Cannes 2018: The Media Agency Ground Game

Last year, when Publicis Groupe said it would pull out of the Cannes Lions festival and awards show and reinvest the funds in an artificial intelligence platform, it sparked other holding companies to rethink their presences.

Many had become concerned that the festival, which takes place every June along the beach in the south of France, had become too flashy and out of touch with its original purpose to honor creativity in advertising. Attending seemed extravagant at a time when agencies are being squeezed on costs and experiencing low growth.

While Publicis Groupe is implementing the largest pullback, sending just 84 delegates and judges and only entering for awards funded by clients, other holding companies and media agencies are changing their strategies on the ground, too.

WPP: Digital-first

WPP’s media-buying unit, GroupM, is sending a different type of delegate to Cannes this year: one that can chat fluently about programmatic, technology and the convergence of digital and linear. Sarah Warner, digital investment lead for programmatic and video at GroupM, calls it “a new face for the agency.”

Warner herself is attending the festival for the first time as an embodiment of the executive GroupM wants to showcase. It’s a fitting time, as leaders such as Irwin Gotlieb and Rob Norman have retired, she said.

“I hope to be a refreshing new voice, especially for our clients and partners, and to do that in as wide of a swath as possible,” she said.

The GroupM agencies are attending the festival in full force, Warner said. One big change is parent company WPP won’t be represented by recently ousted CEO Martin Sorrell. Instead, newly installed co-chief operating officers Andrew Scott and Mark Read will host client events. Chairman Roberto Quarta will be there as well.

Sorrell, though, will be at Cannes conducting his annual interview with journalist Ken Auletta, and potentially scoping out investments for his newly launched firm, S4.

Omnicom: Client-focused

While Omnicom is mostly keeping with its usual Cannes presence, there will be some minor changes to how Omnicom Media Group approaches its presence on the ground.

Hearts & Science is increasing its presence at the festival, with CEO Scott Hagedorn speaking at two events and hosting a panel on ad fraud. PHD will also be at the festival and hosting events at the Palais.

While OMD is still sending executives to Cannes, it’s not hosting events at its annual beach house as it has done for the past several years.

“Even though there’s no OMD branded cabana on the beach this year, we still have a presence – just more hyperfocused on the clients,” said CEO John Osborne. “We’re focusing on curating custom client experiences that align more closely with their specific interests and priorities.”

Dentsu and Havas: Staying strong

Not all agencies are changing their Cannes ground game this year.

Havas is posting up at its annual Havas Cafe at the Grand Hotel. CEO Yannick Bolloré is attending the event and holding a press conference Thursday.

Dentsu Aegis Network is also planning to repeat last year’s strategy in terms of investment and people on the ground, said CMO Kenneth Parks. The group will set up shop at its usual DAN beach house along the Croisette and will be hosting events throughout the week, as will some of its agencies, such as iProspect.

According to Parks, the value of Cannes remains what it’s always been.

“We go to be inspired, spend quality time with clients and ultimately to deliver on our promise of innovating the way brands are built,” he said.

IPG Mediabrands declined to comment for this story.

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