Hottest Topics At Cannes Lions 2024:
Ad Tech, AI & The Future Of Creativity

 

The 2024 Cannes Lions Festival proved once again to be a hub for the latest thinking about innovation, technology and the future of advertising. Many advertising and tech thought leaders also called for change at this year’s gathering.

 

Yes, We Cannes! 

Some feel that advertising’s growing technological sophistication has left us out of touch with its creative spirit. Laura Desmond, CEO of Smartly.io and DoubleVerify board member, challenged ad and marketing leaders to return to their roots and embrace what makes Cannes—and the industry—great. 

Laura says, “It is about creativity. It is about the big idea. It is about understanding and meeting consumer needs with surprise and delight. It is about ensuring the advertising experience is meaningful to people, simultaneously powering brand love and driving brand performance.” 

 

Harnessing AI’s Power 

Of course, AI is the most exciting new dimension in our understanding of advertising creativity. Our work in ad tech has already shown that it has changed how brands engage with consumers. But exploring how AI and human creativity work together is even more compelling.  

AI-powered personalized advertising is becoming more sophisticated. It allows brands to deliver hyper-targeted messages that resonate with individual consumers, create a highly customized version of a message in an instant and even predict trends. Last year, the Cannes conversation was all about AI’s rise, but in 2024, the industry presumes a transformative role for AI. 

Perhaps most importantly, AI is already having a democratizing effect, allowing a small business or emerging brand to harness the same AI-powered marketing as a mega-brand. That signals exciting work to come. 

 

Retail Media Networks Surge 

The buzz about retail media rivaled even AI talk at Cannes this year, as retail network festival events dominated the beach. Amazon led the surge, earning $46.9 billion last year from advertising, mostly from sponsored ads on its site. The Harvard Business Review notes that the number exceeds Coca-Cola’s annual global revenue—an astonishing benchmark. 

Even before Cannes, Axios reported furious retail media dealmaking, including partnerships between Kroger and Yahoo, Best Buy and CNET, Instacart and YouTube and a pending agreement between Walmart and Vizio.  

Mike Brunick, Senior Vice President and Head of Commerce Media at Yahoo, told Axios, “Everybody wants to be a media business,” even though he commented that not every player can sustain it. However, retail’s first-party data and closed-loop attribution are increasingly valuable for marketers looking to target outside purely retail channels. 

 

Sports Storm The Beaches 

As virtually the only appointment-viewing programming left, sports has always connected with advertisers. And on the eve of the 2024 Olympic Games, marketers cheer them on, especially as interest in women’s sports runs up the score.  

The beaches of Cannes were dotted with celebrity athletes, sports media personalities, and themed receptions by the biggest players in marketing. Popular sports from WNBA to pickleball, coupled with the excitement around female stars like Caitlin Clark and Coco Gauf and the move toward streaming, made sports marketing and athlete-focused content a winner at the festival.  

“Every brand should be asking, ‘How should women’s sports be part of my strategy?” Kristyn Cook, CMO of insurance firm State Farm, told Digiday. “It could be talent. Telling incredible stories of these women. Not just what they do on the court but what they do in communities and their fashion — because that’s part of culture too.”  

 

Turning Green Intentions Into Action 

After being heckled by climate protesters and criticized for private jet use and extravagant events at previous Cannes festivals, digital advertising leaders buckled down to determine how to move forward more sustainably.  

At the 2024 Cannes, the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) and Ad Net Zero unveiled new standards for measuring carbon emissions from digital ad messages. That means marketers can back up their green claims with solid benchmarks instead of fragmented data. It may also mean that sustainability budgets are set to rise and that fresh investment will pour into collaborative efforts to cut emissions. 

Of course, the ultimate digital advertising efficiency means more precise and brand-suitable targeting, reducing ad waste and noise while amplifying signal. And the most powerful technology for accomplishing this type of optimization may well be—you guessed it—AI. 

 

About The Author 

Dorothy Crenshaw, Chief Public Relations Officer at Mod Op, has provided the inspiration and initiative behind a range of high-profile and award-winning campaigns for clients in technology, retail, consumer products and health promotion. She founded the New York PR agency Crenshaw Communications in 2009, which was acquired by Mod Op in 2022. An industry influencer, Dorothy speaks frequently on brand-building, marketing to women and brand reputation topics. She serves on the Board of Charity Navigator and The American Marketing Association New York. Dorothy was named one of the industry’s 100 Most Powerful Women by PR Week.