The Final, Final Cannes Round-Up
For starters, on my first day there, as I was hotfooting it over to register at the Palais, I was ambushed by a Valkyrie-type woman wearing a T-shirt, suspenders, and very short short-shorts, on roller-blades, which made her about 6’3” give or take. She smiled as she bladed over and handed me that day’s special Cannes-gossip edition of The New York Post.
Leave it to Rupert Murdoch to understand the importance of freshly minted, customized experiences!
Why would the Post make this kind of commitment for the first time ever to this notorious expensefest on the Riviera? It’s all tied to the new media ecosystem that has evolved at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. Yup, the “a” word, as in advertising, was quietly expunged from the title two years ago, and that’s telling. Because, this year technology -- and the transformational effect it is having on the ad business, both in terms of content creation and delivery systems -- seemed to be the now 60-year-old festival’s main focus.
Indeed, it was the year of high-flying tech people and the celebs they love to copter in with. They accounted for the spillover crowds (attendance was up 9% over last year, and the tech sector represented about 20% of attendees overall.) In an otherwise shaky time for the ad industry, the rush to mobile and digital everything injected a sense of investment and optimism into the air.
In turn, festival owners were only too happy to add seminars, workshops, forums, Master Classes, and TechTalks to give tech companies daytime stage time at the Palais.
And along with sponsoring red-carpet names like Jack Black, Conan O’Brien, Anderson Cooper, and P. Diddy to entertain ad audiences, tech companies also carpet-bombed the place with “team members.” It’s rumored that Google alone sent 300 people.
Of course, tech giants like Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, YouTube, etc. have been setting up camp for a couple of years now at Cannes. But at this point, the Cannes Lions resembled its more famous sister, the Cannes Film Festival, in that it was as much or more about sales, networking, presentations, and deals than the actual awards.
Full disclosure: I was there to moderate a forum sponsored by AppNexus, a programmatic, real-time ad buying and selling company. The forum topic was about how New York City is becoming the next Silicon Valley. (And totally needs a rebranding from its rather lame “Silicon Alley” name.) The point is that New York brings an infusion of fashion, art, media and finance DNA to the business, and the global audience agreed that the center is moving away from Cupertino and Sunnyvale.
Michael Rubenstein, the president of AppNexus, told me that Cannes has “become the place to do business. There’s Davos or Sun Valley, but there aren’t that many instances when you have all the digital media companies and all the digital agencies in one place. Plus, you don’t want your competitors spending the night on a yacht with your customers.”
Actually, Tumblr founder David Karp and his team provided Page Six with days of shareable snackables in this regard, all gleefully reported by the Post. One dispatch revealed that Tumblr reps were “ferrying ad executives by helicopter to St. Tropez for meetings,” and that the company’s head of sales was posting selfies with Jack Black to his account. (Jack Black looked somewhat the worse for wear during his interview on stage; he got applause for admitting that he was hungover.)
Meanwhile, Page Six also reported on Karp’s own late-night shenanigans, which apparently included spraying champagne at a club where P. Diddy performed. (The hoodie and the Diddy?)
But he also spent his time on stage sucking up to advertising people, big-time: “You guys are more talented than any one in the Tumblr office or in Palo Alto or Sunnyvale,” he told the audience. “We’re constantly in awe, constantly in service.”
And the new ad tech/media ecosystem rolls on.