CANNES -- What’s the difference between the internet and the Cannes International Festival of Creativity?
Duh. The Internet is run by kittens and dead-money venture capital. At Cannes, there are no kittens.
Once upon a time, this week revolved around vast global advertising agencies named after… whaddya call them...oh, yeah: people. Then in the late 80s came consolidation under publicly held holding companies, who threw million-dollar parties on La Croisette by night; by day they sat in their suites, entertaining processions of independents, who peddled their agencies like the illegals from Cote d’Ivoire peddle sunglasses along the Cote d’Azur. One-dollar designer knockoffs were sold for $15 and all parties got a good deal.
Inside the Palais des Festivals screening rooms, militantly shabby creatives whistled at “films” exactly as terrible as their own, while countless clients sat at their desks back home sweating market share. That was, shall we say, a different time.
Now even the holding companies keep a fairly low profile. The Palais still houses actual advertising, but the auditoriums are standing-room-only for content, in the form of lectures, panels and whizbang demos about communications, technology, business and culture. Much of it is fantastic, because 10 years ago the client decided to stop sitting home bankrolling the jerque d’ circle and got the idea of tagging along to make sure the festival wasn’t too festive. In the palace hotels opposite the beach, the suites suddenly were occupied by marketers, and still today.. Au revoir Andy Berlin, Joe Pytka and Lee Clow. Bonjour, Joel Ewanick, Mark Pritchard and Joe Tripodi.
Yet the Marketer Era has also quickly given way. Now Cannes resides in the Technology Platform Partner Era. (A “partner,” of course, is what the plain-speaking world calls a “vendor.” Here there are no customers or vendors, only partners all leveraging their asses off. Such frantic leveraging you have never before seen.)
Who are these new sponsors, with names like Mojiva, Vibrant and RadiumOne? Along with quaint old legacy companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, they are holding the parties, hiring the beaches, flying in the celebrities and anchoring the yachts. A few of the newcomers are established and profitable, but that’s not the requirement. No, it turns out, to leverage ROI through bleeding-edge platforms -- and to command attention here – all you need is the promise to save with technology what economics and human behavior have conspired to threaten:
The goose that lays the golden egg.
The display advertising industry so venerated here is at best losing its primacy. Next its relevance. Next its business model. Between a trophy and “atrophy” there is but one shrunken space. Yet that very uncertainty has created opportunity.
For years, the Cannes Festival was a money machine because nobody ever went broke catering to the vanity and hedonism of the advertising industry. Now it is a money juggernaut, because it has found a marketplace even more lucrative than vanity. While the sponsors and hosts themselves burn their third-round VC investments serving booze to dissolute art directors, the Cannes International Festival of Creativity has brilliantly, fabulously, breathtakingly monetized….desperation.