The future of digital marketing: Insights from Cannes Lions 2017

The advent of digital has changed the way brands engage with consumers. From telling their story to connecting with audiences, the recent Cannes Lions festival was testimony to the fact that possibilities in marketing today are limited only by imagination.

The events at Cannes were retrospective of the key highlights over the past year as it acknowledged the big achievements. More importantly, however, it turned the spotlight on some of the key themes that brands can expect over the coming year. Among them were topics around the growing importance of the brand and consumer experience, as well as the imperatives of digital and data.

Blurring of media lines

Once a buzzword, the word ‘convergence’ has taken a back seat this year. Instead, media companies today are welcoming advertisers with open arms as they extend the brand experience across different screens and platforms. For an effective brand experience to happen, marketers need to look beyond their brand, and think about how they can build an effective ecosystem for their audiences.

Whether it’s evolving to better adapt to new platforms, or curating and repurposing content based on channels of distribution, the blurring of media lines has created many new opportunities. Inevitably, this also means there is more room for mistakes if proper research is not done. The pressure is on marketers to act fast, while remaining true to their brand’s identity.

Social media dominance

In a world driven by social media, it is essential to understand different social channels and how they operate. Moving away from traditional platforms, consumers today get most of their information through their Facebook feed, engage with their friends through photos on Instagram and Snapchat, and learn new skills on YouTube. With the right digital skills and expertise, brands can extract and leverage relevant data to better understand their audiences and serve targeted ads. Let’s not forget dark social, which is also showing high levels of engagement. Moving away from a mass approach, consumers today value personalisation in the messages that they receive.

With so many avenues, it is a constant challenge for marketers to balance the need for quality customer experiences alongside business demands for measurable KPIs. New ways beyond basic reach and engagement will have to be sought in order to accurately measure the business impact of social media advertising.

Spotlight on brand safety

This past year has seen a few hiccups in advertising, sparking anxiety around brand safety. The YouTube – Super Bowl episode this year that saw the ads of big brands associated with videos promoting terror groups was something that cannot be undone. As a result, the incident saw high profile global advertisers pull their ad spend from YouTube and Google’s display networks.

With digital advertising being such a close extension of a brand’s image, companies have become more cautious of publishers that are unable to closely regulate the experience for their audience. This could re-ignite the conversation around context and quality in content, and the focus on organic growth.

ROI-led innovation

Despite the risks, digital spend continues to rise with mobile ad dollars projected to grow significantly in the Southeast Asia region. The ability to execute big ideas can easily get advertisers carried away. As such, the need to have clear ROIs in place is required in order to prevent a spending bubble. More than creativity, marketers need to ensure their technology is aligned with the needs of its salespeople to meet business objectives.

The advertising space will also face higher scrutiny when it comes to spending as organisations pivot towards a more transparent, cost modelling system. Cutting down on agency representation and following the black box marketing model are some of the ways to manage cost in relation to revenue.

Data as building blocks

As media platforms become richer and take on new forms, finding the right channel to evaluate and adopt may not be as simple as before. Instead of taking blind risks, marketers should rely on data for insights that can point them in the right direction. Once seen as a bonus, it is now a requirement for brands to stay ahead of the digital game.

The Cannes festival has proven that the future of marketing and advertising is now, and it is up to marketers to take ownership and grab the opportunities available. Having access to relevant and well-curated data will enable them to create a complete ecosystem that flows seamlessly from one platform to another. Being informed of the audience and their needs will also help marketers in their decision-making process by lessening the fear of the unknown.

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