How Data Stole the Show at Cannes Lions 2022

By Ross McNab


Fresh off a week at the 2022 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, I, like many other attendees, have come home reinvigorated (and albeit jet-lagged) about how data will play a vital role in the future of advertising. Between hosting marketers at our designated spot on MediaLink Beach, my team was also able to attend awards presentations, panel discussions, dinner meetings and soirees with seemingly endless carafes of rosé.

Across the festival, an important theme emerged: Data has truly taken center stage. The Lions, known for showcasing brilliant TV spots, incredibly clever social campaigns, and wildly successful guerilla marketing, spotlighted a new set of awards this year for disciplines that were distinctly digital, namely ad targeting, campaign measurement, and omnichannel marketing. Winners in the B2B divisions included Sherwin-Williams and Spotify, while Mexico-based We Capital's "Data Tienda" took home the Creative Data Grand Prix, among other data-driven Cannes triumphs.

The winners should serve as inspiration for a branding industry at a turning point — where smarter and more precise marketing strategies are required to break through. While marketers are constrained by supply chain challenges, ongoing pandemic uncertainty, record-level inflation, and what appears to be the start of an economic downturn, one silver lining is that consumers are still spending money.

The recently released Cardlytics Q1 State of Spend Report — which looked into half of the debit and credit card swipes from December 2021 through March 2022 in the U.S. — found consumer spending was up 7 percent year over year, with travel/entertainment (54 percent ) and restaurants (16 percent) seeing the biggest jumps.

Although there was an increase in spending for Q1, the later part of March 2022 showed that consumers are slowing their spending and looking for frictionless ways to save on purchases. Brands should take note of this reality as the growth they were previously seeing may start to taper off. All of this is why the topic of leveraging data to optimize marketing budgets shone through this year — with brands detailing how they will focus their efforts on this vital piece through the end of the year.

Performance Measurement as Part of the Marketing Mix

Cannes demonstrated that it's time for marketers to rethink strategies and include performance measurement as part of the marketing mix. Unilever, Burger King and Johnson & Johnson were among brands that won Cannes' Creative Effectiveness awards, underscoring how business impact often means more than a genius concept. We saw this with how the Creative Effectiveness jury weighted the submissions: 25 percent idea; 25 percent strategy; 50 percent impact and results.

With that in mind, I believe incrementality will be a key ingredient for any campaign that wins performance-minded awards. Incrementality measures an outcome that would not have happened without a specific interaction between the brand and consumer. In advertising, it's a sales conversion that occurred because of exposure to an ad, which has been historically tough to measure. It allows CPG and retail marketers to understand which digital ads helped drive sales in-store and online, connecting the measurement dots for omnichannel campaigns. What's more, the regulatory and marketplace shifts toward privacy make incrementality a must-have superpower for marketers to understand the relationship between customers and desired business outcomes.

Incrementality is being increasingly embraced by brands like ettitude and Netflix because marketers are starting to think through a data-focused lens. And the Cannes Lions programmers clearly understood this shift, offering panel sessions about data innovation such as "Reconfiguring Retail," "The Collision of Brand and Digital Commerce," and "Marketing Experimentation as a Superpower," offering insight into the power of data.

Using Cashback Rewards to Encourage and Support Consumer Spending

Marketers departed from Cannes with three major shopping seasons ahead of them: Back to School, Halloween, and the holidays. For each season, historic inflation and high gas prices will have consumers thinking of frugal ways to pay for gifts and items they need this year.

The Cannes Lions' 2022 report, The Forecast on Retail, was released ahead of the show, and one of its main takeaways is to "offer planet-friendly options that can also save people money." This idea emphasizes the need for brands to also think about customers' wallets and help them buy the items they want and need.

One way to do this is to offer cashback rewards on their purchases via digital ads. This is what brands such as Walmart, ShopRite, and Five Guys have done in recent months. These offers will resonate with folks who are concerned with rising prices on the shelf and at the pump and help build customer loyalty in uncertain times.

Additionally, brand marketers can get first-party purchase data that they can use to tailor their ad campaigns. The best way to determine future purchases is to look at past purchases, and cash-back rewards allows marketers to do just that in a privacy-friendly way.

A second way is to offer buy now pay later (BNPL) options, which lets customers use low-interest-rate services like Affirm, Afterpay, and Klarna. A recent study found that 4 in 5 shoppers use BPNL to avoid credit card debt, which is why we are even seeing brands such as The RealReal, Gilt, Jimmy Choo, and Marc Jacobs start offering it. There is also evidence that BNPL programs drive upwards of 85 percent in average order value and a 20 percent repeat purchase rate. Indeed, BNPL can increase revenues and lift customer loyalty for these upcoming shopping seasons.

It was great to see data join creativity on the red carpet over the course of Cannes Lions' five days. With new awards for ad targeting and measurement, and the panel discussions around reimagined retail in unusual times, marketers should be more inspired than ever to help brands face the challenges ahead.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Ross McNab is chief business officer at Cardlytics.