Cannes 2017: Programmatic Takes Center Stage

June 14, 2017 — by Joanna O'Connell    

Think back to 2007. George W. Bush was president. The iPhone just hit the market. The Cannes Grand Prix award went to a series of magazine ads for Tide Ultra laundry detergent.

I wasn’t at that show, but I would guess that programmatic wasn’t a huge topic of discussion.

But in 2007 MediaMath was actively thinking about a reinvention of marketing — with math and technology at the core.

And here we are, ten years later, in a very different marketing reality. And I think it’s amazing.

At this year’s show, I predict I’ll hear a lot about programmatic since today, two-thirds of U.S. display ad spending is being bought and sold programmatically. It is meaningfully infiltrating otherwise “traditional” media including audio and, critically, television and programmatic advertising technologies are increasingly connecting with marketing technologies to deliver seamless experiences across paid, earned and owned channels.

But I also look forward to discussions about the trends that will shape the next ten years. For my part, I’d love to hear and talk about: predictive analytics, new frontiers of addressability and a new definition of creativity that is built as much around distribution and targeting as what we typically think of as “creative.”

Predictive analytics

Machine learning is already making its presence known in our everyday lives: think customer-facing bots, robo advisors and Google searches. Now imagine a personal assistant that knows you so well it can curate your email, schedule your meetings and recommend you pack an umbrella when you leave home as rain’s on the horizon.

We’re just at the dawn of the near limitless applications of such machine-driven intelligence and marketers are just starting to realize its possibilities. As I’ve said before, integrated data coupled with omnichannel execution can expose patterns of behavior that marketers can use to predict what customers want and when, but the applications of this capability are still in their infancy. This can and will be game-changing for advertising, which has been built on the idea of mass exposure and communication instead of micro-targeting and personalized conversations, but is no longer bound by those traditional bonds.


Predictive analytics are the fuel for addressability at scale, that is, the process of honing the right message to reach a consumer at a specific point in the purchase cycle on a channel, format or device that can both receive and give data. That’s a fancy way of saying, two way conversations are possible between brands and their prospects and customers. Now is the time to start preparing for a future full of entirely new addressable channels: TV is the obvious example, but imagine when a consumer can have a conversation with her refrigerator about what brand of milk she should buy!


A new way of contemplating advertising requires a new contemplation of creativity. Advertising has always been premised on the idea of catching attention. But when the medium is no longer novel in itself, then the message must do the heavy lifting. That worked just fine when one brilliant TV commercial was enough — but in a highly fragmented world where consumers have increasingly high expectations, it’s just not enough anymore.

Because the concept of true addressability at scale is still so new to so many brands, the idea of bringing real creativity into this mix still feels far off for many. But as consumers get better at tuning out non-relevant advertising, ad creators will need to up their game — getting closer to the process of data-driven media planning and buying, understanding and mapping to deep segmentation, contemplating the implications of real-time optimization against business goals as messaging is contemplated… really, thinking about the medium and the message in the same thought, rather than as separate questions.

Next stop 2027

The last 10 years have ushered in nearly wholesale change in advertising and, more broadly, marketing. I would expect that the landscape of 2027 will be even more starkly different. It’s possible, for instance, that we will no longer be carrying our smartphones with us everywhere because we’ll be wearing smart glasses or some other device that we can’t imagine now. It’s also possible that VR will be so popular that it will really seem like a (normal) alternate reality for many. Now, for a second, think about what either — let alone both — of those things would mean for marketing! Head –> explodes.

What we can predict is that the industry will not stagnate. This is why I for one love this business — it’s never dull. And I can’t wait for another week’s worth of discussion at this year’s Cannes about how we all innovate, invent, reinvent or blow up today’s norms in preparation for our next reality.

For more insights on programmatic’s past, present and future, check out our #10Then10Ahead Content Hub!

Joanna O'Connell

Joanna joins MediaMath from AdExchanger where she was the founding member of the AdExchanger Research practice, developing syndicated primary research in the areas of programmatic advertising and audience targeting, and serving as an expert partner to marketers, agencies, publishers and advertising and marketing technology companies. Prior to AdExchanger, Joanna spent three years at Forrester Research, serving as Principal Analyst. Joanna has more than 15 years of experience in the marketing leadership industry. She started at digital advertising agency Avenue A in New York and was a founding member of Razorfish's ATOM Systems agency trading desk. More recently, she ran brand relations for the Audience on Demand practice at VivaKi, helping advertising clients target and optimize broad-reaching interactive campaigns. Joanna graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in psychology. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with departmental and general honors.