction of disruption and uncertainty.

How then has all this impacted our ability to deliver creative solutions to brands’ challenges? Two weeks ago, at the 65th installment of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, ironically it felt like the traditional advertising industry had to fight tooth and nail to have its voice heard.

More than ever, the industry needs to look to its long-term future, and not just quick, cosmetic fixes.

Our ability to target consumers and prospective customers has already come a long way. However, not everything conjured up by our industry draws the public closer to brands; it often does the opposite. This needs to change. We should be capturing people’s imaginations with our creativity.

Add to this crisis of creativity the fact that a chunk of client cash is spent without necessarily achieving a return on investment, and the result is a perfect storm of ineffective communication, reinforced by unscientific spending.

But here comes a happy prediction: this is about to change – a lot. And all within a matter of years.

Why? Well, now’s the time for the predictable “the robots are coming” line. But bear with me here. The machines are definitely going to be a factor. Anything that can automatically learn from and improve the marketing experience, without being explicitly programmed, will undoubtedly and fundamentally affect advertising.

But – and it’s a big but – machines, not unreasonably, gravitate to what gets a “response”. They’re not so different from any run-of-the-mill piece of clickbait. And while we can ask the algorithm to focus on deeper metrics, the further we dig into the machine’s psyche, the further we inevitably drift away from what they can actually help us with.

Because, in a world where we can no longer buy consumers’ attention, earning it demands going beyond the logical and to the emotional.

So, the answer? As machines do more, humans need to become ever-more creative and numerate in equal measure. Sound simple? Of course not. But it’s the mission that we, and I am sure a number of other ad businesses, are on.

Why should consumers care about this? Adland is a half a trillion dollars a year business, and UK marketing punches well above its weight globally – with creativity at the heart of it. Combine that with the analytical intelligence we have in this country and our global outlook, and this opportunity is ours to lose. We just need to be very creative in how we go about seizing it.

Read more: Advertising titans failing to spend the big bucks at Cannes Lions this year