Cannes Lions 2024: Ad-Tech Industry Leaders Give Their Take

Cannes Lions 2024 reflected an industry that has progressed from talk to action when it comes to AI, cookies and commerce media. Elsewhere, chat on the French Riviera turned to the rise of CTV and the need to work harder than ever to gain consumer trust. Below, experts from ad tech’s ’s most influential companies share their insights from the annual festival of creativity.

AI has transitioned from education to implementation

Back in 2023, Cannes attendees were still unpicking the impact of AI following the launch of ChatGPT in the previous November. This year, the focus shifted to implementation.

AI tools will play a key role in helping independent agencies remain competitive, says Jason Warner, Director, UK and EMEA, SBS:

“This year, discussions around the technology were serious and grounded, with conversations about how AI tools can enhance programmatic trading capabilities, but not replace them. With the deadline for cookie depreciation inching closer – barring another delay from Google – it was interesting to hear how AI will play a key role in helping to bridge the attribution gap.

“The conversations highlighted how these tools can be a game-changer for independent agencies. If they are to continue to deliver on their client’s advertising goals efficiently and stay competitive, embracing automation and curation tools will be key.”

However, as AI becomes an industry inevitable, we must be careful not to sideline creativity, says Lawrence Horne, UK Country Manager, Ogury:

“The future of cookieless advertising was front of mind for many at this year’s event. The panels we hosted on the topic at the Ogury suite were particularly informative, featuring leading industry figures from top-tier companies such as Google, Future, Omnicom, Yahoo, and Raptive.

“Unsurprisingly, AI also took a central role. But this year, it was interesting to see an increase in concrete applications for this rapidly evolving technology. I was impressed by the practical use of these tools in tasks varying from content generation to the automation of advertising campaigns.

“However, there was a notable divide between the creativity discussed within the Palais des Festivals and the innovation of ad tech companies throughout the city. This divide doesn’t help brands, marketers, or ad tech companies but possibly further confuses the topic. We need to work harder to integrate all aspects of the advertising ecosystem so all players can benefit at future Cannes events.”

Continuing on the theme of creativity, practical testing and training are essential to overcoming reservations about AI’s impact on this, adds Federico Salvitti, VP of Growth US, MINT:

“Marketers this year are confronting the specific opportunities and challenges introduced by AI. For example, there is growing apprehension that Gen AI will have detrimental effects on creativity, as well as the job market, but I think the positives far outweigh these potential downsides.”

“I encourage everyone to test and train with AI to understand its benefits for their business. This technology is here to stay, so it’s crucial for the industry to adapt and prioritize change management.”

Trust and user privacy take priority

As privacy measures work to help companies regain trust from their audiences, the fragile consumer-advertiser relationship faces the threat of fake advertising and brand safety worries.

Potential misuse of AI means advertisers must work even harder to gain consumer trust, says Csaba Szabo, Managing Director EMEA, Integral Ad Science:

“This year, driving efficiency and productivity was top of mind for many, but so was the threat of misinformation and deep fakes. It was, therefore, encouraging to see the excitement around what the next generation of brand safety solutions will look like.

“Fraud and viewability are table stakes for marketers now. Dynamic and innovative brand safety solutions using real-time data and delivering proven business outcomes are what the industry craves, and AI can play its role in delivering these tools.”

Continuing the topic, Nick Henthorn, SVP Sales, Europe, InfoSum, says that (like AI) data clean rooms have evolved from a discussion topic to a practical necessity for innovation.

“Last year, the conversations at Cannes were about people understanding data clean rooms as a new technology and the limitless potential they can deliver. This year, those conversations have progressed from education to implementation, being more use-case driven, with discussions of new and innovative advertising solutions that can be built on top of that technology.”

Demand for quality advertising inventory has never been stronger

Advertising attendees welcomed the end of Made For Advertising sites (MFAs) and celebrated publishers’ efforts to increase the quality of inventory.

According to Madi Bachar, VP Global Sales, MGID, publishers recognize the need for quality inventory at a time when return on advertising spend is more important than ever:

“AI and MFA sites were front of mind for many at the event, leading to interesting discussions around filtering quality inventory for advertisers and how publishers can contribute to creating a premium open internet. Meanwhile, publishers discussed how they can develop and sell unique advertising products, helping them stand out in a crowded market while ensuring the health of the advertising industry across the entire programmatic chain.”

Commerce media remains prominent

Another Cannes 2024 hot topic was the need for brand marketers to re-evaluate their understanding of generational consumer behaviors.

Nick Morgan, Founder and CEO at Vudoo, says shifts in shopping habits are universal:

“Audiences of all ages are adapting their shopping habits to today’s technology, reflected in the phenomenal uptake of social commerce, led by TikTok. All consumers now have an always-shopping mindset when online.

“With consumers expecting all content and ads to be transactable, the future of shopping will change dramatically as content transforms into shopfronts across the open web. The rise of content commerce is a pivotal shift that will impact not just e-commerce and content creators, but all brands, publishers, and consumers.”

AI has the potential to supercharge retail media, says Tami Harrigan, Vice President, Privacy Cloud, AppsFlyer:

“AI and the appeal of rich first-party data from commerce media networks were front of mind at this year’s Cannes. While these conversations are continuations of the hottest topics over the past year, with more case studies and results shared by both new and longstanding players, it still feels like the ecosystem is in its infancy, especially when it comes to combining these areas to maximize results. Roadblocks around privacy and measurement still preoccupy discussions, and generating reliable campaign insights remains a concern.”

We are at the tip of CTV’s potential

It was fitting that real-time advertising was a focus during real-life networking at Cannes, says Virginie Dremeaux, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, International, FreeWheel:

“With streaming platforms hosting an increasing array of live sports and entertainment, discussions focused on how brands can harness opportunities to reach audiences captivated by these highly engaging and unrepeatable content experiences. As well as highlighting potential barriers, this included a strong focus on leveraging advanced programmatic capabilities to enhance the scalability, dynamism, and impact of in-the-moment inventory.”

Real-time delivery is just one of many benefits of CTV says Helen Keelan, Senior Sales Manager, LG Ad Solutions:

“There was a real enthusiasm at Cannes to explore the opportunities that CTV can bring to content publishers and advertisers. We are excited to see advertisers start to embrace new advertising opportunities like the Home Screen.  Other top areas of focus were the progress we’ve made in data privacy technology and that AI is moving out of the concept phase and more into the implementation phase.”

Until next year

As ever, Cannes delivered a full-color snapshot of the current state of advertising. This year, it indicated an industry committed to converting ideas into action and there is widespread hope that Cannes 2025 will yield the results.