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8 Cannes Facts and 20 Observations

I was lucky enough to spend time in France last week at Cannes. I stuffed my face with delicious food, and stuffed my brain with insights from amazing people in media and advertising. Most of my time was spent hanging round the Variety Studio– so my view of “what was hot” and how it went rely largely on the 40 or so industry leaders that came through with something to say. Check the videos here . 

Here are some notes FWIW:

Fact: There were less people. Some say as much as 30% less.

Observation: As Luma Partners’ Terry Kawaja tweeted— what the festival lost was younger, less qualified (agency) folks making the professional caliber of guest more seasoned. Like parents excited to have a nice night out, lots of people I spoke with mentioned appreciation for the smaller lines and much less drunked disastrousness in the streets.

Fact: There were still power players on the scene at every turn.

Observation: It wasn’t hard to turn around and find amazing conversations happening between heads of industry. For example: Joe Marchese and Linda Yaccarino and other agency heads at the Variety Studio talking about the things they should be: consumer experiences, better accountability, new formats.

Fact: The promises data made for years are becoming realities and brands are taking matters in house.

Observation: Everyone was talking about their new data plays- agencies on how they will keep brands reliant using data-driven programs and brands all calculating just how much they can take in-house.  Examples of data being the new creative: Turner’s big media splash was the roll out of Jesse Redniss, its new head of data. ACR TV data company Inscape, TV ad tracker iSpot.tv, and companies like Innovid are all helping networks and publishers rewire their infrastructures to be faster, more reliable, and optimized to behavioral insights and business outcomes.


Fact: Blockchain took the main stage with the big names to discuss the coming end of real time bidding, ad taxes and more.  

Observation: If anyone doubted the reality of blockchain heading in, they should reconsider those doubts about now. When the major agencies roll out their heads on the topic of accountability, transparency and transformation you best pay attention. Mediaocean’s announcement with IBM, and the launch of an all-star board for blockchain consort AdLedger are major logs in the fire. And while mirrored smoke continues from agencies and ad taxers not wanting to let go of their cut$, the protocols from MadHive are coming along. As Sapna points out in NYT – transparency was on everyone’s mind. 

Fact: Telcos Are Rising in Importance. Everyone was talking AT&T, and T-Mobile was there talking 5G.

Observation: Last year, who’d of thought AT&T would be a hot topic at Cannes? Now that the world is on 6-inch screens, and 5G is en route- the MSO oligopoly is in full upheaval from the companies hard wired to the palms of people’s hands. As AT&T works to verticals itself with Warner, and Comcast reaches into the Disney/ Fox bidding- it’s the telcos such as T-Mobile that are reminding everyone— the long held local monopolies and pipes to the home are no longer a barrier they once were. The well-timed AppNexus rumors that are now true only strengthen the vital role these mobile carriers in the future of the attention (content) economy.

Fact: Potshots at influencer content rippled through the conference while droves flocked to Vidcon.

Observation: While the rise of influencers has led to plenty of snake oil farm-clicked solutions brands cannot trust- the new forms of distribution really start to eat at market share for creative agencies. But influence marketing isn’t going anywhere. One needs only to look at the Beatles-like frenzy happening at Anaheim last week. As Steve Ellis, CEO of WHOSAY points out– the world of organic posting for 150% of reach are done and now 7% is the new norm. That means the creative– no matter how good– with a few exceptions– must be paired with dollars to achieve success. Digital in that way is becoming TV. Reach is something you buy.

Fact: Augmented Reality is gaining steam

Observation: While the lure of VR seems to continue its fade, brands and agencies are looking at a bunch of new formats  that merge the worlds real and imagined.

Fact: Social went to France subdued. Snap opted out of the Ferris Wheel and Facebook’s Beach Party was one day not four.

Observation: Talk of Facebook was light. Perhaps its role as one half the duopoly and their recent string of troubles is leaving a bit of burn out. The buzz was on Instagram and its perfectly timed Cannes-Vidcon week launch of Instagram TV from SF.

I’m sure I missed a bunch— call me out!