Cannes is mostly winding down, although there is still the main awards show tonight. That used to be the peak of the festival, but these days the crowds thin by the end of the week because The Work is not the focal point of most at this carnival of capitalism.
We had a great week with three days of programming and over 30 speakers at the Kerv Cafe, as well as a leaders dinner and yesterday a live podcast recording with Neil Vogel at the Dotdash Meredith Villa. Thanks to Michelle Fernandez, Mike Shields, Alan Wolk, all our speakers, guests and partners.
Wrapping up the week in Cannes, I spoke to Christine Cook, global CRO at Bloomberg Media. Mike and I have our takeaways from the week here. I took a vibes-based approach, while Mike zeroed in on specific issues. First up, a message from our partners at Kerv.
What does it mean to measure consumer attention? Page context and quality certainly play a role, but with Kerv Active Attention Index, you can also understand consumer attention with the video creative itself. Through this index, we measure the quality of deterministic user actions as they engage with interactive and shoppable videos. Get the guide.
Bloomberg Media’s Christine Cook on navigating change
Christine Cook joined Bloomberg Media in March as global chief revenue officer. At The New Attention Economy, we spoke about reasons for media optimism, how AI is an opportunity (and a threat), and how Bloomberg is approaching programmatic as the data landscape changes.
Disrupting the disruptors
Last year, I wrote in my Cannes rules that the “walk-up” story is a soulless assignment but fairly easy to execute because it’s a template – and besides, you can always say that this carnival of capitalism is “all about the meetings.” And it’s not wrong, of course, which makes the companion staple wrap-up story more vexing. After all, a key Cannes rule is that what is said publicly is often very different than what is done in reality. Cannes is its own mixed reality.
I had that in mind yesterday when I got a reply to yesterday’s email from a veteran ad executive, who I have seen in years past in Cannes and has now sensibly moved on to other pursuits. He asked": “Sounds like a lot of discomfort, uncertainty and more than a bit of anxiety. Was there one big takeaway? What are marketers hanging their hat on for 2024-2025?”
My flip response was: “There’s no answer. I mean, you can make one up like AI or creators but it’s just made up. What people say here is frequently only notionally related to what they do. The real answer isn’t the stuff people like to hear. It’s that ZIRP is over and if you thought this business was hard, bad news for you: it’s gonna get harder. So cry in your rosé or get lean and ready to fight for your existence every day.”
His response: “That is absolutely the answer. We’re going to be paying for the excesses for awhile and the consumer is going to feel the pain, which will be passed on to advertisers. Bigly. Plus media is changing faster than ever and digital which at least — while a disruptor — was becoming predictable is now becoming disrupted in multiple ways. AI and search OMG. Pages will go by the wayside. All that SEO and SEM. Yikes. Linear TV OMFG. Streaming, Amazon vacuuming it up. C R A Z Y. I’d hate to be working in advertising.”
This is 100% accurate, but I don’t believe it is necessarily gloomy, because any time of tumult holds the possibility for new players to emerge. As an exec told me in the early days of Covid, “These are times the league tables change.”
Reading the Cannes tea leaves
Mike Shields peers through the bluster
While Cannes is ostensibly about inspiration, it’s also a very useful place to gauge the current trajectory of the ad business. You just have to read between the well-rehearsed talking points. Here are five things we’ve learned this year.
Nobody can really say how sustainability is working.
Brands, agencies, media companies and ad tech firms are all preaching about their efforts to reduce their carbon footprints. Yet they are all using their own research and score cards to taut their progress. In a business that is built on story-telling, it’s sure hard to suss out what’s what. “This is an industry that has something of a credibility problem,” said Oliver Whitten, Chief Operating Officer at Adform. After 100 years of being built to drive consumer consumption, “this is a fundamental shift.”
In terms of truly reshaping the ad industry, AI is mostly just talk.
Everyone is equal parts excited and terrified by the prospects of AI revolutionizing/gutting the ad industry. Semafor’s Ben Smith noted that while every marketer is talking about ‘experimenting’ with various technologies, “when you press them” there’s not much there. For all the chatter about how AI will either kill jobs, or lead to more efficiency – letting humans do that strategic thinking they all long to do – we’ve found few companies who’ve actually institutionalized the use of AI, or made any real change to their operations or processes.
The TV business seems hung up on mechanics – rather than innovation.
The five families of TV gathered in Cannes for yet another meeting for the Joint Industry Committee, which aims to establish standards for a slew of new Nielsen wannabees like iSpot and VideoAmp. Meanwhile companies like TelevisaUnivision aren’t waiting around, and are moving forward with Nielsen’s new big data product. GroupM Multicultural, Gonzalo Del Fa told me that he’s spent half of Cannes banging heads with his head of research trying to figure out how to negotiate an upfront using five different new currencies. Meanwhile, new TV ad titans like YouTube and Netflix are focused on creating new forms of TV ad targeting and products. “These formats are dying to be reinvented,” said one executive.
The ad market is weird. Unless you’re in retail media.
We’ve talked a lot this week about how the strange mixed signals in the economy have caused brands to be less than decisive in their decision making. But there is clearly no ad recession in retail media. Naturally Amazon has a dominant presence at Cannes, and this year Target’s Roundel and Instacart have footholds on the beach. The mission now seems to be to bring RM, and its closed loop marketing power, to every medium, including TV. As one industry expert put it, “I think that hockey stick growth is just going to keep flying off the charts.”
TikTok is roaring. Snap is not.
TikTok could be banned by the US government. It could be stealing all of our data. And absolutely no one in digital advertising cares. The company’s late night party was among the most desired tickets in Cannes, but more importantly, every media agency was angling for a meeting with the Chinese-owned app, which continues to suck dollars from other social platforms and even TV. Meanwhile, I asked our creator economy panel about the state of Snap, and Collectively co-founder Ryan Stern said “it doesn’t come up with our clients.” Ouch.
Thanks for reading all week. The Rebooting will be back to normal schedule next week, with a new podcast conversation featuring Semafor editor-in-chief Ben Smith and Puck COO Liz Gough.
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