Always a highlight of the advertising year, The Festival of Media is an international celebration of excellence in media, attended by almost 250 global brands, as well as agencies, media owners, and adtech companies.

With awards recognising everything from the Best Use of New Technology to Creative Use of Data, it is also the ideal setting to observe the synergy of technology and creativity first-hand. GingerMay PR attended this year’s event at the Cavalieri Hotel in Rome to gain deeper insight into the topics currently impacting the industry.

Here are some of the key themes discussed throughout the Festival of Media:

Measurement is a necessity, not an optional extra 

Measurement and verification of digital advertising was a key theme throughout the festival, with panel sessions indicating that advertisers are finally waking up to the need to implement the same safeguards in digital they have long expected in offline media. Because digital has grown without accepted standards for so long, even the most basic measurements such as impressions and CPM seem like a step-up, but advertisers should be aiming higher. They shouldn’t accept opaque practices and a lack of independent verification from large digital enterprises such as Facebook and Google, just because these platforms have exceptional power and reach, but should follow the lead of Proctor & Gamble in demanding third-party verification.

Data is the gateway to audience understanding

Today’s consumers expect their interactions with brands to be relevant, personalised and seamless across all channels, and advertisers are responding by making better use of data to fully understand audiences and deliver meaningful experiences. Brands such as Renault and Bacardi illustrated how emotional connections that transcend product can be created by using data to reveal patterns in consumer empathy. Many of the award winning entries at this year’s festival used consumer insight to close the gap between what audiences want and what the brand needs, including campaigns from Airbnb and McDonalds.

Diversity and inclusion is key to success

“Greater diversity leads to greater commercial success,” according to Sam Phillips, CMO at Omnicom Media Group UK, who chaired two panels on the subject of diversity during the festival. With ‘bravery’ being one of the Festival of Media’s core themes, there was a feeling the industry should take a stronger position on the issue of diversity to make it a reality, rather than just a talking point.  Jan Gooding, Global Inclusion Director of Aviva, joined a panel discussion on making diversity work for brands and creating inclusive communications that represent society.

Artificial Intelligence still needs human input

Artificial Intelligence (AI) was always going to be a strong theme throughout the festival, and demonstrations of how IBM’s Watson technology can learn our moods in real-time was particularly enlightening. While some attendees expressed concerns about AI taking over marketing decision making entirely, the overall feeling was that – despite the rapid rate of innovation we are currently seeing – machines will always need our input given the complexities and contradictions of the human brain.

The Festival of Media may be behind us for another year but the GingerMay PR team is hard at work helping our clients prepare to drive the conversation at upcoming industry events such as the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity in June and digital marketing exhibition and conference dmexco in September.