1. Cannes and Vidcon: The State of Media In a Tale Of Two Festivals.
If you want to see where the future of media and entertainment is heading, there are few better illustrations than the disparity between the two big industry events this week—Cannes Lions and VidCon.
The former takes place in a posh resort town on the French Riviera where publishers, adtech companies, social media giants, TV networks and ad agencies all seemingly loll about drinking rosé, visiting each other on corporate yachts and posting endless photos of it all to Instagram (while still managing to strike numerous deals.) It’s an odd evolution for what had, for many years, been one of the premier award shows for the creative end of advertising. That crew is increasingly feeling left out of the action, so much so, that ad agency holding company Publicis announced they won’t be coming back next year. (A claim we would not be surprised to see them eventually backtrack on.)
Meanwhile, on the ground, one of the most notable events was the New York Times’ CEO Mark Thompson’s stinging takedown of digital advertising and the Google/Facebook duopoly. “Nightmarish joke” was one of his nicer comments, though his rant, which focused on the lack of brand safety and the overwhelming amount of fake news and clickbait seemed to have struck a nerve. It’s as if all of a sudden advertisers realized that context matters, that reaching a specific target is all well and good, but how that target reacts to your message greatly depends on the context in which it is offered.
That’s good news for the TV industry whose high production value product rarely offers anything objectionable. (Those network censors are good for something) and for premium publishers as well, who have long been making the argument that their content is a much better environment for brands, and that ignoring context just because you have a cheaper way to reach the same audience via programmatic buying is foolish.
On the other side of the ocean, in decidedly less glamorous Anaheim, California, VidCon was also playing out. And while much of the show is, as Recode’s Peter Kafka described it in a tweet “throngs of girls screaming while another group gathers around them and tries to figure out why they are screaming” it’s a great showcase for the growing power of the Influencer market.
While most major announcements this week were coming out of Cannes, e.g., Snapchat, which continues to get pummeled by Instagram, announced their purchase of several location based services (check out this study from our friends at Delmondo in terms of the aforementioned pummeling), Verizon’s president of global media, Marni Walden, took to the stage at VidCon to lay out her vision for the rapidly expanding Verizon media empire, which now includes Oath (Yahoo + AOL), Go90, FIOS and the as-yet-to-be-named virtual MVPD service they are planning on launching.
Walden focused a lot on mobile in her speech, claiming that mobile is what is driving the adoption of cord-cutting and OTT. While that may be stretching the truth, what it does reveal is that Verizon is looking to its new 5G mobile standard (already being tested in Boston) as an alternative to broadband for video viewing, especially for 20something viewers who, unlike older viewers with families, are unlikely to be streaming from more than one device at a time.
Why It Matters
The digital media world is still in full [r]evolution mode, as brands are finally waking up to the fact that context matters and the two leading digital platforms (Facebook and Google) struggle to undo the damage created by their belief that content was, well, “content”—interchangeable garbage that was only distinguishable by the makeup of the audiences it attracted and number of page views it accumulated.
At the same time, Creator Culture is still thriving and big media companies like Verizon are taking notice, realizing that the people making the actual content (and we fully believe that many of the next generation of filmmakers and TV creators can be found among the YouTube Creators) are just as important as the people figuring out how to place ads on them. Because, once again, context matter.
What You Need To Do About It
Start paying attention to context and refamiliarizing yourself with the notion that the programming (not “content”) your ads run against really does influence how the audience reacts to them. Stay tuned to TV[R]EV too for our upcoming piece on how a company called Iris.TV is using AI to help make publisher websites more relevant.
2. Resistance Radio Offers A Glimpse Into A Better Future
Buried in the ad tech news from Cannes (Snapchat ferris wheel!) is a story about a great campaign that was awarded two Silver Lions and three Bronze Lions at the advertising awards festival that was the original reason for the event. It’s a promotion for Amazon’s original series “The Man In The High Castle” done by our friends at Campfire.
Resistance Radio dives into the plot of the series to imagine what a pirate radio station in the 1960s-era world of the show (where the Nazis and Japanese have conquered America) would sound like.
Why It Matters
It’s a brilliant promotion because it created something that took on a life of its own and expanded the plot line of the series. Music critics took Resistance Radio seriously (it wasn’t just some crappy songs cobbled together to say “Look! We made a promotion!” but something put together by noted musicians Sam Cohen and Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) that had real credibility, as this glowing piece from NPR describes.)
Better still: Twitter users on both sides of the political spectrum initially missed that this was a promotion for a TV show and started praising and damning the promotion as a piece of anti-Trump propaganda. The numerous stories around that misunderstanding from outlets as diverse as the Washington Post and Indiewire gave the promotion an added lift.
Which is why we see this throwback radio station as a roadmap to what advertising should look like in the near future. You will often hear ad executives defending the current advertising models by saying things like “Harley Davidson fans love Harley Davidson advertising.” Which is true enough, but it omits an important clause: “when it doesn’t interrupt the show they’re enjoying.”
As brands look for ways to promote themselves that don’t involve interruptive advertising or otherwise annoying potential consumers, Campfire’s Resistance Radio campaign offers a valid road map on how to create something that’s both entertaining and effective without being intrusive.
What You Need To Do About It
Think beyond thirty-second interruptive ads. There are so many other ways to advertise your brand to consumers that don’t annoy TF out of them, (e.g. Fox’s Joe Marchese’s announcement that they’ll soon be launching YouTube-esque six-second ads, the other big news to come out of Cannes this year.)
Be like Campfire.
Be like Joe.
Start respecting your customer’s time and they’ll start respecting you.