The Future Of Media? Look To Cannes

We have all seen enough charts, graphs, and trend lines showing the growth in broadband penetration, use of social media, and explosion of mobile apps, etc. We know where technology is going, from a quantitative perspective. But, it still leaves us with the question: what do brand owners do to leverage the trends in technology to their advantage?

One place to look for "the future of media" is the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. I recently served as a juror for the Media Lions and had the privilege of evaluating hundreds of entries from around the globe. The Media Lions is one of the fastest growing categories at Cannes with over 2,800 entries—up more than 30% versus last year. While not every entry was impressive, the sheer number of truly "wow" cases was overwhelming.

As we looked across the entries that made the shortlist, and certainly among the award winners, there were some common themes. The most impressive entries, delivering the best business results, were well integrated, multichannel strategic campaigns with digital media at the heart of the programs. In fact, a big surprise was that there we could not award a winner in "online" category. Digital media was a critical component of the most successful campaigns and yet none of the "online" entries merited an award. It begs the question as to whether it even makes sense to have specific categories for individual media types. It makes sense in the advertising categories perhaps, but rarely are great results achieved by using one medium alone, no matter where you are in the world.

We certainly debated what signal we might be sending as a jury by not having any award winners in the online category, especially given the growing importance of digital media. But, we ultimately concluded that we were making the right decision. There were certainly enough winners in the other digital categories such as social media marketing, mobile devices, and other digital media. The decision speaks to the fact that consumers are ultimately influenced by a variety of touch points and our mission as media professionals is to make sure that all the touch points are integrated effectively and truly working together synergistically.

The best entries were cases that succeeded at just that, using a variety of touch points in a very joined-up way to drive genuine business results. Virtually every single award winner had us saying collectively, "wow, I wish I had thought of that!" Take for example, the Grand Prix winner, Tesco's Homeplus Subway Virtual Store, from South Korea. Not only did this case make innovative use of technology (QR codes) and traditional media (billboards), but it was built on real insight about South Korean's attitudes to shopping and solved a strategic business challenge. The idea was to build a virtual store with posters in subway stations, exactly replicating the store's shelves so that consumers could shop using their mobile devices while waiting for a train. It was simple and effective.

Overall, as daunting as the task was to wade through the huge volume of entries, I left inspired by what I saw. It gave me a very clear picture of where media is going and what is possible. The winners were outstanding examples of how great media thinking can really deliver value on the bottom line for our clients. Few people can define what they mean when they say "I want more innovation" but we all can recognize it when we see it done well.

The experience was a strong reminder to me of the need for us to be brave and "look beyond the numbers" when developing solutions for our clients. I'm not saying the numbers aren't important. We are expected to be more accountable for our recommendations than ever before. But analysis alone isn't enough. Just crunching numbers doesn't lead to breakthrough business results. We need to be truly creative in our strategic thinking.

Lee Doyle joined MEC in 2000 and became CEO in 2007. He has a broad media perspective and was selected to sit on the 2011 Media Lions Jury at this year's Cannes Lions Festival—the most prestigious global awards competition in the advertising and media industry. His experience spans telecommunications, packaged goods, entertainment, technology, and automobiles. Current clients include AT&T, Campbell's, Colgate, Macy's, Novartis, and Paramount.

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