Welcome to the first of five dispatches from Cannes Lions, the annual free-for-all that attracts tens of thousands from the media, advertising and tech sectors for a week of talking, drinking, eating, partying, more talking and business deals.
Cannes is always awkward at the best of times. I summed up my “Cannes rules’ last year and will be following them religiously for what I estimate is my 14th trip here. This year, with the ad economy in recession, layoffs and labor strife, not to mention the specter of AI, the partying is even more off key. But sip enough rosé, you put all that to the side. I’ll be joined all week by Next in Media’s Mike Shields for our own vibe check on the Riviera.
First up, a message from Kerv Interactive, sponsor of this week’s newsletter.
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.
Today at The New Attention Economy at the Kerv Cafe, located directly across from the Palais on 1 Square Mérimée: We’re discussing attention metrics with the Financial Times and PMG. GroupM North America CEO Kirk McDonald talks to me about responsible media. Adrienne Lahens from TikTok on the creator economy. Group Black’s Bonin Bough will speak to earning the attention of the modern consumer. Kerv CEO Gary Mittman, Samsung’s Esco Strong and Roku’s Peter Hamilton on AI as a force for good. And finally, a discussion of sports and culture with Front Office Sports’ Adam White and The Athletic’s Sebastian Tomich.
From 3:30-5:30pm, we are holding a cocktail party at the Kerv Cafe. Space is limited, so send Michelle Fernandez a note if you aren’t registered and want to join us. – BM
Sign of the times: Apple has a massive space in Cannes for the first time, while Amazon has taken over a port area compound like a Green Zone for CMOs.
The Germans are here: Axel Springer has nabbed prime real estate at the Hotel Majéstic. Springer is putting Politico front and center, a sure sign of the pecking order for its brands as Insider returns to its BI roots and retools as a “next-gen” Wall Street Journal.
Meta—what? I don’t know what you’re talking about, sorry: Last year, with Jerome Powell just warming up, the metaverse was front and center. Not so much this year. Even Meta isn’t pushing the metaverse, instead focusing on Reels as it battles for budgets with TikTok. There won’t be a return of McCann’s “inclusive, accessible, sustainable Web3 experience.” Many will do find-and-replace to swap in AI. My barometer: Gary Vaynerchuk. Last year, he was talking up the “NFT revolution” with Paris Hilton. This year, he’s linked up with Halle Berry to spread the gospel of “empowering creators to create change with AI.” Plus ça change…— BM
Cannexiety is the theme of the week, as the media, advertising and tech worlds forget their worries — the ever-looming recession, inflation, war, the end of the easy-money era, energetic regulators, a new tech shift with AI — and instead focus on the upside.
On this first edition of The Rebooting Show from Cannes, Mike and I were joined by Claire Atkinson, veteran media reporter who is soon launching her own newsletter and podcast, The Media Mix.
- Claire talked about why it seems that the biggest TV media companies seem to be barely making their presence felt on the Riviera this year, and what that says about the state of the streaming wars (because Netflix will be out in full force)
- Mike is focused on retail media being front-and-center at an event supposedly about ad creativity.
The three of us discussed the extreme awkwardness of Bud Light being honored with one of the top awards even as it ducks for cover from the ongoing controversy over its work with influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Cannes will celebrate the bravery, but Bud Light is on a summer apology tour to claw back sales that have declined by 25%. How does the industry respond, when the culture wars promise to touch almost every brand and marketing channel? - BM
Cannes is back. Sorta. Last year’s edition was the first one back from the pandemic and still operated in uncertainty. Cannes feels more itself, even if slightly more muted because of economic uncertainty and the awkward split screen of cost-and job cutting at home and villa parties on the Riviera. Cannes is filled with these kinds of contradictions. C’ést la vie.
Every walk-up story to an event like Cannes is required to state that this is mostly a business networking event. Yes, people come here for the meetings, not the many panels. The programming itself has exploded from being centered at the Palais, where celebrities, both the real kind and the CMO kind, will hold court and should expect an ovation if they show a video.
Now there’s programming all around the Croisette, on giant beach facilities for heavy hitters like Meta, Google and Spotify, on the ad-tech flotilla of yachts in the harbor, in villas around town and increasingly in the hills and up the coast in Antibes. Play your cards right as a CMO, you’ll get invited to Hotel du Cap Eden Roc at least twice in the week.
The organizers and city of Cannes periodically attempt to crack down on these side activities, nudging more people to fork out up to €6,500 for an official delegate pass. In Cannes, everyone wants to wet their beak.
Cannes is a marketing and sales event. Companies use it to brand themselves, increasingly around climate change and inclusivity. It’s the Cannes mullet strategy, with social responsibility in the front and real business in the back. The ROI of Cannes comes down to sales leads and deals closed.
Cannes can be a somewhat useful barometer to see where company priorities are (and which ad tech firms are blowing through their marketing budgets). Out is the metaverse, even for Meta, and in are creators, retail media and, of course, AI. On the latter, OpenAI’s COO Brad Lightcap is speaking at the Palais with top ad agency Goodby Silverstein. If you have a Cannes Bingo card, expect AI to come off the board very quickly, especially since it is expected to eliminate 30,000 advertising jobs. - BM
Semafor has dispatched a pair of Cannes newbies, Ben Smith and Max Tani, to cover the week with a pop-up newsletter. They’ll be mispronouncing the Martinez all week. We aspire to start a New York Post vs Daily News Riviera-style tabloid war. In the meantime, check it out.
Musk watch: Twitter long held a prime beach location but is missing this year. New CEO Linda Yaccarino supposedly won’t make the trip, but Elon Musk was in Paris for VivaTech on Friday, so it would be very unsurprising for a joint “surprise appearance.”
Following the Money: Fresh off a $300 million infusion from Goldman Sachs, the ad tech firm Madhive is hosting a top secret event at an airport hangar.
Following the Money II: The measurement firm EDO is offering some ad executives rides from the Nice airport via Blade helicopters.
Following the Money III: Some of us flew econ with a connection, but if you’re a CMO, you get to fly private, although nothing in life is free and an airplane is a truly captive environment. – BM, MS