Hearst’s Lisa Howard on why media can’t quit ads

Many ways to make money is the path

Today at The New Attention Economy at the Kerv Cafe: We’re focused on AI. TVRev’s Alan Wolk is leading a conversation on AI’s impact on TV with Paramount’s Shani Kugenthiran and Kerv’s Marika Roque. I’m having a conversation about how AI will alter creativity with a pair of ad agency veterans: Myra Nussbaum of Havas and Rei Inamoto of I&CO. I’m doing a live podcast with Christine Cook, CRO of Bloomberg Media, in which I want to dig into how media will change in an AI era. We’ll also touch on this in my “influencer journalism” talk with Semafor’s Ben Smith and Puck’s Liz Gough. Josh Feldman of NBCU is joining Kerv’s Jay Wolff to discuss how AI can foster TV ad innovation. Finally, we’re talking retail media with Uber’s Mark Grether and Albertson’s’ Claire Wyatt.

Stop by the Kerv Cafe on 1 Square Mérimée, across from the Palais des Festivals, from noon to 3pm. The full schedule is here.

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 free guide.


  • Creator reality check: The Creator Economy is still growing, at least with brands putting money to work with individuals, but the “tooling” companies are suffering: “What we are seeing is consolidation,” said Ryan Stern, CEO of Collectively. “There are so many different SaaS platforms. Clients don’t want eight or 10 of them.” Added Whalar’s Jamie Gutfreund: “How many link-in-bio companies do you need?” Probably not a $200 million category.
  • Publisher reality check: “Impressions are not a business metric,” said Kern Schireson, CEO of Known, a media buying agency.
  • Modern media in one sentence: “What I’ve learned about the advertising ecosystem is the lack of transparency is where the money is made,” Human Ventures partner, tequila entrepreneur and media veteran Joe Marchese. — BM

Ads always win

Ads get a bad rap. Everyone loves to hate on them, or claim they don’t work, and yet the global advertising industry trundles on. Ads always win out in the end.

That’s why, for Hearst global chief revenue officer Lisa Howard, the shift to focus mostly on subscriptions at many publishers obscures the reality that advertising will continue to be the dominant monetization form for most media, including Hearst. Lisa discussed the power of ads and the resilience of legacy media during a live recording of The Rebooting Show at The New Attention Economy on Tuesday.

That doesn’t mean Hearst and others won’t diversify with direct revenue streams and commerce. But even a New York Times veteran recognizes there is a limit to how many media companies can pull off a shift to direct revenue. Better focus instead on direct connections with an audience that can power multiple monetization streams, including ads and events.

Even the “specter” of the deprecation of the beloved third-party cookie mostly elicits shrugs from publishers I speak to, despite hyperventilating coverage in trade publications. There are dozens of identity solutions vendors elbowing each other, which whips up focus. What I tend to hear is that for most high-quality publishers, the eventual disappearance of the cookie will be a good thing and lead to a shift to context after advertisers went bonkers on audience-based buying and behavioral targeting.

The power of ads is on display in streaming. Group M CEO Kirk McDonald tracked connected TV and retail media as twin growth areas for ad spending. It’s hard to miss that Amazon is a major force here and even Apple has gotten advertising religion as high-margin services revenue grows. Retailers are piling into advertising because search remains the greatest money maker ever created.

For all the lamentations of interruptive advertising, and the throwback Cannes hosannas to the “consumer is in control,” interruptive advertising remains a fair tradeoff for access to entertainment and news. Julian Mintz, head of U.S. ad sales at Roku, said the No. 1 search term on Roku is “free.”

Web video simply got the ad execution wrong, as is typical, with too long of repurposed TV spots running on short clips of UGC, said Kern Schireson, CEO of ad buyer Known. Former Fox sales chief and current VC Joe Marchese had tried to innovate on TV ad formats and found resistance to change is “a bug, not a feature” in TV. Connected TV is at risk of “taking worst of TV and the worst of programmatic.”

The answer, however, might be a return of the bundle, which is often misunderstood. After all, Netflix itself is a bundle of tons of content, most of which people never watch individually, like… linear TV. “Cable was just missing good UX and UI,” Joe added. The interface is where the magic happens.

That makes the rise of AI-powered search a pressing issue for publishers. Many tilt the conversations about AI to using tools for back-office efficiency, while cautiously noting they are looking to augment humans, not replace them. Privately, many see the implementation of a “generative search experience” as a disruption that will make the pivot to video pale in comparison. — BM

The Cannes tech takeover

There was a time when Amazon was invisible at big media and advertising conferences.

I remember talking to an agency executive at CES a few years ago, who had taken a meeting with Amazon at the show, which surprised me. Yes, the e commerce giant was there in terms of sending a few sales reps. But Amazon didn’t do CES and Cannes like its competitors..

“Amazon doesn’t play that game,” said this exec. “It’s just not their culture.”

Fast forward a few years later, and Amazon – after rolling out Snoop Dog in Vegas back in January – is hosting the Amazon Port at Cannes for the second straight year. Visitors can lean back and relax in the podcast lounge, grab an iced coffee or smoothie, sit for a variety of panels, and pick up swag from Amazon sellers like Laurel Bay, which makes Turkish inspired beach towels, along with various artisanal granola and gum vendors.

After hours, the Port hosts Twitch-famous DJs and of course, a headliner concert.

With an ad business at $8.5 billion and growing by 21%, Amazon has decided to play the game.

Which brings us to Apple. Yes, they are at Cannes this year. But so far, their presence feels muted. Based on one buyer’s off the cuff remarks, her meeting with the reluctant ad player wasn’t so great- not sure if that was because the offering lacked, or the prices were out of whack.

Either way, at some point I wonder if Apple ever decides to play the ad excess game. This is a company, after all, that hosts its own events that elicit global awe, and can shake markets. Can they ever suck it up and invite a bunch of middle aged ad executives to an Apple Ads yacht party featuring a live performance by U2?

This time next year will be telling. If we’re all at St. Tropez trying on free Vision Pros, you’ll know what the ad culture won again. – MS


We gathered together 30 top media executives at a private dinner last night in the fragrant hills above Cannes at La Bastide Saint-Antoine, a counterprogramming to Lizzo at the MediaLink-iHeart dinner in Antibes. (Everyone does dinners in Antibes.) We kept the dinner off the record, but in general the South of France breeds optimism, and a general theme emerged that perhaps what comes next in the media business will be better, even if smaller, with direct and real audience connections and return to sound business models that aren’t premised on constantly chasing the next Big Thing.

Thanks to Sovrn and Ex.co for their partnership for this first of a series of these dinners and small-scale salons. (Sign up if you want information on these and other gatherings from The Rebooting.) – BM


  • A three-hour cruise: Some marketers got more than they bargained for on a marketing events company junket to Monaco by speed boat that, thanks to the wind, took nearly three hours and left some nauseous. The immutable Rule of Cannes: Never get on a boat that isn’t anchored. Needless to say, nearly all guests took the overland route back.
  • Wind havoc: The Cannes weather’s windy turn wreaked havoc on many big installations along the Croisette, blowing over umbrellas and causing one beach stage to stop mid-panel for fear of a Thrillist-style incident.
  • All good: if there’s a mascot of Cannes, it’s Michael Kassan of the ubiquitous consultancy/fixer firm MediaLink. Michael loves to use his “no conflict, no interest” mantra as marketing spin, and to revel in grumbling that MediaLink “has hands in everybody’s pockets.” Only in Cannes. – BM