Technology And Advertising, Together At Last

BBH Labs founder Mel Exon reports on a more meaningful relationship blossoming at Cannes.

I suspect 2011’s Cannes Lions festival may be looked back upon as the year advertising and technology agreed to meet and get married on the beach. Sure, previous years have seen tech company attendance (Yahoo! is a regular at the festival) but this year the commitment to one another was unprecedented, visible and visceral.

Unquestionably, the two industries have much still to work out about each other. Nonetheless, the re-branding of that bastion of old school ad cool, Cannes Lions, as a ‘festival of creativity’ this year signaled a broadening mindset. And Facebook’s VP of Global Marketing Solutions, Carolyn Everson, took a big step towards agencies, speaking compellingly about Facebook as a "platform for creativity" and the company’s desire to "stay small and empower agencies." On the very same day, Eric Schmidt was on stage declaring that "hell has frozen over..we would never have thought there was value [in a Super Bowl ad].. We strongly believe advertising has value." Importantly, the brand also picked up a pride of Cannes Lions this year, thus proving again that the appreciation flows two ways.

This shared acceptance spilled out beyond the seminar speeches and awards. Having done some early reconnaissance at last year’s Cannes, Google’s Tom Uglow came to the conclusion that "people want decent wifi and fairy lights". A year later, surveying an array of geeks and ad types happily mingling on the beach at Google’s Creative Sandbox, it’s hard not to agree. Designing a space like this for all comers is laudable, but more than this, the approach said loud and clear that the company values its relationship with the creative community and has something to show them about giving back; about being open, versus closed.

The ubiquitous bottles of Rose lined up on tables along the Croisette may be delightful, but finding uniquely useful, entertaining ways to enhance each other’s experience is a lot more fun and well, different. As John Hegarty’s speech on Friday spelled out, as humans we’re hard-wired to respond to difference: "difference wakes us up". At Cannes this year, advertising and technology finally woke up to one another, properly and in public. I’m looking forward to 2012.

Mel Exon is a Managing Partner of BBH and founder of BBH Labs. Google is a client of BBH.

[Image: Flickr user Giampaolo Macorig]

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  • Mii

    I was pleased with the results that returned from Cannes, France this year. Many blogs talked about the importance of Tech in Advertising and how its use is now vital for it to stay competitive. The Social Practice provided a great slide share (  that shows the 12 most talked about trends this year. They address the issue of how Brands publish their points-of-view during real-time. Are they caring about the new and emerging platforms that we have today. The new Interactive TV's will provide a meaningful gateway to ads. Why isn't there much thought put in the distribution of content? 

    The secret to Lady Gaga's Image lies with the fact that she has never been seen wearing the same outfit more than once. She always keeps that in mind. The design of each occasion, or Social Network here, defines the types of content that should be shown. The plus side is it therefore creates an exclusive view for each network. If you were lazy, then you would wear the same thing, talk the same way as if you are presenting yourslef to the same crowd.

     API's are tricky, they create a seamless flow of information to adjacent sites. How will cloud computing evolve with respect to the interactive TV? Will everyone know what you are watching? Constantly watching. Does it divert the user to unnecessary attention? Or are they really interested to know. We have to watch the same shows? Share what we think is funny or not. Suggest our opinions to each other what 'You Would Have Done In Their Shoes'. Be the best fans ever. That way, if all is fair, we shall all subvert in the endless debates of publishing.