Reporter's Notebook: Cannes Lions Festival
CANNES, FRANCE - I've covered advertising and media for three decades, but Monday was my first day attending the Cannes Lions Festival here, and I found it to be quite overwhelming, and difficult to get a bearing with so many meetings, workshops, presentations, seminars, and, oh yes, parties. Actually, my first day was only a partial one, but it was enough to give me a feel that the real competition in Cannes is not the awards, but about making the biggest impression.
Not surprisingly agencies, and big media and technology companies are competing for share of mind and share of real estate. Google's tented "creative sandbox" is situated on the beach across the Croisette from Yahoo's base camp.
Every square inch surrounding the festival is taken up by someone promoting something designed to make an impression, not always with good results. One agency executive complained to me this morning about the time he invested linking to a 2R code on some literature distributed by Google that yielded a less than desirable experience. "I couldn't understand what they were trying to do," he said, adding, "It didn't leave me feeling very good about Google."
Given all the action, and the A-list talent involved, it's difficult for anyone to be impressed. I even observed Martha Stewart pleading, but apparently failing to nab a last-minute hotel room at the high demand Majestic Hotel, which sits catty-corner to the Palais de Festivals.
Stewart is on a panel this morning, organized by IPG and moderated by IPG chief Michael Roth, focusing on the need for a better "gender balance" in Madison Avenue's creative community. I'll report on that later via MediaPost's "Raw Blog."
Something that did impress me during Monday's sessions was a presentation by Diageo CMO Andy Fennell during which he reminded attendees that despite all the rapid and rampant changes taking place with consumers and media technology, "the fundamentals of marketing still work."
Noting that most of the "enterprise value" of his company, is fundamentally about "people and the relationships they have with our brands, which include Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, and Guinness. "The purchase decision is almost entirely emotional."
Noting that those brands have "sustained wars, fathom, social and political, turmoil and more economic cycles than you can shake a stick at," Fennell said they're all "still here," because those brands' founders got their "fundamentals right."
Fennell acknowledged that the media world is evolving rapidly, but said the key to sustaining brand success is in maintaining their fundamentals. He even coined a nifty acronym to explain them: FACE, which he said stands for "flair, agility, consumer insight and execution."
For all the challenges to his brands' success, Fennell said there is also tremendous new opportunity. Noting that, "each year, 100 million people reach legal drinking age," he pointed out that 20 million of them are in China alone. Not surprisingly, he provided some case studies of Diageo's marketing strategies in emerging markets like China and Africa, including "The House of Walker Shanghai," the first "scotch brand heritage center outside of Scotland."
In Nigeria, Fennell noted that much of Diageo's market relies on mobile media as their primary platform, but much of it is "semi-smart phones" that cannot access the same kind of digital broadband ubiquity as many developed markets. Diageo's solution: Develop a social network optimized for semi-smart phones.
"For now, this is what we need to do, because we don't want to wait the two years for smartphones to get to scale," he said.