Man vs. Machine: Cannes 2016

Having just returned from the Cannes Lions Festival, I can say the next few years of marketing will likely be a struggle for dominance between man and machine.


IoT, marketing and machine learningIt’s no secret that the single best way to disrupt any industry is to reimagine its distribution model. With the rise of programmatic buying and the dominance and ascension of digital platforms as the primary growth area for media, it’s also clear that the distribution model of marketing has already changed and there’s no going back. Nor should we want to, frankly.


Why? There’s never been a better time or more opportunity for brands to have personal, relevant one-to-one interactions with customers and prospects. And thanks to emerging technology that can learn and truly immersive digital experiences being accessible and realistic on a mass-consumer level, things will only get more interesting. Tech is fueling exponential opportunities for customer communications. As we speak, marketing is approaching true ubiquity, for good or for ill.


But there was a subtext running throughout the festival this year. Many panels and presentations embraced technology, AI, bots and the IoT as welcome waves of the future. Others warned against relying too much on technological wizardry as a surefire way to stamp out that spark of humanity, creativity, inspiration and imagination that has always defined the greatest work in our industry.


So where should things settle — and where will they? What balance can we strike between algorithms, AI and the human element? And how can we leverage technology, data and emerging digital platforms to create more evocative, effective communications between people and brands that is empowering, compelling and valuable? In this coming hyper-technological golden age, what place do humans have in creating advertising?


These were the really big questions raised and debated at the biggest collection of advertisers and marketers in 2016. And they’ll remain the most intrinsic challenges in our industry for the foreseeable future. The answers will shape not only what marketing is, but also what it can become — and how.


My question is this: When IBM’s Watson wins a Lion at Cannes 2017, who will go onstage to receive it? :)