When the Rosé’s Over: Thoughts on Cannes

No, I didn’t go to Cannes last week. Did I want to? Honestly, yachts and rosé have never been my thing (Cheap beer in a dirty rock club? Now you’re talking my language), and the gladhanding awards bit makes me roll my eyes just thinking about it.

Cannes used to be a festival to celebrate great creative ideas in advertising; after some especially poor choices last year, I feel like that really fell to the side at this go-round. For a while the focus has increasingly been on ad tech, which isn’t great because “good digital creative” has felt like an oxymoron for a long time. Our Ops conference had a higher focus than ever on creative issues—and notably how publishers/media companies were bypassing creative agencies.

A colleague asked me my thoughts on some NYTimes Cannes coverage, and I surprised myself with how much I had to say. I thought you guys might enjoy—or perhaps argue about—some of my insights.
  • We at AdMonsters (and me especially) have been curious about monetizing (selling, buying on) attention based on engaged time for a few years. I’ve led several panels and sessions on the subject. It’s a truly cross-channel metric; I think it’s the future of media monetization, but—interestingly enough—a lot of the order-management technology is not ready… And also it takes forever to change transaction approaches. The Financial Times has been a leader here.
  • Fox’s embrace of six-second units is a BIG deal. Video creative on digital devices needs to be brief and to the point. Advertisers are still repurposing TV commercials for digital platforms despite constant evidence that 30-second spots are not optimal.
  • Digital advertising has been called a “Wild West” for something like 20 years now. It’s amazing how that has not changed despite an influx of monitoring technologies for viewability, bot traffic, etc.
  • The content discovery algorithms are huge—and the media platforms will charge dearly for access. Facebook is making a killing, and further trying to bring pubs under their thumbs through Facebook Articles. Pubs are battling back, but they’re also between a rock and a hard place when it comes to balancing monetization and reaching audiences. However, I believe last year’s election has made a lot of people skeptical of platforms, and they’re trusting proven media brands again. The smart ones are making sure that their sites—and especially the advertising—perform as optimally as possible for users. (See Washington Post’s Zeus project.)
  • In addition, after getting screwed on open programmatic marketplaces (especially in video), advertisers are leaning heavily on the pub brands they trust again. The flare-up over brand safety with Google was a bit of a smokescreen—one of the agencies complaining was trying to get more concessions in spend negotiations. Others jumped on board to force Google to open up its walled garden a bit when it comes to measurement. Facebook is running into a similar problem as they reported erroneously on numbers and advertisers don’t like the lack of transparency. Media companies and digital publishers are once again looking appealing as partners offering transparency—in transactions, with audiences, with measurement, etc.
  • There used to be a saying when I started in ad tech (2009!): no media planner ever got fired for buying Yahoo. (We’ll see if that’s true for the people behind the merger at Verizon, nyuk nyuk nyuk!) Well, in 2017 no one’s going to get fired for buying Facebook. If media agencies have extra spend about, I doubt they’ll have much remorse throwing it Facebook’s way—“We probably hit the target audiences!”