Cannes Business Model: Sell Picks To Miners Seeking Gold

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.


5 comments about "Cannes Business Model: Sell Picks To Miners Seeking Gold".
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  1. Jaffer Ali from PulseTV, June 25, 2012 at 8:57 a.m.

    Bob, you are once again spot-on. Thanks for continuing to be the adult voice of reason that goes beyond cheerleading.

  2. George Parker from Parker Consultants, June 25, 2012 at 12:25 p.m.

    @Bob... Dead right...
    As I keep saying on "AdScam," Cannes is turning into COMDEX, and we know what happened to COMDEX. The final nail in the coffin lid... The Plutonium Lion for "Best Holding Company." Which, obviously has been won by WPP for the last two years... 'Cos it's the biggest and dumbest. And now Omnicom is saying the voting was rigged. You can't make this shit up.

  3. Doug Chavez from WPP, June 25, 2012 at 12:52 p.m.


    Great perspective on Cannes. The event certainly has evolved over the years. Once the place where creatives reigned supreme as did their agencies (I'm an ex-Leo Burnetter from the private company days). And now a bit disrupted many of the technology and solution providers helping enable media and creative to execute their visions across the desktop, mobile and broadcast.

    Without a doubt more technology “vendors” are showing up at Cannes but is the presence of “vendors” really that new? Publishers have been doing it for a long time. Having been on the agency side and publisher side, I think it’s a good thing that “vendors” are making showing. Many of the senior agency folks that attend Cannes don’t always see or hear from the vendors that their junior teams are seeing on a regular basis and very familiar with. Cannes is a time for agencies folk to see where the rubber is hitting the road and provide food for thought as they think about how best to leverage a fast-paced and changing technology landscape that directly impacts their craft and business.

    Years ago, creative and media agency folks didn’t have to think about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Today, SEM and SEO are key elements successful branding and fully integrated campaigns. A few years ago, people asked “Why is Google at Cannes?” Give the importance of search, that question is no longer asked.

    These quint companies you mention are creating innovative solutions for agencies and their brands in mobile, social and driving better results and meaningful ROI for advertisers. Remember Google, Yahoo, Facebook and many others were once “quaint companies”. The companies that show up and blow a ton of cash on parties, in “hopes” of getting new business, will probably not be showing up again since they don’t have a real business and hence won’t have the resources to make a second showing.

    And while it’s a shameless plug for RadiumOne, the company I work for and that you mention. I would enjoy the opportunity to share more with you about the value and success we are helping drive for our stable of fortune 500 brand advertisers.

    I look forward to chatting soon,

    Doug Chavez
    VP, Marketing
    Doug @ RadiumOne . com

  4. Kaila Colbin from Boma Global, June 25, 2012 at 2:50 p.m.

    I don't know anything about Cannes, but, 'Between a trophy and “atrophy” there is but one shrunken space,' is a gorgeous bit of wordsmithery. Kudos.

  5. Mike Bawden from Brand Central Station, June 26, 2012 at 10:24 p.m.


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