Day Three at #CannesLions – The Future of Advertising


Rick Liebling

August 8, 2014 2 min read

Updated on September 19, 2019


Full disclosure: It’s France, I ate some pastries. Yes, they were delicious.

Right, on to the show. There was a focus on data today at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. I went to several sessions with really smart presenters who were clearly exceptionally bright data scientists. Bryan Melmed of Exponential gave a really thought provoking talk on Uber, looking at the company from both a data science and social science point of view. The argument has always been, “sure computers are fast and accurate, but they don’t have specialized knowledge.” That’s why you need a local bookstore, or a cabby. Until the algorithms, or GPS, become good enough.

Traditional cabs probably have about a year or two left before they disappear. But don’t get too excited Uber drivers, just wait until Uber partners with Google and their driverless cars. The point is, computers have us on the data, but soon they may have our number in other areas once though safe for humans as well.

Later in the day Decoded spoke about their Cannes project, Cannes Oracle, which is trying to pick the winners of this year’s festival solely by reviewing the data. They are pitting themselves against some media outlets and agencies that have also made predictions, setting up a classic man v. machine duel. But my question is, why does it have to be either/or? Wouldn’t the best way to predict the winners be a combination of algorithms and humans? At Unmetric that’s how we base our methodology, using best-in-class algorithms and then a team of human analysts looks at the data to discern patterns that, for now at least, humans are still best equipped to handle.

Finally, I attended the awards ceremony today and, to be quite honest, I was blown away by some of the Gold Lions and Grand Prix winners. Advertising gets a bad wrap at times, and rightly so, but the best of the best truly can lift the human spirit. I saw executions that helped children with cancer and generated needed support for war veterans.

What was just as interesting was the judges decisions to award campaigns that really pushed the boundaries of what “advertising” can be. Throughout the three days I’ve been here a constant has been the true transformation of the advertising industry. The notion of “art and copy” is well and truly a 20th century relic. A truly great and innovative campaign is going to include designers, coders, data scientists, artists, poets, architects, choreographers and a whole army of other skilled individuals.

I can’t wait to come back next year.

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