Two key and thorny themes will dominate the dialog during Cannes Lions this year.
And while seemingly disparate, they are actually very much entwined and integral to present-day survival and future success. First is the growing parity between programmatic and creative, and second is finding and keeping the talent capable of understanding and unlocking the potential of both.
This shift in focus toward tech and data was discernible last June when the ad tech armada literally dropped anchor in the Cannes Marina, with yacht after yacht manned by the ad tech-erati, dressed in their uniform of dark jeans, crisp gingham button downs and blue blazers.
They were cool, sure, but creative?
Some agency execs voiced laments that these dudes—and they were almost entirely male—were dampening the creative celebration that makes Cannes so special and the magic that brings the Swedish creative director with neck ink to pick up an award for breakthrough work and then heroically party his or her face off with creatives from Brazil and Los Angeles. You know, the fun part.
I asked—naively, in retrospect—the CEO of one of the biggest holding companies if he was at all concerned that ad tech had taken over Cannes. "They're the only reason I'm here," he snapped back, with a slightly withering glance. He didn't elaborate on what that meant exactly, perhaps looking for partners or an outright acquisition of capabilities he didn't want to, or couldn't, build himself. Either way, it was a clear signal to me that programmatic had arrived for the guys with real money, and its march into advertising has since been unabated and relentless.
The second talking point/obsession du jour is finding the talent to do all this art and science symbiosis stuff. These so-called unicorn candidates are the focus of a Tuesday afternoon Daily Dose track Adweek has programmed and convened in partnership with MediaLink in the Sean Connery Suite (alas, they wouldn't let me sleep there) on the top floor of the Carlton. It will ask the fundamental man vs. machine questions the industry is grappling with through the lens of talent acquisition and retention.
We also tried to find the right balance between tech and creative in our pre-coverage. Just witness the absolute frenzy of interest in Snapchat's co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel, interviewed by staff writer Garett Sloane and appearing on our cover this week. Spiegel is perhaps the festival's most anticipated main-stage voice, and his one-on-one interview with Cosmopolitan EIC Joanna Coles—a clever pairing indeed—will be standing room only.
In this issue, we also consider the work. In his annual roundup of creative executions to watch going into the festival, creative editor Tim Nudd curates 20 gems that inspire us all to try harder, think clearer and accomplish the epic.
It's why we all got into the business in the first place, right? We'll check the data stack on that, though—just to make sure.