Wednesday, 24 June 2015

48 hours in Cannes

I'm very fortunate in my role that I get the opportunity to go to interesting places on business. Occasionally those interesting places are also bathed in sunshine and are beautiful on the eye.

This past couple of days I've had the privilege to attend Cannes Lions. An event synonymous with advertising creative types, media houses, and more recently ad tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter.

The new kids on the block are no doubt changing the dynamic somewhat.

Buzzword bingo was dominated by phrases like programmatic and viewability.

Panels debated whether the old guard were fraudulently trading ad inventory as they struggle to maintain healthy margins.

Everyone across the sector appears to be doing part of someone else's job now.

For my part I was here to take part in a panel discussion on whether retailers like eBay and Walmart are going to be able to become credible ad publishers in our own right.

In front of a packed audience of 200 people on 'Le Rooftop' (I'll resist the temptation to translate that for you), who to be fair had probably come to see the panel after mine, we debated the power of first party data in determining whether ad spend was effective.

In my mind it highlighted the scale of the disruption still to hit the ad industry. A sector in the UK alone that is £18bn strong.

Retailers have an unprecedented opportunity to optimise FMCG brand dollars in a way not seen before. Effectively saving companies money on their advertising, or more likely, enabling them to spend the same amount but drive sales harder.

And unlike other ad publishers, retailers have a vested interest in the ad spend actually working.

Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying that in spite of the gorgeous setting, the unbeatable weather, and the general loveliness of the French riveria, the calibre of people attracted to the event makes attending worthwhile.

It's the conversations and connections made that add huge value. Be that comparing notes with eBay, or pitching your view of the world to the senior team at Google over lunch.

Meetings that could be set up in more mundane locations but inevitably aren't, enable you to make big leaps forward, and in my case at least, have hardened my resolve to move faster and more aggressively.

And if nothing else you get to pretend at being rich for 48 hours by oggling all the yachts and stopping for a croissant and machiatto at the Georgio Armani café, which as it turns out is remarkably good value.