Cannes Lions 2009 Cannes is still in full swing for some, but I have bailed out. Perhaps it’s an age thing, but I simply can’t keep the pace with the plethora of Young Lions who have descended upon Cannes this year. Parties aside, is our industry getting younger, or am I just getting older? Maybe both? And that’s to say nothing of my memory – I have decided Twitter is my new online notebook. So reading back over my notes, let me summarize my own key take-away’s from Cannes 2009 for you:

The 10,000 foot view of Cannes shows there is a complete blur across the entire media landscape. Digital has well and truly begun to permeate everything. It throws questions on the various categories when Cumminsnitro from Brisbane’s ‘Tourism Queensland’ campaign – The Best Job in the World – takes the Grand Prix sweep stake for Direct, PR & Cyber awards. Where does one discipline end and another begin? Go Viral’s Chairman, Jimmy Maymann may well have made the case early on when he suggested the ‘median age for TV users are actually now 13 years higher than the general population.’ Nigel Morris, CEO, Aegis could not have put it more succinctly when he revealed research shows that ‘67% of searches online are result of exposure to offline media – 30+% of which result in actual sales.’ The online/offline debate seems to be drawing to a close – the media landscape is truly becoming one.

This is a feeling echoed around various seminars from Jonathan Mildenhall, Vice President Global Marketing Strategy and Creative Communications, Coca-Cola who feels that from here on in, ‘we need to see a lot of consolidation across traditional and digital agencies – all focused around consumer journeys’. Stefan Olander, Global Director of Brand Connections, Nike agrees; ‘It’s time to throw the silos off a cliff and seek to embrace a more holistic partnership throughout media. We must embrace consumer content’.

Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft The very fact that the Media person of the year is Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft Corporation, highlights this maturity in thinking that digital no longer represents mere rational technology, but it has reached the emotional connection sought by brands. As Olander revealed in thinking through the problem with modern brands trying to own the conversation, ‘there is now no way to own creativity then allow others to adapt it. We have to place tools in others hands and merely participate.’ It’s not just an admission that consumers are in control, but is a partnership of respect as opposed to dictatorship. Beyond the rar-rar it felt rather like a sixties woman’s movement for equal rights was being formed there in the famous Debussy theatre, but this time it was in favor of the consumer. Morris’ case study for Adidas Originals obtaining 1.4m fans on Facebook – with each person a potential sale of $200 per year per user – ‘that’s a tangible business case for Social Media, right there’ he said.

Turning to revenues and recession, Marcel Fenez, Managing Partner, Global Entertainment & Media Practice – PricewaterhouseCoopers opened with a very bleak overview ‘This recession is not cyclical – it’s structural. In 2013, ad spend will still trail 2007 levels. Advertising spending as we know it is not coming back.’ Backed up with the recession is driving many to seek a bargain online, Fenez said there is now ‘no place to hide from the digital transformation’.

So what does that mean for the advertising industry – has our illustrious budgets truly gone and a smaller Cannes the future new world order – shall we forever reminisce about the ‘golden era’ from here on forward? Steve Ballmer thinks so; “I don’t think we are in a recession. l think we’ve reset. Recession implies a recovery.”

According to research, Ferez suggests that people are prepared to accept ads, even targeted ads as trade off for privacy in exchange for great entertainment content’. Interestingly this seemed to be counter to what Steve Balmer said; who argued that creation of digital media is cheaper than other media. With special effects, and high statistical analysis costs am not convinced these truly offset the distribution of print for example as any agency would agree given struggles in day-to-day process. So should falling CPM costs and pressure on publishers be the order of the day?

Digital advertising offers a targeted message that reduces overall wastage afforded by traditional means of delivery. This means that better ROI will be achieved with less overall spends as there will be less redundancy. Volume and associated cost of distribution will indeed be less, but that in no way should devalue the media content in which it sits. Good quality content which advertising needs to sit against costs money. To take a short-term view of making a quick buck on reduced CPM will kill content creation and hamper the entertainment content of the future. Will brands really want to become content providers and all associated costs of doing so? There needs to be a balance.

Yes, brands are engaging more with their customers. But walking around the print and outdoor or TV showcases shows that advertising has always been about good content in its own right. It’s an incredibly powerful form of art, and truly beautiful to behold. It offers information and education, not just intrusion. Long may we protect this craft and seek to embrace this thinking in an ever increasingly digital world. Log on to and take a look for yourself.

Atrapantes See how the Grand Prix Outdoor winner, the Zimbabwean’s ‘Trillion Dollar Billboard’, seeks to usurp a fascist regime. Contrast that with the Jewish Council for Education and Research ‘the Great Schlep’ for motivating votes for Obama, a truly cross media campaign. See the use of mobile in ‘Let it Ring’ for Road Safety Awareness in Belgium and tell me that advertising is dead, in which ever form. Then check out ‘Banner Concerts’ from Boondoggle, or even one of my personal favorite’s ‘Atrápalo’ from DoubleYou for how to push the humble banner ad way out into the stratosphere. If you are still taking this all too seriously, Warner Bros’ ‘Why So Serious’ will certainly bring a smile to your face.

So whilst I digest all this and try and get my head around it all, my gut reaction is ‘no advertising is not dead, it just hasn’t become all it can be quite yet.’ Andy Berndt, Global Creative Director, Google nailed it when he admitted the ‘role of advertising as an interrupt model is a challenge for Google; who will search for something they don’t know about?’ Thanks Andy, I wholeheartedly agree, content and advertising flowing seamlessly around the consumer, causing them to stop and take note, discuss and then investigate more information.

Meanwhile the only searching I will be doing tonight is to ‘search’ the cupboards for an aspirin…

Reproduced as appeared on iMedia Connection