Giri Jadhav
Four New Norms for the Advertising Industry

Now that Cannes Lions is over for another year, it’s time to take stock of the insights and inspiration from the week. A number of common trends and themes emerged in the Palais — here is what everyone needs to know right now as the industry continues to evolve.

Nobody cares about brands.

A recent meaningful brand survey shows that 77 percent of brands could go away tomorrow, and it wouldn’t make the slightest difference to consumers. For the most part, they simply don’t care about brands, and no amount of shoving comms down their throats will change that. Instead, we need to make a genuine connection. That means finding ways to reach the consumer when and where they most need us, in a way that is not invasive, but emotionally relevant and enriching.

Creativity must be future-proof.

As digital technology continues to fragment the media landscape and create a more competitive marketplace where the customer is more knowledgeable than ever before, it will be essential to invest in talent that is more holistic and can encompass the holy trinity of data, technology and creativity. All-rounders who can be copywriters, technologists, and activation experts are the new unicorns.

As for the idea that artificial intelligence will leave us all unemployed, don’t worry. AI will not take over creativity as long as human beings have curiosity and imagination: it will act as an assistant. AI works best when producing work based on previous data — only people are capable of creating something entirely new.

Conversation shapes culture.

The bizarre myth might persist that brand accounts are run by interns, but your tone of voice on social media is so important. Interacting directly with your consumers, at such scale, cannot be left up to chance.

This doesn’t just mean peppering your communications with a few memes. It’s about listening, understanding the conversation curve, and knowing if and when your messaging will be welcome. Every day on people’s feeds there are niche micro-moments where many brands would come in swinging like a sledgehammer —you need to speak Twitter. Brands that have been able to achieve this, like Oreo and IHOP, have experienced increases in sales and remained top of mind months later.

Brand activism has to mean something.

Brand activism can be a double-edged sword. It presents an amazing opportunity to make a difference in the world through impactful action, but if that is not driven by authentic intent then people will be able to tell, and that could spell death.

As a brand, what you say your values are, and how you behave, have to be the same thing. So much of the criticism around brand activism is that it’s seen as cynical or opportunistic, e.g. corporations dressing their logo in rainbow colours during Pride month without taking any further steps to actively engage with and support the LGBTQ community. You can’t be afraid to ruffle a few feathers.

There can be a lot of fear on the part of stakeholders when it comes to telling the whole world your brand’s stance on an issue, as it always comes with the risk of alienating a portion of your customer base. But the key part of activism is “active”: it’s about actually doing something, about standing up for a principle or cause, even if that means losing some customers. A prime example of this is Nike’s recent campaign with Colin Kaepernick: the brand provided a platform for the athlete to share his own story. The voice was his. And yes, it provoked backlash, but the positive responses far outweighed the negative.

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