The Big Tech tornado is gathering strength — a Cannes Lions perspective from Claire Atkinson
Protestors and precipitation snarled traffic as hundreds of Cannes Lions attendees headed to the airport after an exhausting five-day sprint through business breakfasts, meaty panels and late-night encounters with pop culture icon Paris Hilton.
Amid all the thoughtful talk about sustainability and inclusion there was evidence aplenty that ad agencies, and even big media conglomerates, are shrinking in importance, as the
of big tech’s ad ambitions gathers strength.
Google, Meta, and Amazon literally owned the best beachfront real estate at Cannes, spending millions on huge exhibition spaces. Attendees were wowed by the cocktail hours, the digital music DJs, and whirring air conditioners ready to spritz them. (Did we mention that the activations were outdoors on the Mediterranean?)
Conversation about big global agency reviews and dominance of “Facebook” seem to have dissipated, especially now that the conversation is framed around virtual reality at Meta — a genius rebrand if ever there was one.
“It’s the best of times, and it’s the worst of times,” said Michael Kassan, the CEO of MediaLink, the media and advertising consultancy around whom most things pivot. Kassan noted the proliferation of ecommerce and shift towards multi-currency measurement, but said he was most surprised by how focused the Cannes crowd was on Netflix’s ad plan.
Insider reported on this blog about details of the
RFP, which appears to suggest more collaboration between Netflix and Google — where Netflix already spends most of its ad dollars. Guessing games about who will be the first chief revenue officer at Netflix were at fever pitch during the week.
Roku, another tech monster in the making, was a huge presence during the week. CEO Anthony Wood popped up at the Spotify party in the hills, and was spotted at the swanky executive dinner at Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, helmed by MediaLink and iHeart. What Roku does next was another hot topic.
Meanwhile Alison Levin, vice president of ad revenue at Roku, is continuing her aggressive advance on linear TV, which is increasingly seen as the print newspaper of 2022 (meaning, it’s on the decline as an ad medium).
CNN brought a secret weapon to Cannes Lions. Its chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, came to talk to advertisers to underscore the importance of supporting news media. The point was, if marketers continue to white list all the negative news keywords, then Ward won’t be able to continue to bring dictators to account.
The reality is however that advertisers have more spending choices than they could ever have conceived.
“This year, brands have more tools than ever before to build a better storytelling experience — the shift to
, the growth in commerce, the focus on direct consumer relationships,” said Levin.
Marketers must be more perplexed than ever about how best to move forward. Among the questions that weren’t even on the radar at the last Cannes Lions event in 2019: Should I be doing an NFT partnership and creating virtual stores in the metaverse? What is Web3, and if Nielsen isn’t measuring audiences then who should be? And for retailers specifically — can I become an advertising slot machine alongside my traditional business?
David Cohen, the CEO of IAB, which represents the digital ad business, has a bird’s-eye view on all of it. At breakfast at the Majestic Hotel on Thursday, Cohen told Insider, “What the large platforms have done really well is democratize access to millions of advertisers that would otherwise not be able to advertise in television in places where the top 200 advertisers are present. If you think about what the next generation of high quality content is, it’s all about the creator economy and small and mid-sized businesses.”
And if anyone else wants to stay a competitive player in the ad-supported media business, then they’d better figure out a self-serve ad business of the kind owned by big tech.