Power Moves: Publishers Unveil Cutting-Edge Revenue Strategies and AI Innovations at Cannes Lions 2024

Discover how top publishers are transforming their revenue models and embracing AI at Cannes Lions 2024, with insights from industry leaders on transparency, CTV, and innovative ad tech strategies.

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2024 was a whirlwind of innovation and insight, from the buzzing panels to the casual yet powerful conversations outside The Palais. While Elon Musk’s headline-grabbing interview drew a lot of attention, the ad tech discussions in the quieter corners truly stole the show. Publishers showcased their latest strategies to diversify revenue, leverage AI, and champion transparency in a rapidly evolving industry.

Amid the seaside backdrop and occasional gusts of wind that even interrupted a Yieldmo rooftop panel, industry heavyweights shared their visions for the future. From AI-enhanced campaign execution to the power of community-building, the sessions were rich with actionable insights and collaborative spirit. Let’s dive into how leading publishers are navigating these trends and setting the stage for what’s next.

AI and Human Governance: A Dynamic Duo

During a lively Yieldmo rooftop panel on the Evolution of AI in Ad Tech, participants faced an unexpected challenge: the wind. Yet, the show went on with Craig Miller from Amazon Web Services, Valerie Davis of Assembly Global, Jesh Sukhwani from Lenovo, and Yieldmo Co-Founder Teddy Jawde leading a robust discussion on generative AI. Sukhwani emphasized the irreplaceable role of human governance in AI implementation, noting, “AI is there to improve productivity and provide a more seamless decision-making process. It is not there to overtake and think for humans.”

Future Today: Leveraging Contextual Buying 

Future Today is making waves with its latest integration with IRIS.TV, allowing the publisher to contextualize its vast content library into various segments, like travel, food, and fitness. This move has standardized the process of contextual buying, making it easier for advertisers to target specific audiences. Co-founder Vikrant Mathur highlighted the importance of this integration for revenue growth, especially with the ongoing cookie deprecation bringing contextual advertising back into focus.  

“IRIS.TV is trying to standardize the process of contextually buying itself,” Mathur explained. “If I have a movie and another publisher has the same movie, sometimes how we pass information to the buy-side is not the same. IRIS.TV allows us to pass and receive signals in a way that makes sense to everybody, which is crucial for standardization.”

In the last quarter or so, revenue from leveraging IRIS-enabled private marketplace deals has been in the six figures for Future Today, and it’s growing. 

The Daily Mail: Dominating in the World of Video 

DMG Media’s Hannah Buitekant shared the company’s ambitious global video strategy, positioning video as the future of revenue diversification. As the leading video publisher on TikTok, with over 13 million followers and one billion monthly views, the Daily Mail combines creativity and tech to expand its video operations. Buitekant advised that authentic content tailored to each platform is crucial for success, emphasizing agility in content development across YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram Reels. According to Buitekant, managing director of digital at DMG Media, innovation within publishing is in the company’s DNA. 

“The video content needs to feel authentic to the platform it appears on, so take that into account when developing new offerings,” Buitekant said. “What works on YouTube may not work on TikTok or Reels, so publishers need to remain agile and amenable to quickly pivot and change formats when rolling out new content platforms.”  

Bloomberg Media: Innovating with Content

Bloomberg Media’s presence at Cannes was marked by discussions about women’s leadership and the power of AI in the C-Suite. Ashish Verma, Global Head of Bloomberg Media Studios, discussed the company’s focus on “content innovation,” combining data science and strategy to connect authentically with their audience. Verma pointed out that live journalism events and bespoke brand content are integral to their diversified media strategy.

“Bloomberg Media has been a heavily diversified media company for many years; one of our points of pride is content innovation, which means that our content is ours and on owned channels, but also social platforms and video distribution streaming services,” Verma explained. “We’ve had a robust live journalism events business for several years, and it plays a part in our diverse offering. In 2025, we will focus on continuing to expand the product offerings from Bloomberg Media Studios, which produces bespoke brand content and experience in a way that understands and connects with our audience — from print to audio and video.”

When asked about AI, Verma noted, “With the growth of AI, we are finding that business-to-business executives are seeing greater value in meeting to discuss key trends and do deals face-to-face and hearing from our journalists face-to-face. Cannes itself was in AI overdrive. Up and down the Croisette, every tech institution was talking about its tools (which were fantastic to play with).”

Mediavine: Don’t Sleep On The Power of a Strong Email Strategy

With the hype surrounding AI and a bunch of new strategies, tools, and technologies on the market, let’s not forget an area thats data rich and has  never steered us wrong: email. When we asked Eric Hochberger, co-founder and CEO of Mediavine, about how publishers can boost revenue these were his sentiments:

“As we reach the halfway point in 2024, it’s a critical time to have conversations with publishers on how they can better diversify their revenue and traffic sources for next year. One approach publishers should consider is a robust email strategy for audience connection and first-party data.

It’s key to reinforce the prioritization of human-made content industry-wide by implementing a framework for vetting mass-produced, undisclosed generative AI content. The most effective way to protect against a generative AI content takeover is by making sure bad actors aren’t incentivized to produce it. Not only because it’s essential for a free web but because it performs better for marketers. Looking ahead at 2025, this will have the biggest impact and wield the greatestcreative influence, boosting revenue for publishers and demonetizing low-quality generative AI content.” 

OpenWeb: Building Community for Revenue Diversification 

Max Weiss, OpenWeb’s Chief Strategy Officer, highlighted the importance of community in today’s media landscape. With AI search tools impacting traffic and cookie deprecation on the horizon, publishers are focusing on building loyal user bases. Weiss noted that a strong community amplifies every new revenue stream, and OpenWeb’s mission is to foster a thriving ecosystem for publishers and content creators. 

“The business model of today’s media industry is under threat. At Cannes, the conversation was about diversifying revenue streams to keep growing while AI-fueled search results impact traffic and cookie deprecation looms. So many publishers are renewing their focus on building a community of registered users — they know that every new revenue stream, every innovation, is amplified by a strong base of loyal users.”

On foreseeing the future of AI development, Weiss said, “While AI can help publishers drive efficiency and streamline processes, it also has the potential to eat into publishers’ traffic. Publishers must focus on lifetime value, loyalty, and community to grow in this new era. At OpenWeb, our mission has always been to create a thriving, healthy ecosystem for the open internet with publishers and content creators at the center.” 

Embracing Transparency: Publisher Panels Insights

Bridging the Gap: Control vs. Transparency in the Streaming and CTV Landscape 

At an OpenX panel, Rose McGovern, Head of Programmatic & Digital Ad Sales at DirecTV, stressed the importance of passing contextual signals to ensure audience targeting while complying with privacy regulations. The discussion also touched on innovative ad formats and the shift from cookies to persistent identifiers.

She elaborated on the importance of passing contextual signals, such as genre, rating, and network, rather than series-level data. This specificity ensures publishers can reach the right audience while remaining compliant with privacy regulations. Moving away from cookies towards more persistent identifiers like universal IDs was discussed to protect customers and enhance targeting accuracy.

Looking ahead, Rose expressed a desire for more innovative ad formats and the need to move beyond the traditional 15- and 30-second spots. She pointed out, “If we can’t run cool ad formats programmatically, then we are really lame. We must innovate and scale these formats to keep up with the evolving CTV landscape.”

Insights into the Evolving Open Internet Market

During a panel hosted by Ogury, Gabriel DeWitt, Head of Monetization at Yahoo, and Heather Carver, Chief Revenue Officer at Freestar, highlighted the complexities of ad monetization and the need for greener infrastructures. They emphasized collaboration in addressing issues like MFA sites and the importance of incrementality in ad formats.

As DeWitt pointed out, “Running ads for a publisher is very complicated and has become more complicated over time, so increasing numbers of publishers need help with their ads.”

Carver highlighted that SSPs must be more carbon-effective, and buyers should choose more efficient paths. Monetization challenges often lead publishers to create complex, wasteful bid request systems. She talked about the positive impact of collaboration in combating issues like MFA (Made-for-Advertising) sites, stating, “We should celebrate the content owners who are actually trying to create good consumer relationships and not just try to drain the money from buyers.”

Paul Bannister, Chief Strategy Officer at Raptive, noted that constrained caps require better tools to bring incremental demand, and better signals should judge the effectiveness of partners. When asked if there was something he’d like to see changed, Bannister responded, “Instead of open RTB, I think about close RTB. There are too many bad actors extracting value. I’d love to work out a way to restrict access to make it a more premium supply.”

The ROI of Openness: Enhancing Publisher Performance Through Transparency

Mike Racic, President of Prebid and Saiful Ahmed, SVP Ad Tech, Global Investment at OMG Global discussed fostering transparency and trust within the programmatic supply chain. They introduced new initiatives to combat ad fraud and enhance Supply Path Optimization (SPO), underscoring the need for standardized and transparent practices.

Racic highlighted the importance of transparent technology solutions. He emphasized Prebid’s commitment to solving publishers’ problems by connecting them to the marketplace transparently. He also announced that Prebid is working with Human to launch an initiative to combat ad fraud, which will be unveiled at their summit in October. “Everything we do is transparent,” he stated, underscoring Prebid’s approach to building trust through clear and open practices.

Ahmed introduced OMG’s Accountability Transparency Framework (ATF), which sets legally binding agreements to push transparency and protect the programmatic trading ecosystem.

He noted, “We give our clients full disclosure into media tech and data costs and domain-level reporting.”

Chen, Co-founder and CRO of RISE, discussed the role of data in SPO and why it’s important  for publishers to understand how SSPs and DSPs classify their inventory. He highlighted the need for transparency in inventory segmentation and value assessment.

All panelists concluded that we can’t dismiss MFA sites as bad without proper standardization and compliance. With transparency supported by clear industry-wide standards, we can address this ongoing issue.

Shaping the Future of Ad Tech

The Cannes Lions 2024 was a testament to the power of innovation and collaboration in the ad tech industry. From leveraging AI to building strong communities and embracing transparency, publishers are navigating a complex landscape with creativity and strategic foresight. As the industry evolves, these insights and strategies will be crucial in shaping the future of ad tech and media.