The event saw more than 45,000 visitors, more than €10m distributed to start-ups and 300 seminars involving the world’s biggest names in tech.
VivaTech – the vision of Publicis Groupe and media group Les Echos – took place as companies continue to think about how to adopt the right technologies in order to survive and prosper in the age of "Ubernomics".
The coming together of passionate disruptors alongside start-ups was the key theme of VivaTech. As one panellist put it: "Dream your worst nightmare, then invest in it." Today’s media giants were out in force – presenters included Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Google DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis, AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong, Baidu chief executive Robin Li and Tencent executive vice-president SY Lau.
These experts hit on the technologies disrupting businesses today, from chatbots and artificial intelligence to advances in mobile experiences. They demonstrated how social media and marketplace platforms increasingly mediate the brand/consumer relationship to the detriment of search, mobile web and apps.
On the exhibition floor – alongside highlights such as the European debut of Google’s driverless car, JCDecaux’s vision for the connected city and L’Oréal’s Makeup Genius area – were 5,000 international start-ups. Advertising and media were represented but so, too, were themed clusters of start-ups from verticals such as financial technology, health, leisure, automotive and the public sector. For the gadget crowd, there were drones, wearables, robotics and virtual-reality and augmented-reality experiences in Viva-Tech’s Discovery Square.
It was an honour for me to judge entries for Publicis90, the initiative to support 90 start-ups as part of Publicis’ 90th-birthday celebrations. The winners were revealed at VivaTech, with more than €10m in funding distributed between them. From 3,732 applications from 141 countries, the Grand Prix went to Emerald Medical Applications, which is developing image-recognition technology for the early detection of skin cancer.
Lessons from VivaTech
1. Marketers can reframe how their brands create value for consumers as digital moves from selling a product to providing a service. Uber EMEA head of operations Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty said Uber’s brand equity goes beyond being a cheaper alternative to a taxi and even more than an alternative to vehicle ownership.
2. The next generation of $1bn start-ups will work with crowds and machine-learning to identify needs and meet them, according to Schmidt. The opportunity is in using AI to give each of us a personal assistant that will make us smarter.
3. Against the backdrop of Brexit, entrepreneurship needs consistent and predictable regulatory environments to flourish. Technology is no longer the biggest constraint on innovation. Marketers need to understand the social, economic, political and regulatory contexts to drive change, EY global leader for technology, media, entertainment and telecommunications Greg Cudahy said.
4. AI will free us to be more creative in our working roles. IBM Watson has been made available to start-ups as an application programming interface, and the prize is to augment the human mind. Google DeepMind’s success at mastering games such as Go is just one step on the journey to solve intelligence before it solves everything else.
5. Chatbots are filling the gap between the mobile web and apps. More than 11,000 chatbots have been built in Facebook Messenger since it opened up to businesses in April. Facebook vice-president of messaging products David Marcus made the case for messaging apps, explaining that the channel offers personalisation, utility and high-levels of engagement. The idea of a brand having a home on Facebook – once deemed inconceivable – is now the norm, and the same may soon be true of the messaging space.
Nigel Vaz is the EMEA chief executive of Razorfish and SapientNitro