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Cannes 2024: how business and AdTech media covered the number-one event in advertising

PostedJuly 4, 2024 10 min read
Takeaways from Cannes 2024 media review

 

It’s been a while since we left la Croisette, with its beach parties and rosé behind, but moving on from Cannes is not easy. It was a unique opportunity to catch up with everyone in the industry and clearly understand what’s going on in every front of the industry. Publishers, brands, tech companies, and AdTech vendors attended the event with different expectations and agendas and had a unique view of the experience. 

In this post, we want to step back and examine what our colleagues have learned and shared about their experiences. Let’s dive deeper into recaps, the most widely discussed events, and critical themes by exploring what the community shared online after returning from France. 

Everybody agrees that AI was the theme of Cannes this year

AI is front and center of most post-Cannes recaps and discussions. AdTech media noted that while generative AI was on the tip of everyone’s tongue last year, this time, the industry moved from fear-mongering to a better idea of how to extract the value of generative AI and other innovative technologies.  

AdAge

AdAge posted a review of AI-related talking points at Cannes and companies that moved these discussions forward. An opinion piece by Garett Sloane offers a patchwork of views from big tech companies (Google, Microsoft, and Reddit) and AdTech projects (Media Monks and MediaLink) alike. 

Tech and advertising leaders focused on AI adoption in designing creatives and campaign management.

A highlight on an article by AdAge covering AI discussions at Cannes
According to AdAge, in Cannes, the industry saw a shift from curiosity to an actionable roadmap in using AI

The Drum

The Drum interviewed dozens of high-profile product and marketing leaders at Cannes. Many shared opinions on AI and its ability to enhance rather than fully automate marketing and advertising processes. 

In an interview with the media, Deborah Honig, Samsung‘s Chief Customer Officer, said, “AI enhances creativity by making processes in the marketing funnel much more effective so that marketers can spend less time on repetitive tasks and shift focus to the insight or emotion a campaign is evoking in customers.” 

In the same series, Jill Wiltfong, CMO at Korn Ferry, remarked that “AI has the ability to transform marketing function, propel it, and free up a lot of time.”

The Drum saw AI as the number-one focal point in Cannes this yearThe Drum saw AI as the number-one focal point in Cannes this year

Digiday 

In a live Cannes briefing from La Croisette, one of AdTech’s leading outlets shared the sentiment that, in contrast to last year, this time, “confusion about AI is starting to give way to education.” 

Advertising leaders, invited by Digiday to speak on the hottest industry trends, also pointed out AI’s promise in fueling emotional marketing.

Mark Kirkham, CMO of PepsiCo International Beverages, underscored the importance of accountability and responsibility in using AI. “AI does not replace creativity. There’s a mindset that technology is taking away the emotional touch, but you have to be smart about it. With generative AI, you must be careful where you take data. It is an area we have to be careful about. But, while AI can be an enabler of creativity, it cannot replace the human touch”. 

Marketers shift from confusion to education about AI, according to Digiday
According to Digiday, marketers are now more proactive in AI applications

Fortune

Mainstream business media covering important discussions at Cannes prove how relevant the scale and impact of the events are both within and outside the AdTech ecosystem. While not an AdTech-themed outlet, Fortune created an in-depth Cannes recap, particularly zooming in on the growing AI interest.

Jeremy Kahn and Sharon Goldman point out a growing tension between tech companies ready to automate marketing and advertising operations and agencies that fear being sidelined by AI tools. This year, they noted that the presence of tech giants (Amazon, Meta, Microsoft) at Cannes was very noticeable, marking a shift to technology-first thinking in advertising. 

The article, definitely worth reading in its entirety, wraps up hauntingly: “At Cannes, the tide was turning. But it wasn’t clear those partying in the beach tents and on the yachts had noticed.”. 

A quote from Fortune describing the increasing importance of AI and technology at Cannes 2024
Fortune observes a shift in focus from creativity to technology in Cannes

eMarketer

Following the trend of remarking on the tone shift for AI conversations at La Croisette, eMarketer’s deep dive points out that most discussions were “centered around risk and reward.” Jasmine Enberg, eMarketer’s Principal Analyst, points out that most executives see efficiency and personalization as key goals of AI adoption. The number of conversations focused on “responsible AI use” grew exponentially,

According to eMarketer, the advertising industry still has a long way to go in leveraging AI’s full power. Still, the steps to take us there are becoming more actionable and realistic. 

eMarketer reviews the attitude towards AI applications and ethical concerns at Cannes 2024
eMarketer highlights the gap between the expectations for AI adoption and realistically feasible applications

Wall Street Journal

To describe how omnipresent AI was at Cannes, the Wall Street Journal quotes Tom Morrissy, chief growth officer at Noble People, a New York-based media agency: “If the drinking game was called ‘AI,’ we’d all be passed out by noon.” 

Wall Street Journal’s post-Cannes recap also shares the industry’s standard view: AI can be an opportunity and a threat to advertisers and marketers. The industry’s key priority in the following years is balancing the promise of saved time and money with the importance of the human touch and a unique tone of voice that brands still strive to keep. 

Quote from Wall Street Journal covering the growing impact of AI discussions at Cannes 2024
Reporting from Cannes, Wall Street Journal remarks on the growth of AI’s impact and the risk of it bringing about an existential crisis for the industry

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Retail Media are becoming AdTech’s new normal 

Retail media is often seen as an “emerging trend,” a bridge between AdTech and retail that may or may not take hold. Yet, this year’s overwhelming presence of retail media at Cannes shows that a once-up-and-coming channel is becoming top-of-mind, and retailers are getting used to wearing a publisher’s hat. 

Here’s how AdTech journalists covered retail media impact at Cannes. 

AdExchanger

In his Cannes lookback for AdExchanger, Lou Paskalis, CEO and founder of CJL Advisory, points out that retail media networks were well-represented and rarely fail to get attention. This, the author points out, has to do with how much RMNs have to offer (closed-loop attribution, first-party data, and premium experiences). 

However, while getting advertisers’ interest seems manageable, expanding audiences that would engage with ads is trickier. RMNs need to gain the know-how, experience, and tech stacks seasoned publishers have under their belts. Many are partnering with CTV publishers to get access to top-of-the-funnel viewers to circumvent the issue. 

AdExchanger reports a growing retail media dominance on Cannes
AdExchanger reports on the widespread presence of retail media networks in Cannes

Internet Retailing 

At first glance, this year’s Cannes would not seem dominated by retail media networks. Yet, according to Internet Retailing, once you looked closer, “there was a lot more going on than meets the eye.” In a retail-media-focused recap, Internet Retailing goes over subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which RMNs challenged the status quo this year. 

A few highlights:

According to InternetRetailing, Retail Media Networks become more prominent at Cannes, with Albertsons, Target Roundel, Kroger Precision Marketing, Instacart, and others having their stands
InternetRetailing notes the debut of several Retail Media Networks at the event, including Albertsons, Target Roundel, and Kroger Precision Marketing

New Digital Age

New Digital Age headquartered at Maison NDA for Cannes, where they hosted a round table. Retail media emerged among the topics and stirred up an active discussion. In a Cannes recap, NDA quotes several experts who share their views on the domination of RMNs during the event and in the foreseeable future. 

According to Paul Wright, Head of International at Uber Advertising, the dominance of retail media networks in France was undeniable. “Regarding key topics, the rise of commerce media and commerce networks was undeniably dominant. Prominent brands across verticals, from our own platform to airlines to banks, all came to highlight their commerce media offerings”, Paul told New Digital Age. 

Quote from Paul Wright in an interview for New Digital Age on the increasing presence of Retail Media Networks in Cannes
Paul Wright from Uber Advertising highlights the shift from pure retail media to commerce media, emphasizing its advantages at Cannes in an interview for New Digital Age

Sports are hitting a home run

As expected of a year that coincides with UEFA 2024 and the 2024 Olympics, there were many sports-themed discussions (not to mention watching UEFA Euro 2024 games live at the Reddit house).

Here’s how industry media highlights the key sport themes in Cannes: 

The Current

In an article for The Current, Ilyse Liffreing explores ways in which sports were part of the Cannes agenda. She points out that women’s sports, in particular, were under the spotlight this year in events like Axios’ Women’s Sports House and Stagwell’s Sports Beach

The Current covers sport-themed events and discussions at Cannes
The Current highlights the significant influence of sports in conversations at Cannes, both inside and outside the Palais

The Media Leader

The Media Leader, an outlet covering news and trends across all types of publishers, also wrote on the surge of interest in sports at Cannes this year. 

It is essential, the article states, to tackle the misconception that women’s sports are less entertaining and technical than their male counterparts and drive eyeballs to high-level events like The Women’s World Cup, which streaming companies were reluctant to broadcast. 

Reporting from Cannes, TheMediaLeader highlights the importance of spreading diversity and inclusion among athletes and brands
The Media Leader discusses how advertisers can leverage cultural moments and athlete conversations through social listening

Debates on the future of journalism

As multiple Cannes attendees pointed out, the media industry is in the middle of a revolution, where “content scarcity” turned into “content infinity” through the power of generative AI in just a few years. 

Having easy access to content that, at least at first glance, is indistinguishable from human writers creates an existential threat to publishers. What media should do to stay afloat in the deluge of AI-generated content became a hot conversation in Cannes. 

Here’s how industry reporters captured the highlights of publisher-related conversations: 

AdMonster 

AdMonster’s Cannes review is titled “At Cannes, News Publishers Ponder: Are We Facing The Death of Journalism?”.expected, the piece paints a grim picture of news journalism, mentioning the data from a Prohaska study that revealed that brand safety concerns block 30% of publisher inventory. 

AdMonsters also quotes Jeff Green, CEO of The Trade Desk, who expressed his concern about news media disappearing from the publisher rapidly pace and the Wall Street Journal’s observation that advertisers avoid credible news outlets. 

Yet, the bottom line is optimistic. 

AdMonsters highlights media companies like Revolt and The Guardian US adapting to modern challenges by diversifying revenue sources
In a post-Cannes write-up, AdMonsters notes a grim monetization outlook among news publishers

Axios 

In their take on key Cannes themes, Axios points out that advertisers are sidelining publishers due to their reliance on cookie-targeted banner ads. of Cannes observations. Companies with robust first-party data (mostly retailers) are capturing higher market share, while traditional media are losing ground. 

Axios outlines the rapid shift in advertising towards hyper-efficient and high-impact strategies, with traditional cookie-based targeting diminishing.
Axios notes that advertisers at Cannes express a desire for either hyper-efficient or high-impact advertising platforms, leaving publishers on the sidelines.

Last but not least, media cover Elon Musk’s attempt to lure advertisers

If you look at Cannes through a media lens alone, it would seem that Musk coming in to lure advertisers to X was the pinnacle of the entire week. While AdTech media mostly glossed over this event, mainstream news outlets covered it extensively: 

All articles share skepticism on Elon’s attempts to lure advertisers to X. 

What was missing: a look outside of the Palais

In general, the media’s coverage of the event has been satisfying. We are excited to see AdTech evolve from niche to mainstream and get the spotlight alongside the Cannes Lions Grand Prix. 

If there were one thing we would like to have more of, that would be a broader coverage of side events and discussions. 

The Cannes Lions Festival was the “main course” of the week, but there were nearly as many engaging and vibrant discussions at other events, like The Cannes Social, hosted by TheFirstPartyCapital and ExchangeWire and co-sponsored by Xenoss, Happy Hour by DoubleVerify in partnership with Smartly, AI in Audio & CTV by AudioStack, a series of events by IAS, and more. 

We hope that the media coverage will shift to different spaces across La Croisette next year, offering those who couldn’t get a taste of Cannes a fuller and more authentic experience.