The year of ad tech

In the weeklong hothouse of Cannes Lions, different themes, gossip and predictions rise and fall amidst the chatter between the seminars, after-award presentations, and the thousands of meetings that take place along the Promenade de la Croisette.

Certainly, the well-documented rash of media account reviews (more than 20 in the last eight months, representing between $17 and $25 billion in business) is a hot topic. Technology is undoubtedly one of the driving forces behind this phenomenon. With the rise of online video and the maturation of mobile and social channels, we marketers want to be sure we have best-in-class partners as the media mix shifts. 

Plus (and this will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog) there’s a desire for analytics that more clearly demonstrate ROI. Marketers are seeking next-generation metrics that reflect real engagement and value, not just clicks or likes.

It’s also clear that ad tech is a major topic at this year’s festival. Long-time attendees tell me that the presence of vendors in the ad tech space this year is unprecedented. 

And that makes sense. The ad tech marketplace seems to double in size each year. Earlier this year, put out this vendor snapshot that confirmed that I wasn’t imagining the increased number of tech pitches I was seeing in my inbox.

Many of them are here at Cannes too. 

And it’s interesting to me that one of the early Grand Prix winners (the first four were handed out Monday) comes from one of the biggest players in ad tech: Google.

Google Cardboard won the Grand Prix in Mobile, beating out thousands of app entries and digital ideas. The win was not without controversy: it was submitted directly by a client and not an agency and, technically, one of the most traditionally-technical prizes was captured by, well, a cardboard box

Ironic as it was, this illustrates what Cannes was designed to celebrate: innovation. This low-cost virtual-reality solution created a platform that opened the door for others to create their own ways to use technology. 

I’ve written before about how platforms like YouTube gave Doritos a chance to embrace a customer co-creation program like “Crash the Super Bowl.” To me, Google Cardboard is another such platform whose potential has been barely scratched.

As technology dominates more and more of the buzz at Cannes and beyond, it’ll be interesting to see which of these break out to become true game changers and which will simply be swept into the bells n’ whistles box once the dust and glitter settles.