Publishing technology on the agenda at the Cannes Lions festival

Cannes Lions
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Originally inspired by the Cannes Film Festival, the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is a global event for the creative communications industries. Once exclusively focused on creative talent and output, the week-long event now features as many ad-tech players as advertising agencies.

  • This year was the first Cannes Lion event to be held since 2019 and, set against the beautiful backdrop of the French Riviera, Cannes Lions could be seen as something of a post-COVID boondoggle. The reality is the event is a focal point for discovering innovation, uncovering partnership opportunities and deal making.
  • Brian Morrissey of The Rebooting newsletter and podcast told me that it was hard to be in Cannes and look around at Big Tech’s presence and not conclude that technology is driving the media industry, not vice versa. He doesn’t think advertising or creativity are unimportant or that publishing can’t survive, but he said:

If anyone doubts that software has eaten the world, come to Cannes, because software has eaten the media and advertising industries whole.

  • Reinforcing the point, a tweet from What’s New In Publishing highlighted that, globally, almost $800 billion will be spent on advertising in 2022. Just five companies – Google, Meta, Amazon, Bytedance and Alibaba – will receive over $400 billion of that ad spend.
Cannes conversations
  • Data was at the heart of many of the conversations taking place between the publishers, ad-tech suppliers and brand managers meeting at Cannes. Questions of control vs scale led to discussions around collaboration and the potential role of data clean rooms as a solution in a cookieless publishing environment.
  • But where everyone went into the week expecting Google to kill off third-party cookies next year, it didn’t take long for rumours of a reprieve to surface. Matthew Papa, SVP of Business and Corporate Development at Search Intelligence firm Captify told me the 2023 deadline for third-party cookie depreciation is slipping.

The feeling amongst the folks that we’ve talked to on both the buy side and the sell side is that the cookie is likely not going to go away in 2023, as expected, and that it may actually never go away.

  • Another key discussion point at Cannes Lions this year was ‘attention’, with advertising and marketing execs asking how brands can cut through the content clutter. Publishers and supporting ad-tech companies were talking up clear attention signals that indicate high levels of reader engagement.
  • Peter Cunha, VP of Marketplace Strategy at pub-tech platform Sovrn, described attention as a metric as being like ‘viewability on steroids’. He explained:

Providing a buyer with analytics on how scaled audiences engaged and interacted with their creative is a powerful tool.

Whether the third-party cookie is sticking around or not, publishers were being advised to continue with their efforts to broaden their audience identity capabilities. Barry Adams, VP for ad-tech at programmatic firm Iponweb accepts that the market for identity solutions is not settled yet, but he said:

If you’re a publisher, and you’re not testing identity solutions yet, you are making a mistake, you should be doing that, absolutely.

Cannes’ critics
  •  Conference talks, which can be superficial at the best of times, took place this year amidst the uncertainty created by the war in Ukraine, a threatened recession and technology innovation that no one quite understands. Some attendees said they’d like to see more concrete solutions to these types of issues discussed at future Cannes Lions events.
  • This year, with the Metaverse being discussed for the first time, some media executives said that they came away from the event with as many questions as they went with. “No one seems able to agree on what the metaverse is and isn’t, or how to make money out of it,” writes Kimeko McCoy in Digiday.
  • Issues surrounding sustainability and the environment were also widely discussed, from the conference halls to the bars and restaurants. But for Greenpeace talk isn’t enough and they protested across the event launching a flotilla of kayaks carrying ‘It’s Fine’ dogs and climbing to the roof of the Pailas De Festival to make the point that global advertising isn’t doing enough to tackle the climate crisis.

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