Mobile engagement and ad quality headline the Cannes 2018 agenda

Maggie Mesa, head of mobile at OpenX, casts an eye over the trends that have appeared at this years Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and what they mean for the future.

This week, as the world’s leading brands, agencies and technology companies inhabited the small coastal town of Cannes for its namesake festival celebrating creativity, the collective advertising conversation has turned squarely on the shifts defining the future of advertising. 

Though Cannes is noticeably quieter this year – with many brands and agencies cutting back on attendance – talk along La Croisette has focused on the future of consumer engagement and ensuring advertising quality in the post-GDPR world.

Capturing consumer attention in a fragmented environment
For brands, the challenge of media fragmentation has never been greater. As audiences consume a wider range of media, they have fuelled an urgent drive among marketers to identify new avenues to capture consumer attention wherever it may occur.

With over 70 per cent of all digital advertising dollars now going to mobile, and as consumers’ time spent on mobile continues to rise, brands at Cannes have agreed that the time has come to significantly adjust their media mix and content strategies. This has led to a change in how they are driving engagement – shifting away from past efforts to squeeze desktop ads into a handheld experience and instead creating holistic mobile strategies that put user experience at the forefront. 

With the spirit of the post-GDPR world we now live in alive and well within the festival, one of the key questions facing mobile marketers is how to develop new and engaging ad formats that consumers actually want to see. And everyone is clear: these formats must go beyond mobile banner ads with a clear and unrelenting focus on video.

The rising star of Cannes this year has been the emergence of opt-in video ads. These rewarding ads allow a user to choose to view an ad in return for an agreed upon value exchange, e.g. access to content, or some other form of value exchange. Historically opt-in video has thrived in the gaming environment, but with audiences expressing a growing preference for the format, brands and publishers alike are beginning to see the utility these ads offer across nearly every vertical.

Delivering a rare ‘win-win-win’ for advertisers, app developers and consumers, most at Cannes agree that the second half of 2018 and 2019 will see this advertising unicorn grow substantially, especially as both advertisers and publishers become more creative about the value exchanges at their disposal.

The flight to quality
The second and equally prominent topic this week was the ongoing need for greater transparency and investment in quality throughout the supply chain. Unilever’s Keith Weed kicked the week off calling for “urgent action to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever.” 

These stark words were yet another clarion call for the industry and followed similar calls for quality protection and anti-fraud efforts issued from Unilever earlier this year and from the world’s largest advertiser, P&G in 2017. The impact of GDPR has permeated everything from the late-night parties to the afternoon roundtable sessions, and has given greater urgency to the quality debate as brands, agencies and publishers now find themselves legally and financially liable for the actions of their advertising and technology partners.

This year’s Cannes reflected a new and promising culture of conscientiousness. A combination of deliberate bad actions, poor business practices and an overall ‘Wild West’ environment had allowed an almost ‘anything goes’ mentality to spread throughout digital in years past.

This is the environment Weed ‘urgently’ pushed back against this week and it is why so many here at Cannes have joined the growing chorus recognising that, in today’s market, choosing whether or not to partner with those committed to quality is a real and pressing choice every participant must make.

While Cannes is still a celebration, and a reminder of the great things the advertising industry can do, this year’s gathering demonstrates how much room we have to grow as an industry if we are to deliver the experiences consumers want and the quality brands demand. The good news for the overall advertising sector is that there is a renewed focus on consumer-friendly ad formats and the maintenance of overall quality which should set the industry up for greater long-term success.

Maggie Mesa is head of mobile at OpenX