Commentary

Napgate: Cannes

The media's love affair with sensationalistic nonsense took a turn for the moronic once again last week and The Wall Street Journal took another step toward tabloid status in the process. The Journalran a Page Six-worthy story reporting that Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer arrived late to a Cannes boondoggle week dinner… because she was sleeping.

Really? People actually care about this? Apparently, my social feed has been buzzing about this for days, and in 2014 news time, that’s like a decade. So be it -- let's take an issue that wouldn’t make it past a circuit judge and turn it into a federal case.

People are making it a gender issue, saying Marissa just doesn’t appreciate international meeting protocols, dismissing the behavior as jet lag or worse, saying Marissa just doesn’t think ad people are important enough. Heaven forbid. Let’s take a more rational look at this unique and wonderful “news” story emerging from the annual notorious ad industry self-congratulatory boondoggle schmooze fest held in a lovely town called Cannes.

Wait -- you mean men don’t take naps? Or that when we do it’s more acceptable for us to nap when recovering from a long flight? Sorry, self-declared gender police sensationalists -- this isn't a gender issue and you are the only ones making it a story. AdAge.com and Bloomberg even planted the idea in a poll with this opening line: “Some Say a Man Could Be Late for Dinner Without Generating Headlines.” Other than the aforementioned sensationalists -- those who play this one and only card at every game and media outlets -- no rational person actually believes this is a gender bias issue. Making this “situation” into a gender issue diminishes and insults this pinnacle of CEO talent. She can keep up with the best of them regardless of chromosomal architecture and/or departmental clothing shopping preferences.

Jet Lag

Speaking of keeping up, I've traveled the globe, and I'm so good at sitting on planes and navigating airports, I was recently recruited to write about my experiences for a top travel site.

I've flown LAX to HKG, 2 hours sitting in limbo while I wait for the connection, then another 5 hours to SIN, then scramble to hotel, shower and get in front of a large audience only to then take a bunch of high-pressure meetings. After all that, a nap sounds awesome -- yet that's just the beginning of most trips. I can tell you from experience -- jet lag is a crap notion for any seasoned traveler, especially a big company CEO with a lot of administrative help and likely a very comfy bed in the forward cabin of the aircraft. 

Conflicting Media

Yahoo is a media destination and content producer. And I can't believe no one is looking at this angle. Hang your hat on the gender card and ignore the obvious if you like, but talent is flocking to Yahoo from mainstream media. Look at Katie Couric and David Pogue. Yahoo is now competing with media destinations like oh, say, The Wall Street Journal, for example -- and pulling talent from said ad-selling digital assets.

There might be something else happening here: 

What's a good way to make a media darling fall out of favor with the media? Compete with said media outlets. 

Ad People Are Super Important

Yes, we are. Just ask us -- and this is the real (maybe) heart of the issue. I often think about how we must look to someone who didn't grow up in the buy side of the business. I found out when I moved to the sell side for a year; it was the longest decade of my life, but that's another story.

The true technology honest-to-gosh Silicon Valley people think agency people are overly self-congratulatory con artists who over-represent their influence on client spending and only really sign insertion orders for one of two reasons:

1.The client demands it

2.The media seller sprung for a weekend in Tahoe

It's really funny that most of the buying decisions are not being made at the executive management level in an agency, yet that's where most of the bribery occurs. Sorry -- I meant to say influencing, not bribery. Sure, the big guys cut the huge upfront deals, but the little guys sign the insertion orders. Of course, when the little guys can't cover the upfronts, it's usually the big guys who get canned. Then, new big guys get hired who bring in their own little guys and the whole process starts over. That's how the ad industry works.

Today, I look at the photos in my own Facebook timeline and can only thank the creator that Facebook didn't exist when I was at those boozefests oh so many years ago. The global head of an agency next to the client he or she is fiduciarily obligated to make unbiased media-buying decisions for out on a yacht paid for by the people selling the media. Do we have any idea how ridiculous that looks to John Q? Executive management boondoggling it up in selfies with vendor logos in the background and even publicly thanking those footing the bill. Enormous bottles of champagne pointed at buyers who are far too easily photographed taking swigs from a Methuselah. Good heavens -- what that must look like to someone outside the business. 

The irony of the elder generations lecturing young job candidates who post photos doing keg stands and bong hits to Facebook and then wonder why they don’t get hired should not be lost on us.

Sheep

So let this be a lesson to us. The latest Marissa headline is another awesome example of being led to exploit the obvious while burying the lead story. It was something simple and stupid that should have been dismissed. Instead, it's a mini media circus searching for meaning in idiotic notions like jet lag and sexism. What sheep we are to speak of such things.

I don’t care what Marissa was doing at the time of the meeting, but if you want to run with wild conclusions, why not consider something a bit more logical and ask one simple question: if it was more important for one of your vendors to nap instead of meeting with you, what does that really say about you?

For now, I'll line up with Jon Suarez-Davis, vice president, global media and digital strategy at Kellogg, as he was quoted in Advertising Age. "We continue to invest in Yahoo.” I too will continue to invest in Yahoo. Mr. Suarez-Davis, I've had my 15 shares of Yahoo since 2007 -- and I’m not selling them just yet.

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1 comment about "Napgate: Cannes".
  1. Terry Wall from Terry Wall Consulting Grp , June 30, 2014 at 4:25 p.m.
    Kevin, once I stopped laughing, I was overwhelmed by flashbacks of my own career--on both sides of the media buying equation! Nicely done!