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Three key advertising takeaways from Cannes Lions

July 10, 2017 | By Tim Mahlman, President, Ad Platforms—Oath @tmahlman

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity wrapped recently, and there was plenty for advertisers and marketers to chew on as they departed the French Riviera. Throughout the event, several themes emerged that seem poised to shape the rest of the year. Here’s a closer look at three in particular, based upon conversations we had with attending clients and partners.

Advertisers want more brand safety.

In the digital environment, which is a relatively open ad ecosystem, brand safety has always been top-of-mind for advertisers and agencies. Recently, given very public challenges for some platforms, brand safety is now front-and-center in conversations between brands, agencies and their technology partners. We saw this dynamic emerge at the NewFronts. And it continued – and accelerated – at Cannes.

Many platforms have responded by touting Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities for weeding out offensive content. But that’s only part of the solution. The most practical fix is for advertisers to work with trusted sources of premium inventory that can combine their supply with leading-edge quality control tools and technology. This is the most effective means of delivering true peace of mind for advertisers and boost brand safety.

Trust and accountability remain hot topics.

Trust and accountability were part of every discussion at Cannes. It’s clear that advertisers want and deserve deeper insight into how agency and technology partners act on their behalf. They want to know how their money is being spent. P&G is a good example. It announced a review of all media agency contracts this year to extract a broader transparency commitment and more granular data insights from “murky” agency and publisher relationships. That resonated at Cannes, where every buyer was calling for greater accountability across the digital ecosystem. Candidly, we think we led the discussion in how to get there.

It starts with the technology vendors and platforms. Advertising technology is the backbone of the industry. So, as supportive partners and category stewards, we have to take the lead and build and refine our services to deliver accountability. Third-party verification of inventory sources and attribution metrics is a first step. But beyond that, platforms need to be proactive, providing buyers with greater access to attribution data, making their technology stacks both vendor and media agnostic, and offering more programmatic transparency in areas like fees, CPMs and bids.

Immersive experiences are taking off.

Brand safety and accountability are critical. But at the end of the day, helping an advertiser engage their core audience effectively matters the most. To that end, “immersive experiences” were a centerpiece of this year’s event in Cannes, with an emphasis on mobile video.

Smartphones continue to grow as a screen of choice for video, rivaling desktop viewership consistently year-over-year. At Oath, we recently conducted a global study that found nearly 60%  of all consumers watch videos on their mobile phones every day. We are very close to the tipping point where mobile will soon be the number one video screen. What’s more, the rate at which consumers are adopting immersive, mobile-enabled video formats like VR, 360-degree video and live video, are surging. These types of experiences help brands reach their audiences in new and unique ways, through interactive storytelling. The technology to deliver immersion at scale has also improved, just as the audience’s appetite for immersive content has exploded.

Brand safety, accountability, and immersive experiences will continue to dominate industry discussions over the next several months. It will be interesting to see how they shape the ecosystem in the second half of the year.


Currently President, Ad Platforms at Oath, Tim has more than 20 years of online advertising experience living in Asia, Europe and the United States specializing in digital advertising platforms, data analytics and programmatic exchange-based technology. As President of Adtech Platforms, Tim’s role is to oversee all of the Demand and Supply Side engineering, product and business divisions that comprises of One by AOL, Brightroll, Flurry and Convertro, among others.

Tim came to AOL from the acquisition of Vidible where he was the founder.  As CEO, he oversaw the Video Content Exchange Platform that streamlined the way video content owners syndicate their content to publishers. While incubating Vidible, Tim was an Entrepreneur in Residence with Greycroft Ventures, advising portfolio companies such as Klout, Livefyre, elicit and Collective Media.

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