Commentary

Being There, Sort Of


CANNES, FRANCE -- There are many good reasons to watch the Cannes Lions seminars on the closed circuit feed in the press room vs. the Palais' Grand Audi -- access to Wifi to live blog being chief among them -- but not for viewing video being shown inside the auditorium. Even when the video is being broadcast live, worldwide on YouTube.

The video, a short film plugging YouTube before the video platform’s session opening Day Four of the festival here, was not visible -- or audible -- to journalists watching the seminar’s feed in the press room. That was a little ironic given that the session was also the first ever to be broadcast live on YouTube.

A couple of minutes into staring at the dark screen of the Grand Audi, one journalist turned to another and suggested, “Maybe we should just watch it on YouTube.”

As it turns out, the actual seminar turned out to be mainly full of video content -- you know, short films plugging stuff; what people used to call commercials. I wasn’t running my watch, but I’d estimate a good quarter of the session was filled with videos plugging one or more of the session's participants, sponsors and speakers: YouTube, YouTube Nation, (YouTube Nation producer) Dreamworks, Vice Media, Vice News, HuffPo Live, and the session isn’t even done yet. There were more plugs in this show than in an episode of “The Tonight Show,” or on YouTube.

It was also fascinating mashup old school Hollywood power-playing sucking up meets Millennial generation feigned indifference. The session started with “YouTube Nation” host Jacob Soboroff interviewing his boss, Dreamworks studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, on his prescience and genius for embracing YouTube and spawning YouTube channels like “YouTube Nation.”

Asked why he’s embracing online video so aggressively, Katzenberg said: “It’s been exhilarating, because today the floodgates of creativity and storytelling have opened up with this platform. It has given us an opportunity to discover talent in a way that has never existed before. More importantly, it has given a platform a voice for all sorts of creators to tell stories -- to share stories. Really, the barrier to entry is lower than it’s ever been before and that’s a great thing."

Such a great thing, in fact, that Katzenberg plugged a litany of new channels Dreamworks plans to launch for the “platform” and discussed the economics as being additive, not cannibalistic -- which is a good thing when you’re running a content studio.

But the Hollywood power-playing really kicked into high gear when the second guest joined the late night talk show, er Cannes seminar, Vice Media founder Eddy Moretti, whom was hailed by both Soboroff and Katzenberg as something akin to the second coming of Ted Turner. And it’s not just that Moretti and his video plug trumpetted Vice Media’s new Vice News channel as the CNN of today’s youth population, but because Katzenberg actually alluded to Vice Media’s discussions to acquire Time Warner.

“Are we in negotiations? Do we have valuations yet?,” Katzenberg chided Moretti, alluding to the idea that Vice might soon be the next big media player and Dreamworks would ultimately become a division of it.

“We’re not supposed to talk about that now,” Moretti demurred, adding: “We’re going to do things.”

One thing all the speakers did was plug. And when they were not plugging themselves and their own products, they were plugging Madison Avenue on the notion of getting out in front of their new digital online video revolution before it’s too late.

In fact, the discussion became downright condescending, implying that the ad industry was behind the curve and didn’t “get” how younger consumers utilize video and access content.

“For the advertising community you must get in there today,” Katzenberg admonished. “You must get in on the ground floor of it. You must experiment, just the way we are.”

“This is like the Paleolithic era,” Moretti piled on.

“It’s going to be the dominant platform and advertisers need to integrate now or they will be caught off guard,” he continued.

Tags: cannes, video
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