Cannes, SnapChat, Starbucks, Dollar Shave Club, and QR Codes in China

This week’s Cannes Lions festival has given us plenty of food for thought when it comes to the intersection of technology and advertising. Along with the usual celebrity interviews (apparently celebs can teach ad and tech folks a lot about creativity!), there was a few box office draws from the tech world, as well as some interesting announcements. Here are a couple of the highlights of the Cannes festival,  along with some other interesting things that happened in the industry over the last week.

SnapChat founder Evan Spiegel speaks at Cannes Lions

It’s no secret that SnapChat is on the AdLand charm offensive, and while they are somewhat of a flavour of the month at the moment, there’s still some serious concerns from advertisers and publishers when it comes to the targeting capabilities of the platform. This made for an interesting dynamic when Evan Spiegel sat down with Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles during the week and discussed the challenges facing both SnapChat and the advertising industry in general. On one hand, advertisers need to be able to target the users that they want to reach, but they also need to tread carefully on a platform that places user privacy at it’s core.

WPP, The Daily Mail and Snapchat are launching a native advertising agency

Evan Spiegel has been busy this week. Another big announcement at Cannes was the collaboration between SnapChat, advertising conglomerate WPP,  and the Daily Mail, to create a digital content agency called Truffle Pig. The focus of the new agency will be to create content that seems less like traditional advertising that will appeal to young consumers. This content will be served on SnapChat, and Elite Daily as well as on other digital channels  based on the client’s needs.

This partnership makes sense for all concerned as SnapChat are still finding their feet when it comes to advertising, publishers like the Daily Mail are still coming to terms with monetizing on digital channels, and agencies are constantly trying to find a way to create content for their brands that appeals to young consumers. We are still, relatively speaking, in the early stages of the digital advertising revolution, and having publishers, agencies and social platforms working closely together to try and learn from each other can only be beneficial in the long run.

Starbucks have released an app update that lets you pre-order and skip the queue

Starbucks are one of the biggest innovators in the world when it comes to using mobile technology in retail. Their latest app update includes a feature that lets customers order and pay ahead of time so that they can skip the queue and pick up their coffee as soon as they arrive at the store. It’s an addition to their hugely popular consumer app that lets users pay for their coffee and engage with their loyalty program that launched in 2011. The app is one of the highest performing mobile payment apps in retail accounting for over 7 million mobile payments per week in the US (that’s 16% of all of their transactions). Constantly adding features like this goes to shows why it’s so popular.

Dollar Shave Club is now worth $615 Million

Can a viral video really impact a company’s long-term growth? Dollar Shave Club, a men’s shaving subscription service, found mainstream attention in 2012 when their company promotional video went viral. It was announced during the week that after raising $75 million in a new funding round the company is now valued at $615 million. Apparently, the company still isn’t turning a profit though, which raises a few questions around valuing a company on their projected future turnover despite high customer acquisition costs and increased competition. Building a subscription service that scales is one thing, but maintaining those recurring purchases over the long term is another thing completely so we’ll have to wait and see how this one turns out.

QR Codes are really popular in China. Who Knew?

While scanning QR Codes has never really become a mainstream consumer behaviour in most markets, in China things are a little different.  Due to the crazy complicated URLs that they tend to use in China, mainly involving numbers due to the difficulty with using Chinese characters, it can be very difficult for users to remember the addresses of the sites they come across. Scanning QR Codes means that they don’t have to. The fact that the most popular mobile apps in China like Weibo and WeChat have in-built QR Code readers means everyone has a readily available QR Code reader in their pocket. Chinese consumers use QR Codes for everything from signing up to companies loyalty programs, sharing their information, and searching online. It’s interesting to see how (and why) technologies can thrive in some markets, while stagnating in others.