This year’s Cannes Lions winner will not just be our peers, but consumers too, argues Graham Moysey, head of international at AOL.
Since moving to Europe a few years ago, I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to visit our French neighbours. From fine wine to fantastic skiing, France seemingly has it all – including what is arguably the best creative festival our industry has to offer.
No sooner have the red carpets of the film festival been rolled away, than the brilliant minds of the creative elite arrive on the French Riviera for Cannes Lions.
Since it was founded in 1954, the purpose of Cannes has been to inspire the best creative work through innovation, education and, of course, bravery. Now, 62 years later, the need for ambitious thinking and bold ideas has never been more important. We all know that the worlds of advertising and publishing are rapidly evolving. And we know too that consumers and their behaviour are at the heart of this.
A quick scan of this year’s event schedule might suggest some nervousness about the state of our industry. Titles such as ‘How to stop advertising and save our industry’ and ‘What if everyone is doing it wrong?’ imply we could be facing an uncertain future.
But rest assured, this is not the case. Cannes has always been about finding solutions and promoting change, and I believe the answer to our continuing evolution lies in putting the consumer first.
This is one of the key trends for Cannes Lions 2016, and by addressing some of the needs below, we can be confident that our industry and the people we ultimately serve will be winners in the long-run.
We need to have open relationships
By this I mean our industry’s relationship with today’s consumers. They want to keep things open and expect to be able to explore beyond just one screen, one format or one-size-fits-all messaging. They crave experiences they can engage with on their own terms and demand content that’s customised to their interests, exactly when, where and how they like it.
They are challenging us to do better and to be more inventive. Cannes, by its nature, thrives on openness; it’s a meeting of minds; a space to share ideas. We should extend this philosophy to the way we work with brands, agencies and publishers, as well as consumers. Only by having a collaborative relationship, will we produce richer content and more fluid experiences.
The consumer is always right
Today’s consumers are plagued by intrusive ads, slow load times, drains on mobile data, privacy concerns and irrelevant content. And they’ve had enough. According to market research company GlobalWebIndex, as many as 37% of consumers are blocking ads, resulting in billions of blocked ad spend.
Technology has turned the tables, shifting power into the hands of consumers. It has enabled them to make informed purchasing decisions, influence product changes by raising their voices or cut off bland and disruptive brand communications. In order to win over audiences in the current digital world, we must listen to them by adding value to their lives and relating to them on their own terms.
It’s time to leverage creativity through data
At this year’s festival, we’ll see how brands and publishers are improving consumer touch points by creating quality content that audiences find relevant and worthwhile. The guiding light behind this creative is smarter data and insights. And as more video content is consumed on mobile, we’ll begin to see a permanent move towards premium, and more tailored ad experiences. It’s something we’re addressing at AOL with the expansion of Partner Studio proposition – forging data, content and creative to deliver consumer-first interactions.
The future is virtual
It would be amiss to talk about Cannes without mentioning about one of the biggest technology and consumer trends of the moment, one that we expect to be a hot topic at this year’s festival.
It is predicted that we will be buying 24m virtual and augmented reality headsets a year by 2018*. With stats like these, it’s hard to see how some in the industry are still questioning the impact that Virtual Reality will have in our world and our consumers’ worlds.
A powerful storytelling tool, VR is a way for us to bring unique and immersive experiences to our consumers. For me, the most exciting thing about it is the intimacy it creates with the consumer, enabling us to put them first and transport them to a series of different worlds.
That’s why our recent acquisition of RYOT (a virtual reality content studio) is one of our most important. RYOT and The Huffington Post are now bringing some of the most important global news events to consumers through VR content, such as The Crossing, a unique record of the refugee crisis. I look forward to seeing what’s next for VR out in France later this month.
It’s easy to think that Cannes is all about the parties, the yachts and the glory of winning. But we would be nothing without the consumer. They are driving us to be more open, more collaborative and more creative. We benefit so they can benefit, which is why this year’s winners will not just be our peers, but consumers too.