Progress’ Perspective on Cannes Lions 2017

By Chris Legg
Chris is a Partner and Senior Managing Director at Progress Partners; He lives in Cambridge, MA, and is based in Boston.

June 23, 2017 ? As the final day in Cannes comes to a close, I am looking back on my impressions from the festival. Here, at the intersection of tech, media, entertainment, and design, there is no shortage of creativity and innovation.

These are the five that caught my attention the most:

Kicking off the Week Right

To commence the week, we co-hosted an event with Adform on their chartered yacht, Dyna?, Sunday evening. With few other competing events, we were able to be one of the only boats hosting, playing to our favor.

We hosted over 100 industry executives in digital marketing, media, and adtech, along with top agency and publisher leaders, where we gained key insights into the challenges they face along with opinions on market activity and current industry trends. The event was very successful, easily making it on the list as one of my top five favorite Cannes moments.

Comcast Stands out with Full Week-Long Agenda

Although Snapchat had a massive bright yellow ferris wheel flanking the entrance to the Palais and Facebook had an art installation and Oculus VR station, Comcast’s cabana hosted a full week-long agenda filled with content sessions and panel discussions, announcements and high-quality networking. Some of Comcast’s top management were in attendance, including Comcast Cable’s Marcien Jenckes (President of Advertising) who discussed The Future of TV with MediaLink’s CEO, Michael Kassan, along with Harvey Kent (Senior Vice President, STRATA/Comcast) and James Rooke (GM, Publisher Platforms, FreeWheel/Comcast).

Comcast’s daily sessions revolved around the TV’s evolution, with top sessions focused on OTT and advanced linear TV. On Wednesday, Comcast partnered with Beet.TV to host a morning of panels and interviews with Jenckes, Dave Penski (CEO, Publicis Media Exchange, Americas), David Cohen (President North America, Magna), Lucas Cridland (President, Amplifi US, Dentsu Aegis Network), and Joe Marchese (President of Advertising Revenue, FOX Networks Group), to name a few. These centered around the future of advanced advertising in television and measurement standardization – will we ever see this? Seems that with the introduction of the 6-second ad spot, broadcasters like FOX are finally realizing the value in engaging with consumers whose attention span has dwindled significantly.

Along with their highly entertaining special guest, De La Sol, who performed Wednesday night at their featured event “Wild Wild West,” Comcast’s highlight came from their announcement of the 2018 launch of a blockchain-powered tool with the hope to facilitate data sharing in a safe and encrypted way.

Confronting Fake News

Fake news is now a trending topic in every corner of the world and is a real threat to large advertising and publishing industry leaders alike in addition to the duopoly that is Facebook/Google. New York Times CEO Mark Thompson spoke on the subject at a panel earlier in the week, calling it “a nightmarish joke.”

This year, many discussions at Cannes Lions circled around the large concern of fake news and its impact on brand safety and quality. The New Yorker?s David Remnick spoke to the media industry’s responsibility to address the issue, saying “if we find excuses to ignore the crisis, we will drown.”

AOL/Verizon/Yahoo = Oath

AOL executives kicked off the festival officially launched Oath on Monday following the close of Verizon?s $4.8 billion acquisition of Yahoo last week. The execs also clarified lingering questions about how it will integrate assets from AOL and Yahoo into Oath?s pending ad tech stack. The news was so new that the AOL folks we ran into didn’t even have their new business cards yet, so this was fresh off the press.

Within the next six to nine months, Oath will combine comparable assets from the legacy internet companies, like demand-side platforms BrightRoll and AOL ONE and mobile exchanges Flurry and Millennial Media, into a single stack with a new brand name, said Oath CMO Allie Kline.

Mastercard Holds their 5th Annual Automated Advertising Panel

Jay Sears’ fifth annual Le Rooftop panel, famous for the agency and tech execs who use the stage to reveal their most acute opinions, featured the heads of Hearts & Science (OMG), Cadreon (IPG), GroupM (WPP) and Innovation lead at Dentsu Aegis Network. Notably, Publicis Media (which controls $40B of global ad spend) was not present. As always, Sears, SVP of Media Solutions at Mastercard Advisors, asked some tough questions and received some thought-provoking (and controversial) answers.

Topics covered challenges that agencies continue to face, including the use of proxies for outcomes, the lack of measurement standardization, agencies grading their own homework, and slowness to innovate around consumer demands and evolving behaviors. One agency lead proposed that perhaps in some client-agency relationships, the brand should own the contracts, and the agencies should operate them with full transparency for all three parties. Should brands be the ones to own the adtech contracts? Will we start seeing the biggest brand players leave these agencies and their trade desks to contract directly with vendors like MediaMath, The Trade Desk, or AppNexus?

Another panelist raised the concern around limitations of working with Nielsen, when increasingly “some estimates show 40% of content consumption is unmeasured.” The rise of IP-based streaming of video-on-demand services and the rise of virtual MVPDs has made it more challenging for companies like Nielsen, whose historical methodologies for deriving ratings, reach, and resonance rely on linear TV coming through set-top boxes. The discussion highlighted the need to come to some common currency or standardized measurement that is either comScore or Nielsen (especially with the recent announcement of YouTube’s inclusion in Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings), or is the answer a new currency altogether?

That said, media agencies are increasingly being led by executives with product or data backgrounds, reflecting that agencies are responding to the marketplace with tech enabled solutions that deliver answers based on data modeling and feedback loops. As brands behave more like start-ups, many leading agencies within holding companies are becoming self-adapting and self-evolving. We’ve reached a new plane of marketplace maturity where all constituents – from the marketing teams to the planners and buyers – are all much smarter.

Closing out Cannes Right

Throughout Cannes Lions, I had the opportunity the chance to reconnect with many old colleagues and meet dozens of new leaders in the industry. Not only did we get the chance to celebrate the industry’s biggest successes of the year, but we also caught word of achievements to come among the many announcements made (and conversations had) at the festival. I leave Cannes knowing the industry has both challenges and probably the most exciting five years ahead of it.

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