The digital video tide is changing: in the market, and at Cannes

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As we head to the beauty of the South of France with sun cream, Speedos, and RayBans in tow, we should not forget that Cannes Lions was born as an international festival of advertising creativity. Today, whilst still a prestigious event in our calendars, it has grown to recognise this advertising creativity as well in the Health market, Entertainment Media and of course, Technology. Where once the Boulevard de la Croisette was the go-to destination for a glass of rosé with the largest agencies and broadcasters, it is now equally dominated by the giants of Google and Facebook.

We should recognise the changing tide for what it is: a reflection of evolving consumer habits, aligning with new innovative tech, and a pipeline of content that is created and crafted beyond the normal broadcast production ecosystem. But even with the increased focus on technology, the Cannes of today is no less about creativity. Indeed, the 2016 Innovation Lions Grand Prix was Google’s DeepMind, for an artificially intelligent computing system that used intuition to beat a human player at the ancient board game Go.

Digital video is a rapidly developing and creatively rich ecosystem. The new kids on the Cannes block — YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat — are each continuously expanding, refining, and ultimately improving their video capabilities, from both the user and marketer’s perspective. On the surface, their video-specific features and functionality have become more similar, however, key differences still remain for brands wanting to reach an audience with specific creative.

Every platform offers unique targeting capabilities, ad specifications, and clickable elements, and each offers campaign types that are designed to accomplish a specific objective, whether awareness or engagement. YouTube’s edge in audience retention can be attributed to users logging in specifically to watch video, but Facebook and Twitter are rapidly tweaking their respective video experiences to close this gap. Meanwhile, costs continue to evolve as the platforms mature. Pixability’s data suggests Facebook and Instagram’s cost-per-view numbers rose by 60% between Q1 and Q4 2016, as both algorithm quality improved and advertiser demand increased.

Along with the expanding ecosystem on mobile and desktop, walled garden inventory is also increasingly migrating to the living room. Walled gardens and other major tech players are making significant investments in over-the-top (OTT) video streaming, and social platforms are already driving viewership through apps on connected TV devices. Google estimates that 50% of the time spent watching digital video on connected TVs is on YouTube. Marketers must be prepared for social platforms to augment and monetize their content options to ride the OTT wave.

As the social video behemoths further establish their dominance, big brand players and their agencies are becoming more vocal about transparency. This swell of big advertiser pressure could ultimately lead to more unified standards and metrics. But in the short term, we’ll likely continue to see a tension between the platforms’ desire to maintain their differentiation, and the industry’s demand for unification.

Video, and specifically the premium video environments of these walled gardens, is indisputably gaining consumer attention and screen share, whether in the palm of consumers’ hands or in their living rooms. This certainly puts new demands on brands to keep pace with the changing ecosystem, but also opens up significant creative opportunities to tell brand stories in nuanced and effective ways. Despite who flies home from Cannes with the coveted awards this year, the ultimate winners of Cannes 2018, 2019 and 2020 will be the brands that can shed preconceived processes and mindframes — from creative strategy to media execution — and view this technological evolution as a natural one, and reflective of the new — and exciting — normal in our industry.

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