Summits Yellow

Cannes 2017 – Amazon, ad blocking and storytelling

David Murphy

Nels Stromborg, managing director, of Retale, offers a personal perspective on this year's Cannes Lions 

All eyes were again fixed this year on the French Riviera and Cannes Lions 2017. Advertisers and marketers flocked to the event last week to discuss the biggest trends, developments and news that’s going to influence the space moving forward. Unsurprisingly, Amazon made the biggest splash – presumably due to the company’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods. But this was just the tip of the iceberg, as several other areas, including data and storytelling, also influenced the conversation at this year’s event. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the most noteworthy takeaways from this year’s festival.

Amazon, Amazon, Amazon
Amazon dominated the conversation at Cannes this year. Its reach into the physical retail world shouldn’t be underestimated. The company is poised to redefine both the way we shop and how we do business. As Oath’s Tim Armstrong said, we’re “now in an era of industries merging versus businesses merging.” Amazon is going to force slow-moving businesses to adapt quickly or die. The most at risk here is the big chain grocers, who struggle all the way from in-store innovations to understanding how to reach millennials and younger consumers via new and emerging mobile and social channels. For Amazon, it’s already been a major win. Their stock added $15bn (£11.7bn) in value the day after acquiring Whole Foods. It essentially got the company for free. Expect more moves to come as Lidl and Amazon continue to emerge in the US market as two primary competitors to Walmart’s dominance in grocery.

Story first, data second
Stories first, data second. This was a key theme at Cannes. Data is a great tool for optimizing campaigns, but advertisers need to focus first on building a relationship with consumers through compelling stories. Then, they need to look at how to use data to refine their messages and drive maximum results. It’s true that programmatic and technology are getting smarter. But if you aren’t telling a story that connects with consumers – one that’s built and formatted for the device and experience – then no degree of data or technology will help your marketing efforts. Data should used as a tool for enhancing storytelling; it would be a mistake to think it can simply replace it.

Ad-blocking still a concern
Ad-blocking is still a big topic because the problem is only going to get worse. According to eMarketer, more than a quarter of internet users in the US will block ads this year, compared to less than 16 per cent in 2014. Many agency partners we spoke to were ready to sound the alarm. And they have a right to be concerned as adoption rises. Ad networks – particularly in mobile – are beginning to consider radical things like limiting the number of impressions each piece of creative can be used for, applying stricter rules around approved creative, and more. This is all to maximize the inventory available and create much better ad experiences that hopefully then means consumers are less likely to want to block them.

Consumer data compensation
One of the most interesting conversations that came up repeatedly at Cannes focused on the role that consumers will play moving forward when it comes to advertising data; specifically, how they may be compensated for their data. Too many companies are profiting from location data, and consumers have no idea that their data is this valuable. However, as consumer awareness around the business and financial value of their data grows over the long-term, they will demand compensation and incentivization. This will be a fascinating topic to keep tabs on moving forward.

With Cannes officially in the books – and as we move into the second half of the year – marketers are in a good position to take what they’ve learned from the festival to achieve success moving forward.