From Cannes Lions 2014: Less Is More, Please

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Paul SteketeeData-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Paul Steketee, head of paid social and emerging media capabilities at Merkle.

Some common themes are emerging here at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity: Data and digital are the talk of the town, and that’s OK.

Of course, the true spirit of this festival, which I am lucky enough to be attending for the first time, is indeed about the creative spirit. This includes ideas, storytelling and innovation at its core. And these goals are now more aligned than ever for marketers to integrate technology and creativity to enable better stories to more relevant audiences.

My background is in digital and integrated marketing, not in ad tech, and it is telling that this is my first trip to Cannes where many of my meetings are with platform partners like Pinterest, Twitter, Google and Facebook, as well as software and tools like the SalesForce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, MediaMath and the Rubicon Project that help enable our digital and paid social media practice to thrive at a scale never before seen in the industry. And they are all here as the infrastructure behind “automated” or “programmatic” media is now of critical importance for delivering the ideas. Creative teams and media teams can work together better than ever before to bring the message to the medium and drive business results.

One of the big trends and opportunities I see here is the benefit of platform consolidation, and therefore, simpler means of tracking impressions, engagements and conversions by limiting the number of different "software" that touches the consumer on their path to purchase.

The digital media industry is at an inflection point. Digital has overtaken traditional media in terms of time spent and we now need to simplify our “stacks” and technology solutions to deliver digital media at scale without needing to connect literally thousands of possible components. It’s just too complicated to “operationalize” 1,000 platforms, ad-serving technologies, publishers and target audience segments from desktop to mobile.

Thankfully, consumers are driving the industry to adopt solutions that do work in mobile, and that’s causing a rapid shift in which “stacks” advertisers and their agencies will choose to align.

There will be winners and losers. The trends below are already clearly emerging. The overall theme is less is more, and simplicity is a huge enabler to massive scale. Here are my bold predictions coming from Cannes. If they are mildly correct, maybe I’ll get invited back next year.

  1. All Web inventory will become accessible through a few entry points and the gatekeepers will be those who can connect to a real person, not a cookie.
  2. The “login” will be the key to open the gates. Platforms where consumers login early and often will win. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, Amazon and Apple are the winners because they have a real audience that is addressable at scale through their platforms and across the entire Web. Publishers will line up to integrate with this handful of large audience enablers that have repeat logged in audiences.
  3. The simple shift to targeting logged-in users will increase marketing ROI nearly three times, instantaneously.
  4. The clarity and precision of the “who” we are reaching across devices will enable more relevant messaging to these “known” segments.
  5. We’ll be able to deliver creative to various segments in the cadence and sequence of our choosing, which literally will enable sequential storytelling.
  6. Because of this and the resulting performance increases, the distinct importance of the roles of the media, creative, analytics and technology teams will become much more clear and allow for better work and results.

Simplicity at this scale means we don't need 1,000 components or 1,000 different ads. This allows us to focus our teams on aligning a few messages to a few key segments and delivering them with confidence that we can reach who we want, when we want – or even when they want to be reached for that matter.

Here's to simplicity in data-driven media … and creativity.

Follow Paul Steketee (@steketee), Merkle (@MerkleCRM) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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