Home Data-Driven Thinking The Best Of Cannes 2024: Key Moments And Trends For The Year Ahead

The Best Of Cannes 2024: Key Moments And Trends For The Year Ahead

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Lou Paskalis, Chief Strategy Officer at Ad Fontes Media, and Founder & CEO of AJL Advisory

Another Cannes Lions is in the books. If last year’s event felt like the best to date, this one felt even better.

The challenges facing digital advertising feel bigger than ever, however. We’re still grappling with entrenched but unfounded fears that prevent marketers from supporting premium publishers. And media quality concerns threaten to turn partners against each other as they point fingers when an ad placement goes wrong.

But when you’re in Cannes, you can’t help but focus on the positives: Retail media has come into its own as a category. Streaming platforms and digital publishers are offering new ways to connect with fan communities. And the industry is finally taking measurable steps toward reckoning with the environmental impacts of our search for scale.

While Cannes continues to be the perfect place to catch up with old friends, it’s also a showcase for new ideas and innovation. 

Here are the six biggest trends worth watching.

1. RMNs storm the beach 

Retail media networks were everywhere, hawking their premium experiences, pristine first-party data and closed-loop attribution. 

Advertisers can’t get enough of these johnny-come-latelies to Cannes, and I am told by a friend of mine who runs an RMN that the dealmaking was “fast and furious” along the Côte D’Azur this week. 

My take is that the demand will quickly outstrip the supply. That scarcity will lead to a new round of furious dealmaking: The RMN owners will seek arrangements with other publishers that have logged-in users in pristine upper-funnel environments (read CTV) to extend their audiences. That’s the only way the RMNs can provide marketers enough scale and deterministic fidelity.

2. Publishers plumbing the depths of the funnel

As RMNs search for upper-funnel inventory, traditional publishers and social platforms are scrambling down the funnel. They’re looking to increase the value they can deliver to marketers – and to boost their own bottom lines through various revenue-sharing strategies. 

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It feels a bit like move-in day at a college dorm: Everyone is trying to get somewhere in unfamiliar surroundings. 

Publishers are trying to reduce the distance between content and commerce to zero. The new “metric that matters” will be purchase completion, not purchase intent. 

3. A major leap in the march toward sustainability

GARM, the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, announced its Global Media Sustainability Framework during a panel on the first day of Cannes. It represents a comprehensive effort to make reliable, consistent measurement of emissions possible through a series of voluntary industry standards. 

The GARM framework was a hot topic in many discussions throughout the rest of the week. Some critics debated its scope, feeling it didn’t go far enough. But most praised it for providing the tools that marketers and publishers need to start implementing standards and practices to reduce their carbon footprint. At the very least, it’s a start.

4. Sport Beach by Stagwell

Every major agency, platform or Big Tech company builds a dynamic, eye-popping installation somewhere along the Croisette. Stagwell’s installation, named “Sport Beach by Stagwell,” was a nod to the last remaining mass-convening cultural tentpole of the moment: sports.

It was an immersive and multifaceted experience and the hottest stage in Cannes. Some of the biggest names in sports dropped by to talk about their businesses and how to harness the power of the fandom and culture. 

Stagwell CEO Mark Penn joined a panel with New York Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien, Business Insider CEO Barbara Peng and CNN CEO Mark Thompson. These leaders shared how they’re retooling their news platforms to better attract advertisers – which, at least in The New York Times’ case, includes growing its sports coverage.

5. The news on the news

Speaking of the news, the plight of quality news publishers and the collapse of advertiser support of journalism were common talking points up and down the Croisette.

At Sport Beach, Yahoo Beach, Whalar House, the Wall Street Journal House and elsewhere, panels of journalists, publishers and senior news industry execs discussed how to ensure the journalism industry can endure, given its many challenges.

And many presenters attempted to debunk the myth that brands that advertise adjacent to divisive or provocative content risk exposing themselves to backlash. Stagwell Global released research that showed virtually no difference in purchase intent for brands when their ads appeared next to editorial content, whether it was inflammatory or not. 

The question remains: Will marketers overcome their gut feelings in light of compelling research to the contrary? 

6. The power of serendipity

The Cannes Lions’ most important superpower is the “serendipity of the Croisette.” You run into so many people you’re not scheduled to meet with, but with whom you end up conducting business.  

I had at least a dozen of those encounters, old friends in new jobs with fresh business opportunities that I would not have learned about if not for Cannes Lions. It’s the marketing equivalent of Brigadoon. 

Cannes Lions 2025 is only 51 weeks away. Make sure your schedule allows for serendipity – spontaneity requires a bit of planning.

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

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