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Musings From Cannes 2018 – Digital Gabe
Digital Gabe
Cutting Edge Commentary On All Things Media

Musings From Cannes 2018

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After a week of soaking up the marketing sunshine on the French Riviera, I thought I would ease back into the blogging with some perspective on the trends and happenings at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.  Here are some of the notables:

  • Attendance Was Off:  You could feel a palpable drop in foot traffic along the Croisette.  Facebook, Google, Spotify, Twitter and Pinterest still had their over the top private beach setups, but there were fewer crowds surging along the main drag than in years past.  Part of the dip could be attributed to Publicis’s decision to sit out this year’s festival – they ended up sending about 70 from client teams who were short-listed for Lion awards compared to 400 the year prior.
  • The Thinning Of The AdTech Herd:  2018 has been a year of consolidation in AdTech, with dozens of Johnny Come Lately startups either merging or going out of business altogether.  You could see this trend play out with fewer AdTech/MarTech firms sponsoring Cannes activations this year.  The most visible example of the decline was on yacht row.  According to Digiday, who loves to track these things, AdTech vendors sponsored about 20 yachts in the harbor in 2017 compared to only nine this year.
  • Invasion Of The Consultancies:  Business Consultancies like Accenture and PwC have officially discovered Cannes.  I’ve previously blogged about the “Big Four” consultancies pushing into media services, and their efforts have now extended into Cannes.  Interestingly, these accountant-based firms like to present themselves as more frugal stewards of clients’ bottom lines who wouldn’t dare waste money on extravagant entertainment.  So the fact that they were sponsoring yachts and having blowout parties like every other agency and publisher in town felt sort of ironic.
  • Agencies Feeling The Heat:  As previously mentioned, Publicis made the decision to significantly reduce its footprint at this year’s Cannes, and most of the other Holding Companies also paired back their attendee lists.  This was an attempt to break the arms race cycle where the HoCos feel the need to out attend and outspend their competitors or risk losing some magical share of mind inside the Palais.  However, this year’s agency retreat from Cannes backfired because it came at exactly the same moment the business consultancies joined the party, which created a golden opportunity for the latter.  My prediction for next year is that agencies will double down on Cannes to protect their client turf.
  • A Darker Mood:  In general this year’s Cannes Lions felt a little darker and less optimistic.  This is probably a reflection of the overall state of digital media than it is of the festival itself.  Between data leaks, transparency scandals, GDPR, and agency #MeToo scandals, there’s generally less optimism in our business than in years past.  Even though digital media revenue is still surging, all the growth is being funneled to Google, Facebook, and Amazon, leaving the rest of the industry stuck in a “Where do we go from here?” malaise.  You could definitely feel it at this year’s Cannes.

So that’s my take on Cannes Lions 2018.  If you didn’t attend hopefully this will give you an idea of what you missed.  If you were also there feel free to add any additional observations.


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