Why ExchangeWire Is Making Its Cannes Lions Debut

The title of this piece may illicit some barbed retorts, such as; ‘A week-long jolly on Cote d’Azur drinking Rosé and charging it back to expenses’, etc, etc. But the fact is, the scale of the presence of ad tech firms at the advertising industry’s most high profile summit is symbolic of the technology’s rising importance.

In fact the more bullish among ExchangeWire readers could say that ‘ad tech is taking over’. Read more for an ad tech guide to Cannes Lions 2014.

Simply put, the wider advertising industry can no longer afford to ignore its existence, or dismiss this as a niche technology. The days of the ‘Mad Men’ dominating the media plan are over, with the industry’s ‘Math Men’ (formerly known as the ‘data geeks’), now having an equal footing.

This was indicated earlier this year when ad tech companies, such as AppNexus, MediaMath, to name but a few, enjoyed top-billing along side the likes of international superstars such as Idris Elba in order to help attract the advertising industry’s key decision-makers to Ad Week Europe.

ExchangeWire surveyed the Cannes Lions conference centre – Les Palais desFestival – a day ahead of its official kick-off, and the amount of ad tech firms’ emblazoning its exterior suggests the sector is not just well represented, but out in force.

Perhaps there is no greater statement of this than MediaMath – buoyed by a recent huge funding round – sponsoring ‘Le Rooftop’, along with its OPEN partners. Here a series of seminars and workshops will be taking place in order to woo the hordes of C-level advertising executives that make key decisions on how budgets will be invested.

At tech dominates the agenda
During Ad Week Europe, Matt Scheckner, Advertising Week Europe, Executive Director, described ad tech as : “The prettiest girl at this year’s ball”. But ExchangeWire observed how more in-depth conversations would have to be had on such a stage if ad tech firms are to truly tame the wider advertising industry’s fear of its disruption/innovation.

Rather encouragingly, the industry seems to have heeded such sentiment, with several ad tech firms taking to the mainstream stage to openly address some of the nitty-gritty issues facing the industry in what appears to be an attempt to further transparency, and understanding of the technology.

An in depth look at the official conference agenda, reveals that Civolution CEO Alex Terpstra will be taking to the main ‘Tech Talk’ stage to discuss how TV ad campaigns can be synced to mobile devices (an activity that is notoriously difficult given the diminished ability of cookies to target on mobile devices).

Later on the opening day of the event, programmatic video companies TubeMogul and SpotXchange are hosting an off-site gathering where they will host a panel session discussing the concept of using programmatic video technology for branding purposes.

What makes this event stand out is the participation of some of the biggest brand advertisers in the business, notably Heineken, and Mondelez (along with trading desk Accuen and media giant Turner Broadcasting).

Transparency takes centre stage
TubeMogul intends to build on its presence at this year’s event, with its CMO Keith Eadie, taking to the stage later in the week to deliver a keynote address in the Tech Talk strand addressing the controversial subject of ad viewability (a key theme in the ad tech sector this year), in a presentation entitled: ‘Sorry, but no one saw your ad.’

Plus in keeping with the topic of increased transparency, Scot Knoll, Integral Ad Science, CEO, will follow this up to grasp the nettle of click fraud (a phenomenon that has generated no shortage of lurid headlines as of late) from the Tech Talk stage.

These are bold moves to make in such a public arena, and under the glare of the wider advertising industry.

A meeting of the minds between ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Math Men’
Another notable key theme in this year’s events programme is how ‘data scientists’ – or the aforementioned ‘Math Men’ – and traditional ‘advertising creatives’ are increasingly crossing paths, with the second official day of the event set to see Exponential take to the stage to describe how big data is the fuel for a new age of creativity.

Interestingly, creative agency Iris WorldWide is deploying its creative director Chris Baylis to take to the stage within the same 'Data & Insights' conference strand to demonstrate how it is now mining data sets to help refine its creative strategies, and client pitches.

Similarly, the online industry’s giants are also out in force at Cannes 2014 to demonstrate how their increasingly all-encompassing ad tech stacks are key to advertising in the contemporary era, especially when it comes to creativity.

Microsoft’s advertising division has inked a three-year agreement to become Cannes Lions’ official innovation technology partner, that will see its suite of products and services (such as its Surface tablets, and Windows Mobile smartphones) occupy prominent positions.

In an interview with the official conference daily news publication, Frank Holland, Microsoft Advertising & Online, corporate VP, urged delegates to incorporate data-gathering technology into their marketing campaigns. Although no mention of the Microsoft Advertising Exchange was made in the article, readers can be assured that Holland will be having such conversations with the aforementioned C-suite decisions makers in the days to come.

Not to be outdone, Google is hosting a five-day series of events, with one of the most interesting sessions noting how using its colossal swathes of search data can be used to gain insights to consumer behaviour, and unlock the next big creative ‘big idea’.

Ad tech is everywhere
All go these are but a tip of the iceberg, and much corporate hospitality will be indulged in over the days to come, on the yachts (see image below) and Five Star hotels along the Mediterranean coast line.

Quite simply, you cannot move for ad tech players at Cannes Lions 2014. Whether this will pay dividends, and lead to accelerated investment in ad tech, and improved trust in programmatic among key decision makers remains to be seen.

Both the presentations and sales pitches will have been well rehearsed, ExchangeWire will be on hand to chronicle its progress, and discern if any meaningful conversations will come of it all.