CANNES--The rise of realtime marketing is reshaping traditional notions of creativity in communication, a panel of senior marketers concluded this week in Cannes.

The panel - one of numerous ‘festival fringe’ events that often feature more intimate, less formal discussions than the official Cannes Lions Festival programme - was hosted by Weber Shandwick and featured senior figures from Unilever, Microsoft, CNN and Al-Arabiya.

The emergence of digital technology, the panel discussed, is dramatically changing how companies engage with their customers, requiring them to display much more agility rather than relying on traditional set-piece campaigns.

In particular, noted CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield and Al-Arabiya TV news editor Mohamed Chebarro, this means that brands should consider how journalists handle news coverage.

Weber Shandwick digital head Chris Perry wondered if these trends might “crush creativity” by bringing “communications down to a single click.” 

“That compresses the time to really think about strategy and creative down to a more finite space than we’ve had in the past,” said Perry. “I think there are still lots of opportunities to be really creative in this business. But just the whole you approach it set up the narrative frame, you really have to think differently.”

Microsoft global creative director Michael Dwan, however, noted that creativity requires constraints. “If you have boundless budgets, creativity tends to get a little bit lazy,” he said. “I think this is actually a huge boon to creativity.”

Unilever senior director of marketing communications Christine Cea expanded upon that theme, noting that brands needed to think differently if they wanted to behave in a more “reactionary” manner.

Cea pointed to three examples: the Luna Corona billboard that used the moon as a slice of lime; the Adobe bus shelter stunt that Photoshopped travellers while they waited for a bus; and a Hellman’s Brazil effort that processed customer receipts to instantly suggest recipes based on the products in their shopping carts. 

“It’s being prepared to be able to react,” said Cea. “That’s realtime in the way that you most want to engage.”

Realtime success, the panel discussed, is as much about perspiration as inspiration. Cea noted as much when she discussed the award-winning Oreo Twist campaign, which eventually culminated in the acclaimed realtime Super Bowl tweet.  

“It’s about the time, the cleverness and the speed,” said Cea. “But it was also part of a campaign that had been going on for a while for a 100 days.”

Cea likened this to a “jab-jab-jab, right hook” PR mindset. “I think that’s what Oreo did. They had this campaign that was out there and so people saw the creativity for 100 days, so they were brought along. When they saw that punch at the end, you were even that much more inclined to say ‘wow’, because it was consistent with the brand…and you felt even more in on the joke.”