The week before Cannes your inbox lights up, brimming with emails from long-lost clients, agency friends and Cannes comrades asking if you’re going to the Cote d’Azur next week. Half the industry is buzzing in anticipation, the other half are planning their week of World Cup viewing. For me this year, Cannes was a chance to join my fellow founding members of the Digital Future Council as we strategise over the future of our respective creative and media worlds. To catch up with a number of industry partners, clients, agencies and, well, let’s face it… mates. It’s not all work.

The Digital Future Council had a villa a short walk from the Croisette and the founding members had sessions on Monday and Tuesday. Sessions centred on Blockchain technology and how it may affect the creative and media worlds. Much more to come on this (watch this space). The event was well attended and prompted a lively debate about technology and the future. I spoke with people from varying industries all tasked with understanding new tech roles for their business. It is clear the tech players are beginning to own Cannes. Facebook, Snap, Twitter, Google, Pinterest, Spotify all have prominent spots along La Croisette beachfront. Plenty more had their yachts moored up for intimate chats with the right person. But it’s clear the ad tech world is viewing Cannes with big cow eyes. Rubicon, Trade Desk and MediaMath booked out some nice spaces to party into the night, while the Media Agencies take their usual spots at large hotels. It definitely feels like the tech players and publishers are splashing the cash to get in on the action.

Despite Lion’s creative heritage and emphasis on being creative, this year’s festival was dominated by technology. Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and printing technology, and how these technological advancements are about to change the face of the creative and media worlds. With well publicised decreased agency presence, the void was filled by digital firms shouting about their tech-based offerings. As well as entertaining the creative community nightly with live music, beaches and of course cocktails, Minuty and Lager beer on tap (they know us so well.) So much entertainment was on offer that chats at each beach party invariably moved quickly on to ’where we going next?’ or ’did you see The Killers last night?’ or ’are you going to watch Duran Duran later?’ (incidentally overheard on the Croisette from a young Lion ’I think my mum saw Duran Duran once’ – man I feel old.)

So are the awards a sideshow to all of this? I don’t think so. The two mutually exist. While there were several peers I spoke to that by Thursday hadn’t even picked up their delegate pass, there were quite a few discussions about shortlists and awards from that night or the next. I was really pleased to see the hard work I put in with the Cannes Lions Outdoor team come to life on the awards side of things. For too long I’ve written about how the categorisation of Outdoor has almost excluded Digital. It’s now fully integrated into the Outdoor category, though judging by the shortlists and entries it’ll take a few years to bed in on both agency and judging sides. Don’t get me wrong, there were some very worthy winners, but there were also again some technically suspect entries with poor categorisations.

In amongst everything were some real flashes of brilliance, and a real stand out I thought, was McCann London’s, XBOX Dynamic Campaign Outdoor win. A very smart and dynamic way to promote a product they were not allowed to talk about. Outside of that, it was great to see our partner Adam and Eve do well at Lions, especially for the great Project 84 campaign, but also in reclaiming the coveted agency of the year award.

Tech tech tech. This platform. The whole thing is pointless without effective creative, storytelling and crafting. So the question is: With all this technology, from sponsors, platforms, publishers, media owners, tech providers and future thinkers are we ruining the ’festival of creativity’?

I cannot see it changing anytime soon. Creative and Media are a huge business. And Tech knows it. Tech is rich. Tech is powerful. Tech can woo your client on the yacht while you’re watching The Killers.

We are stood at the very beginning of a transformation of the media and creative worlds in terms of digitisation and technologification. Predictive analytics and artificial intelligence are set to change the way we buy, distribute and attribute campaign work at scale. Smarter integrated campaigns, with better results for clients. Transparent in their process through the implementation of blockchain technology throughout the entire campaign. There is still a race to be the first. I feel there should be more pressure on collectively being ’the best’ as industries, working collaboratively to build a brighter technological future so that smarter creative can make the whole thing work.

Daniel Dawson, CCTO Grand Visual

Google is launching a tactical, data-driven digital OOH campaign to promote its second-generation smartphone, Pixel 2. The campaign uses location, audience, traffic, and moment specific data, to run contextual messaging across road, transit, and retail locations in a nationwide push from 6th November – 18th December, followed by a Christmas specific push which runs through to 31st December.

Created by BBH and produced by Grand Visual, the campaign highlights 5 key features of the new Google Pixel 2; Assistant, Lens, Storage, Battery, and Camera. The campaign brings each feature to life by responding to conditions at each location to trigger the most appropriate feature in that moment and to contextualise creative at a city and even fashion, food or nightlife hub. The campaign also takes into account, traffic delays, time of day and key dates such as Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve to provide relevance in its messaging.

On Friday night, for example, digital billboards close to nightlife hotspots could ask “Did my nightlife just get brighter?” whilst displaying the Pixel 2 with low-light camera. Alternatively, heavy traffic at roadside and transit locations could trigger creative for Google Assistant and query “Could it win me points for punctuality?” with an image of someone running for transport. All photo imagery used in the campaign was shot on a Pixel 2 and taken by fashion and food influencers.

On London bus lines, digital, geo-targeted side panels will display messages such as “Pixel 2, now at an EE store in Hackney” will display and adjust depending on the neighborhood or particular landmark the bus is passing.

The media was planned and booked by OMD and Talon and spans 8 cities and 7 different media owner inventories. To enhance the contextual relevancy of the campaign, artwork is dynamically triggered through OpenLoop which integrates traffic, rail, time of day, and location data, and automates the delivery of specific creative when predefined conditions are met.

Dan Dawson, Chief Creative Technology Officer at Grand Visual, said:

“Using data to inform digital OOH creative keeps messages targeted and useful throughout the consumer journey. By exploiting the context effect, Google has created a compelling call to action that is aligned with the consumer mindset.”

*Article first appeared on Exchange Wire 21st November, 2016

In the last ten days I’ve travelled extensively by plane, train, automobile and bike. I’ve been to four states, on both coasts, and encountered thousands of adverts. These ads were not viewed on my laptop thanks to an ad blocker, nor on my phone where I run very few free apps, and I didn’t see them on TV thanks to the fast forward button on my DVR.

What I’ve seen are thousands of Out of Home (OOH) ads both print and digital. This may not surprise you given that the US is the world’s largest OOH advertising market, by revenue. Impressive digital OOH (DOOH) growth continues to buoy the sector and is set to capture 53% of total US OOH ad spend by 2018, according to eMarketer.

But, as I travelled about, I got a nagging sense that the creative evolution of the medium has not kept apace with the technological advancements, and that brands are not making the most of the mediums fully expanded digital feature set now on offer.

NYC – the Digital Theatre
Back in New York City, my home for the last three years, the pace of change across the DOOH landscape is breathtaking. Driven by significant investment in the realm of nine figures, NYC is by far the most valuable OOH market in the US. Its population density and extensive public transport network, make it an atypical American city, and the scale of investment going into the city’s DOOH architecture is a testament to this.

The opportunity to turn the whole of Manhattan into a digital theatre, where a brand can tell it’s story, will soon be the biggest and best opportunity in the world. Consider what’s already there; The New York City Subway is at the forefront of the US’ transition to DOOH formats. Screens are ubiquitous across the networks platforms and stations, providing essential customer information and offering high value display advertising.

The Westfield World Trade Center recently opened with a single screen that’s over 280 feet long in addition to the rest of their downtown “DOOH District”. Intersection’s LinkNYC has new kiosks popping up everyday and with free Wi-Fi usage now surpassing 576,000 people, and still growing. Outfront have their Hudson Yard network, JCDecaux are adding more digital transit shelters to their network and other large format displays are constantly appearing.

The digital inventory is there, as well as addressability through platforms such as OpenLoop. When you combine this with the additional plug-in features such as WIFI, multi-screen synchronization, full motion, geofencing, mobile and social integration, live feeds, closed networks, and multiple attribution methods, it is clear the advertiser has a huge choice before them.

Embrace the Technology
Going beyond DOOH’s impressive broadcast capability, the infrastructure is now there to facilitate smarter more intelligent communication. It’s a much richer canvas on which to tell brands stories. Dynamic, interactive, and data-driven campaigns, reflecting real-world events in real-life environments are now possible. For advertisers looking to make a splash in NYC, it means you can connect with consumers via multiple formats, touchpoints and technologies during the course of their day.

As data becomes increasingly important there is a real opportunity to harness the ‘Context Effect’, where dynamic and locally relevant conditions can inform and drive content and supercharge campaign effectiveness. With its public, high-impact presence, DOOH is perfect for Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) and the medium deserves a fresh and engaging creative approach that resonates with context and audience mindset.

Programmatically informed creative is already making in-roads in the US. Earlier this year Amazon launched a people-powered DOOH campaign for Catastrophe, inviting the public to tweet in their favourite themes from the series, like #Sex or #Romance. A live poll mechanism then delivered trailers tailored to audience preference, continually adapting and changing over the course of the campaign according to audience interests.

Google Play Music took this a step further when it delivered the first programmatically informed DOOH campaign to span four States and multiple media vendors. The initiative saw premium roadside and city centre screens behaving in a similar way to the music app – offering perfect soundtracks based on the consumer’s mind-set in that moment.

The campaign used multiple triggers including real-time traffic data, weather, location and time of day and OpenLoop delivered the contextually relevant playlists. Suggestions included Classic Rock Wake Up Call during the hectic morning rush-hour in Chicago, The Overcast Feeling on a cloudy day, or Hot Miami Nights: Latin House on a clear Friday night in the sunshine state.

Whilst it’s not surprising that heavy weight digital brands like Google and Amazon are leading the way with smarter dynamically optimised DOOH campaigns, the same benefits can be leveraged by any brand. The scale of investments being made in DOOH infrastructure in NYC mean that this is not a medium for only the brave; the risks are low and the rewards are high. Now is the time to embrace the technology and the burgeoning opportunities that make DOOH such an exciting space to work in.

The Brave New Advertiser
DOOH has the potential to play an integral role in NYC’s modern, WIFI enabled “smart city” infrastructure. But, navigating this increasingly complex landscape, and making it all work together with brilliant creative is an artform in itself. Whilst landmark campaigns from Google Play and Amazon will help to spur the market on to thinking more about DOOH as a smart, real time, data driven medium, at present, DCO campaigns remain the exception rather than the rule.

It’s time to tear up the traditional outdoor creative handbook and embrace the brave new world of DOOH – it’s a new way of thinking. Creative agencies are best placed to drive the growth and adoption of this brave new world of DOOH, alongside production specialists and media owners who can provide the insight and know-how to handle the nuances of the medium.

One of the first important steps is prioritising your data strategy over your creative one. From a creative perspective, we can access an enormous amount of data to contextualise copy. There’s location data, 3rd party data and brand owned data including pricing, stock levels, retail stores. Through these layers of data, we can exploit the ‘Context Effect’ – providing dynamic, data-driven and locally relevant information.

To realise DOOH’s true creative potential the industry needs to adopt a new cohesive approach to working – based on a frequent interface between agencies, production house and media owners. More broadly, the market needs to attract those from a digital background, whose expertise will help to boost new creative ways of working. The most successful projects feature true collaboration with all stakeholders working together.

Looking ahead to 2017
Digital OOH, plays a key role in creating exciting, modern and memorable cityscapes. Nowhere is this more visible than in NYC, where the medium continues to evolve at breakneck speed with a sophisticated, world-leading DOOH infrastructure in place.

Now is the time to make NYC a leading light for creative excellence. To do this we must embrace a new collaborative way of working, and we must challenge every brief response with smart digital enhancements. Only then can we drive creative standards and help spur the medium onto a more dynamic reactive, and relevant future – a future which will see the city’s agencies topping the leaderboards of outdoor advertising award programmes around the world.

A still of the animated artwork for the new Lynx deodorant cans

Every six years or so, the iconic Lynx deodorant can gets a redesign, so this June, saw the reveal of a brand new can design dubbed Polaris.

The launch of new “squound” (as in, both square, and round) design was accompanied by a linear digital out of home campaign that ran on digital escalator panels around London.

Creative featured the various iterations of the new can (Peace, Apollo, Dark Temptation, and Excite) amidst swirling light trails accompanied by the phrase “All new Lynx. Upgraded.”

The media agency was Kinetic, digital production was by Grand Visual, and the media owner is Exterion Media.