CANNES — Many in the ad industry are pointing the finger inward, blaming the sector for alienating audiences through the over- and extreme use of targeting technology.

That kind of consensus is forming, with executives promising to rebalance the audience relationship through better messaging.

Still, even as the industry looks to correct itself, it is also challenged to respond to the omni-channel demand – the reality that brands now need to engage with consumers across a wide variety of devices and touchpoints.

The Catch-22? As a Beet.TV panel moderated by Forrester Research principal analyst Joanna O’Connell discussed, the solution to omni-channel is all about… technology.

How the crisis was created

The panelists lamented that technology capabilities have led the industry toward simply using tech for tech’s sake, bamboozling consumers with advertising – and prompting a backlash…

Essence president Jason Harrison: “It still is really amazing to me the number of advertisers and marketers that pour money into advertising without a really concrete understanding of what actually works. Technology is way ahead … whether the technology is working or not working, if it’s being used for good or for bad.”

Forrester Research principal analyst Joanna O’Connell: “We have this habit of saying, ‘Because the tech exists, we should do this thing. Because I can personalize, I always must. Because I can target, I will only target the people I think I care about – until they hate me’.”

Adobe SVP and GM of Advertising Cloud Keith Eadie: “The metrics have followed the technology platforms … but not nearly to the point where we’re creating experiences and understanding how different audiences or individuals are reacting to that advertising and adjusting accordingly. We’ve given all of these marketers a hammer and then everything’s looked like the nail and the last 10 years has been about mass tonnage of advertising … it’s not surprising, given that context, of the outcomes we have now in terms of receptivity to advertising from our consumers.”

Fixing pipes with creative

Panelists debated how the way to solve matters was be reconnecting with message, by turning attention to using data to fuel more creative stories that reach audiences, not just for targeting.

Essence president Jason Harrison: “If you look at consumers’ expectations of what they see in terms of advertising, what’s rising fastest is, ‘I want something that’s relevant’. But there’s still a big gap in the way that I think creative storytelling happens in advertising. The next frontier of advertising is, ‘How do we get that right?'”

Forrester Research principal analyst Joanna O’Connell: “We see in the data that some consumers are totally okay with personalized advertising, because they feel like they’re getting some value. Others are really, super not cool with it.”

IBM VP digital strategy and sales Jordan Bitterman: “You’ve got to be able to build for something that you know can scale. There’s a lot of great formats that are out there – but there’s a lot of clients that don’t want to spend that kind of money to build those different kind of ads out unless they know it can scale because. at some point, the wallet dries up and there’s only so much they can do.  I think the same is true for omni-channel.”

Future shape of the industry

IBM VP digital strategy and sales Jordan Bitterman: Bitterman left panelists with two predictions for how the industry will reconfigure itself to meet these challenges:

  1. “I think we’re probably going to see a re-bundled agency come about that’ll be super interesting with media and creative and analytics altogether, and really kind of anchored by analytics in many ways.
  2. “I was having breakfast with a senior agency guy last week, and he said something to me, which is really interesting. He thinks that there’s gonna be a real big comeback in planning.”

This video is part of Beet.TV’s coverage of Cannes Lions 2018.  For more videos from Cannes, please visit this page.