“There’s one simple lesson from Cannes this year: We’re making marketing harder than it really is.

You can’t miss it. Whether you’re browsing the record 43,101 entries, watching a robot draw tweets or slowly but surely extricating yourself from a sales pitch.

This is not a festival of creativity. It’s a festival of complexity.

With every layer of targeting, data capture, content optimisation and influencer indexing we add to our campaigns we’re moving further away from what actually counts.

Make a great product. Offer a great service. Start and end with the user.

If you’re still reading at this point feel free to stop for a sigh of relief. The fundamentals of marketing are still the same. Nothing at Cannes this year will change that.

I think that’s brilliant news for my clients. They’re confronted with rapid change in media behaviour and that’s only one part of their day job. Add in more fundamental changes to their businesses like shifting demographics or new competitors and the last thing they need is more complexity in their marketing

So how can clients make sense of the Festival of Complexity?

Spot the intermediary
Lions Innovation is a stark reminder that much of what we call ‘innovation’ is really just reinterpretation. Many of the startups vying for attention act as intermediaries between brands and their customers. They charge brands for access to a closed pool of people or data for ‘rapid insights’ or ‘closer connection’.

If you want to connect with your customers start with your owned assets – your packaging, CRM, retail space and employees – before paying for the privilege of someone else using them to do the exact same thing.

Partner to test, then build to own
Clients don’t need to carry the entire risk of investing in marketing innovation.

That’s what you pay your agency for. That’s the added value your agency can extract from media owner negotiations. That’s what’s possible with a new interpretation of the same old cross-category contra deals.

Interested in chatbots? Look around the market at who already has one running and consider how you could partner with them to learn more about the actual user behaviour rather than start from scratch.

Include user feedback in every brief
A brief tells an agency what the marketing team wants. It would benefit both parties if it always included what the user wants.

What are your current and potential customers actually doing? Are they asking for an immersive experience that requires a $3,000 headset or simply more behind the scenes footage? Do they want a fully automated customer service platform or just a mobile site that’s easier to navigate?

Users don’t always know what they want or need, but they are always the first and last consideration for every brief.

Following these three simple rules will make briefing and delivering innovation easier. It will also ensure I likely won’t be invited back to the Festival of Complexity next year.