Past Cannes

I had a great Cannes Lions this week. It was truly special. It was the biggest, best and most productive in-person event that I have been part of in our industry in years.

Tons of meetings (the right ones). Ran into so many people that I wouldn’t have thought to schedule, but was so glad to get to talk to. I got lots done. It was so cathartic to really be back in person after so long in the post-COVID world.

I loved my time there, But it doesn’t take much time there to recognize that the ad industry’s future cannot be defined at places like Cannes. For me, it was the moment I walked by a hipster-looking, Cannes badge-wearer with a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Less plastic more ocean” while drinking from a luxury branded disposable plastic bottle of water.

If we really care about the world’s brands and the people who consume them, we need to get past Cannes.

Toasting glasses of rose on oligarch-sized yachts anchored off the French Riviera while being serenaded by the latest top recording stars makes you (and your business prospects) feel very special, so special. But that is not the part of the world that needs our help, and our advertising.



The Cannes world is far away from the life of the consumers around whom brands and their advertising should center: the folks who buy those cars, potato chips, mobile phones and dog food, but who today are truly terrified about how they can pay for the next tank of gas to get to work and not be late on the monthly mortgage payment or the co-pay on their kids’ orthodontist bill. No trip to the beach this year?

Being present at a place like Cannes makes you feel good about yourself and your importance in the world. To be clear, I am not against that kind of celebration. But, after a point it defines you -- you don’t define it.

Thus, it’s not surprising that many folks today see the ad and media industry (and much of big tech, as advertising become its key revenue and profit driver) as hypocritical global elites living privileged lives in bubbles. I get it. We’re fair game on that front.

Ad events like Cannes, CES, celebrity red carpets, and hobnobbing in D.C. shouldn’t go away, but we need to find a way past them.

Today, we have the worst inflation in more than 40 years, a war in Europe, gasoline prices through the roof and a climate crisis that presents real and significant existential issues for all of us.

We need a grounded ad industry. Advertising means too much to the world. It can be a truly noble industry. But we will have a hard time finding and truly living that nobility if we can’t find ourselves past Cannes.

5 comments about "Past Cannes".
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  1. Andrew Susman from New Value Associates, LLC, June 24, 2022 at 6:48 a.m.

    David:  Welcome back.  This is merely my opinion, but I believe this to be the most self-aware article you have ever written. Without an ethical toolkit, the practice of advertising becomes a mask that eats into your face.  To avoid such dire consequences and to protect others from the same, we welcome you and all to join our non-partisan efforts here and be part of the change that you seek for enhanced ethics in the advertising industry.
    Best yet, just look at  Joe Mandese here:

    Industry, Government and Civil Society is involved; join our efforts at
    Call anytime with questions, Dave: 212-209-3999.

  2. Jim Meskauskas from Media Darwin, Inc., June 24, 2022 at 8:31 a.m.

    Excellent call-out, Dave.  You already know my thoughts on the matter and I wholeheartedly agree.  Most of advertising is already about selling things people don't need to people we don't know to buy with money they don't have.  The industry spends far too much time talking to itself about the good it can do instead of actually doing it, proclamations made about supporting this cause or that cause drowned out in a wash of rosé and "I can't find my yacht" posts.  Not to say that it's necessary to live an experience to understand those who do, but being attuned to the people we hope to speak to will help us speak to them better.

  3. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, June 24, 2022 at 12:18 p.m.

    Thanks JIm! Your posts on this topic were a big part of my inspiration to write the column. The role of our industry is too important not to try to find a better way to gety our business done without creating enviornments that run counter to the very people that we should be working for - the brands and the public.

  4. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, June 24, 2022 at 1:59 p.m.

    Andrew, thanks for the kind words. Hopefully, part of the ethical improvement of the ad industry will be the adoption of transparency across the media and production supply chain. It is not only lacking, but a big contributor to misalignment among market participants.

  5. Max Kalehoff from MAK, July 6, 2022 at 12:06 p.m.

    Dave: Agree! Given what you say, the prevalence and celebration of "brand purpose" lingering in the festival environment is ironic. Regardless, for the abundance of advertising suppliers, these fancy venues are fertile destinations to access CMOs and other senior execs with buying and decisinoing authority.

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