Sorrell Slams Cannes, Warns About Native 'Transparency'

CANNES, FRANCE -- The head of the world’s largest advertising company took a shot at the world’s largest advertising festival for becoming too broadly focused -- and for having too much of its focus on partying and not enough on work.

Speaking to the press after his official Lions Festival seminar, Sir Martin Sorrell implied that the organizers’ attempts to broaden into areas such as health and technology are making it less relevant to the industry it was created to celebrate in the first place.

He said the festival is trying too hard to be “more CES or a Davosian thing” and should return to becoming more “focused” on advertising, but with “partying less and working harder.”

He cited a concurrent event WPP organized on Tuesday that had “$50 billion of media buying and planning in the room” focused on discussing serious issues affecting the future of advertising and media.

He also implied that the festival has become too much about showing off and not enough about real business. “I think it has become a little too much of whose boat is bigger than whose,” he said, alluding to the sponsored party boats that litter the coastline and mariners surrounding Cannes.

During the briefing, Sorrell and his panelists -- Twitter’s Dick Costolo and Viacom’s Philippe Dauman -- also discussed some far-ranging subjects such as “native” advertising and the shift toward data-driven programmatic media marketplaces and systems.

On the subject of “native,” Sorrell said it’s really just some modern day “repackaging” of the industry’s older formats like print media “advertorials” or sponsored TV programming. The important difference, he said, is the need for clear and explicit disclosure to consumers, which is not always the case on digital platforms.

“You don’t confuse or con consumers with content that has been sponsored or paid for,” Sorrell asserted, adding that it is essential that consumers are given a clear understanding of what content they are opting into.

The failure of industry players to do that, he said, could become “linked to the privacy issue,” and he recommended, “just open the transparency, whether it is opt-in, or opt-out.”

From a content producer’s point of view, the role of algorithms is also becoming important, Viacom’s Dauman said, citing a recent audit he did of MTV’s staffing.

“We now have data scientist at MTV,” he said, sounding surprised. “Did you ever think you’d have someone with a PHD in physics working at MTV?”

He said the data scientists focus mainly in analyzing data that can generate more real-time insights about how content is trending across the platforms Viacom distributes on, especially mobile apps, and he said Viacom is working more closely with “third-party data” providers, including Twitter to understand that.

On that note, Twitter’s Costolo said the microblogging platform has begun working with some leading academics to find better ways of utilizing Twitter’s real-time data to “find memes before they become memes… find interesting conversation clouds before anyone else can see them with the naked eye and through search algorithms and so forth.”

He also spoke about Twitter’s recent collaboration with Billboard magazine, which is famous for providing context to the music industry with its charts ranking the most popular songs and albums by recording artists.

He said the collaboration was creating a “in-the-moment Billboard chart.

“That kind of in-the-moment playlist is super important to artists and performers,” he said, adding, “That will, we think, drive sales.”

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2 comments about "Sorrell Slams Cannes, Warns About Native 'Transparency'".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , June 20, 2014 at 10:32 a.m.
    Wow ! I agree with a billionaire. Do you think he would agree that I should have an invitation to his boat ?:)
  2. David Vawter from Doe-Anderson , June 20, 2014 at 4 p.m.
    Says the man who footed the bill for having Courtney Love as a "speaker."