AI & VR take centre stage at Cannes Lions 2016

Isobar US President, Jim Butler offers his thoughts on Cannes Lions 2016

Cannes 2016 from the outside seems very similar to last year — parties, excitement, long lines, loud music, good food, etc. What has changed fundamentally is the content and thinking from the inside. In less than a year, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality have taken center stage from both a product perspective and agency perspective. There is less mention of “data” but as we all know it is a key ingredient to AI, and AI is a much sexier topic to discuss.

During the WHERE WE ARE ALL HEADING session on Wednesday, Kevin Kelly said that “we are at the birth of AI and there are no experts yet” and went on to say that AI is “new and evolving”. That said, I don’t think Kelly will be able claim that there are “no experts yet” when we come together in Cannes in 2017. Kelly went on to share that the future is difficult to believe but we need to “embrace it as it comes”. He referenced Artificial Power (AP) which enabled the industrial revolution and suggested that AI + AP would drive the next revolution.

I often think about the introduction of the internet in the 90s and where it is today. If we are truly embarking on the next wave of innovation and it is truly at its’ infancy then we have a lot to look forward to in the near future. I say near, because of the pace at which change and advancement is happening, as compared to the 20 years it took for the internet to become what it is today.

As the day went on, competing themes emerged. On one hand we were seeing and hearing about the boundless creativity that VR offers but on the other hand we were hearing concerns that the proliferation of data may impact creative minds from truly being creative. The fear is that mass amounts of data may channel creatives to lean toward what the data suggests will be successful vs. the theory that creativity is breaking away from some sort of norm. At dinner, and partially influenced by a glass of Rose, my concerns were alleviated because AI may be the answer. What we debated was whether data will tell only one part of the story; leaving AI with its intelligence and algorithms to shape and predict which creative concepts will win.

So if the hype and pace of AI and VR materialize as many (including myself) predict, what does it mean for brands and the industry? Over the next 12 months I believe that brands will benefit greatly from a new set of industry players that specialize in AI and VR technologies and attract top talent to push advanced creative thinking. Brands will also benefit from the economics of supply and demand as the market floods with new specialty startups showcasing nimble operating models that are hungry to become the “expert” thorough an extensive set of case studies. I predict there will be some industry powerhouses that don’t pivot at the pace required which will haunt them for years to come as they try to catch up.

The true winners will be the consumers that can experience everything a brand can offer and ultimately the brand itself assuming it is secure enough to take risk and think differently. Let’s see how things play out between now and next year at Cannes. I’m expecting a monumental shift like we’ve never seen before. I hope I’m right not for the sake of being right but because of the endless creative possibilities AI + VR offer.

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