Last year I went to the Cannes Lions and one of the things that struck me was the volume of the conversations around data. You saw it in the presentations, the companies and organizations in attendance, and the general buzz around terms like cloud, IoT, marketing technology, innovation and data. Outside one of the conference halls, the organizers had placed quotes from advertising luminaries on the columns in the foyer. I was particularly taken by a quote from Sir Marin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, who said,
“Advertising is not an art anymore; it’s a science. I believe data informs great creativity.”
Cannes Lions Embraces Innovation
So it came as little surprise to me that shortly after the 2014 Cannes Lions, the event organizers announced that this year there would be a new “event within the event” called Cannes Lions Innovation. Sure, the cynical among us may look at this as a new revenue stream for the event organizers, and we can talk about what agencies could have done with the money instead of a Lion, but I think it shows an awareness of the changing nature of advertising that Sir Martin clearly sees as well. The huge growth of the Ad Technology, and increasingly the Marketing Technology, industries further demonstrates the direction things are headed in.
The Innovation jury was headed Y&R Global CEO David Sable, who I had the pleasure of knowing during my time as Creative Culturalist at Y&R New York. David and his international jury had a difficult job to do. As jurors in a new category, there was no history to reflect on in these categories. Ultimately, the jury didn’t award any of the entries a Grand Prix. Sable commented on the situation:
“It was really quite challenging,” he said. “We were very cognizant of the fact that you’re setting a benchmark, making a statement, you’re hopefully creating a bar you raise next year and the year after.”
The winners in the Creative Data category did showcase a growing trend in advertising and marketing. It’s not enough to just push product. The best work not only delivers a message, but has real impact on the lives of people. Gold winners included work for the Mexican Red Cross, Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Charitable Foundation “Change One Life.”
The work was diverse in terms of technology leveraged, but highlights the value of data, and the challenge of data in two key ways. From saving lives to affecting public policy, data has a potential real-world impact, but raw data is often so hard for people to synthesize and turn into something actionable that if often goes under-leveraged. That’s where the creativity of marketers come to forefront (and reinforces the quote from Sorrell). The Run That Town mobile game from the Australian Bureau of Statistics is a great example.
This quote from Sable really says it all:
[the work took] “the most shit-boring stuff you can ever imagine in your life, and turned it into something so compellingly interesting.”
Marketing Technology Needs To Embrace Storytelling
And that’s the key lesson for anyone making a mobile app or SaaS platform. How can you craft a story around the data you have? How can you make people feel something, even if you aren’t changing the world or saving lives? Changing behavior is incredibly difficult. You may have a superior product or platform, but if you don’t understand how to tell a compelling story about it, why should people take the time and effort to embrace it?
Having spent time now in the agency world and the marketing technology space I see the need for MarTech companies to tell a more compelling story. There are too many alternative solutions, in every niche, to just assume that the quality of your product alone will be enough. Regardless of what position you inhabit in the marketing stack, you have to matter to people. Saving time, reducing headaches, creating cost efficiencies, these all matter to people in business, but the story still needs to hold emotional impact as well.
MarTech companies can learn from other industries, both non-profit and for-profit, on how to tell those emotional stories. Even a technology company like Google understands the power of emotional storytelling. Now it’s your turn.