When the tech illuminati descended on Cannes for the 62nd Cannes Lions Festival, there was no doubt that in spite of the rosé hangovers it had achieved its most important objectives. Multi-million business deals were done, promising new media relations were forged, and the biggest issues and opportunities facing the industry were fiercely debated.

So, what stood out this year amongst the throng of advertising technology buzzwords, thought leadership discussions, and hot topics?

Virtual reality revisits Cannes Lions

Although not new, VR was always set to dominate the conversation at Cannes Lions, due to its recent launch in the mainstream market. Winner of an Innovative Tech award, Lockheed Martin’s ‘The Field Trip to Mars’ is a great example of VR innovation – being the first-ever group VR experience, using no goggles or headsets.

Jon Collins, President at Framestore, which developed the VR experience, admits: “We had to build technology that didn’t exist”. Through their VR bus they demonstrated the future of VR as a medium of disruptive communications; particularly its ability to educate and inspire younger generations.

What’s certain from discussions at the festival is that what we’re seeing with VR today is only the beginning. There’s so much more to look forward to, with plenty of progressive ad tech companies and early start ups itching to make their name with VR in the global market.

Artificial Intelligence on the rise 

Lots of interesting discussions centred around AI and how it is bringing ever-greater efficiency to the advertising process. It’s clear what AI is already doing in terms of data, but the conversation this year focused on how it might enhance creative advertising and digital strategy.

But the possibilities for AI are not always met with glee, as many fear as the tech advances it’s making are going to take half the industry’s jobs with it. Co-founder of Wired magazine, Kevin Kelly, helped alleviate the industry’s fears however by explaining that AI will actually create more human jobs; “It is in carrying out tasks where efficiency is not important that human intelligence and creativity will be even more valuable.”

Gender diversity still an issue 

Gender equality took centre stage at last year’s Cannes Lions, and little it seems has changed. The fact remains that only 3% of creative directors are women, and although the ad industry isn’t alone in this discrimination, it’s widely reported how much less women ad execs earn. Consequently how to advance equality and female-hires was obviously high on the festival agenda. Positively, 2016 saw the introduction of Glass Lions, which showcased some of the influential work that is changing gender perceptions and helping to bring about change.

However, there’s no denying this is still one the biggest issues facing the ad industry today. So, I’ll leave you with a parting thought raised by Shelley Zalis, Founder of The Girl’s Lounge during the panel ‘gender equality is no laughing matter’ — “Are we really less valuable, less important, less competent, less funny than men that we should be paid less?”

Brexit: the immediate aftermath 

It may have happened on the final day but it was enough to leave a sour taste in the mouth of delegates, which even the rosé couldn’t quash. There is no doubt that the decision to leave the EU has brought a question mark over how the future of the tech industry is going to pan out. And there is particular concern for UK tech start-up businesses, which may no longer see the same level of investment that’s enabled London to become a global tech hub.

But not everyone’s taking a pessimistic view. Some think Brexit represents a positive opportunity for the UK tech industry to compete efficiently with big tech players in New York, Berlin and other European strongholds, putting cities like London on a level playing board.

What’s clear is that our tech industry is a thriving economy, and while we might be affected in the short-term, we will surely come out fighting and triumphant in the long-run.