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Thoughts from a Cannes Lions First-Timer

May 27, 2016 — by Joanna O'Connell

In three weeks, I’m headed off to Lions, France to attend Cannes Lions for the first time. It’s MediaMath’s fifth year sponsoring the event as a global company with deep roots in EMEA.

The Lions festival serves as a celebration of creativity, a term laden with traditional connotations such as beautiful TV commercials and innovative advertising ideas. But here’s the thing: creativity is bigger than spectacular ad creative. I was asked recently in a media interview if “creativity matters” in the new world of the data-driven CMO. “Yes,” was my answer in short-form, because creativity is as much about innovating in the face of change—thinking differently to solve problems—as anything else. Our world of programmatic and the world of “creativity” that Lions embodies are not oxymoronic at all—they have the capacity to be partners. Data and technology, when used wisely, and in concert, can breed more meaningful connections between marketers and their customers, transcending the bounds of individual channels or devices to deliver more customized content and experiences across the customer lifecycle.

Now more than ever C-level marketers are tasked with wisely choosing the best technology investments for their businesses.  And here, too, MediaMath’s presence at Cannes Lions is obviously important: we, along with other technology giants like IBM and Oracle and technology innovators like Rubicon, create an interconnected web that marketers should leverage to achieve their business goals. As omnichannel media management, goal-based marketing and the convergence of paid and owned media become more important to marketers’ success, this ecosystem becomes the foundation for unearthing new ideas, testing new processes and investigating new tools and services.

I, personally, am attending Cannes as an opportunity to connect with a high concentration of innovators, thought leaders and progressive customers and partners in the space. It’s a special thing to get all these great minds in one place, and to conduct meaningful, forward-thinking conversations and engage in non-traditional modes of problem-solving. There’s still a wide variety of programmatic adoption and maturity across the marketer and agency landscape, and Cannes is a great opportunity for us to both educate, and learn from, each other on what smart, sophisticated programmatic marketing looks like. In fact, we’re explicitly creating those opportunities for marketers and agencies through facilitated discussions throughout the week. I like the idea of connecting marketers of different backgrounds and adoption curves to learn from and work with one another. Cannes provides an inspiring setting for that by doing what marketers aim to do—create human connection through value, meaning and beauty.

We are proud to be an innovator and pioneer in the Cannes space, continuing to support the ever-growing community that comes together every year in the south of France to connect, learn and imbibe rosé. I hope to clink glasses with you there.

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.