The 2017 Cannes Lions festival will be a first for MediaLink – though not in the sense of its presence.
After all, the consultancy has been nearly ubiquitous for a number of years, with its sponsorships, the events it hosts like Daily Dose and Tech Talks and its suppers with an invite list full of industry big wigs.
But the upcoming advertising festival is the first time MediaLink will be there as a subsidiary of Ascential PLC, which owns the Cannes Lions festival.
While it’s premature to detail exactly how MediaLink’s participation in the Cannes Lions will change – the acquisition closed in late February – CEO Michael Kassan spoke with AdExchanger about MediaLink’s role in major advertising festivals.
AdExchanger: This is MediaLink’s first Cannes Lions festival since its acquisition by Ascential. What's the same and what's different?
MICHAEL KASSAN: There’s a high degree of focus in terms of our obligations to our clients. None of that has changed. We’re curating for 50-plus clients on the ground. And we have 50-plus people on the ground from MediaLink. So our commitment and presence there is very consistent with what it’s been before.
What’s different is an expectation that we have more to say about what happens on the ground at Cannes, even outside of the MediaLink presence. The Cannes Lions organization is an operating division of Ascential, just like MediaLink is, and we are brother-sister companies now. So it’d be disingenuous if I were to say we don’t have closer conversations.
Has your relationship with the Cannes Lions changed?
We continue to have a commercial relationship with the Cannes Lions organization, similar to what we’ve done for the last seven years, where we were sponsors of the event.
Those are legitimate, financial transactions between MediaLink and the Cannes Lions organization.
But, look, we know more about their strategies and the internal workings because we’re part of the family. It’s a little easier for me to call up and give my opinion. And I’m going to suggest they listen to my opinion a little more now – to MediaLink’s opinion – because our agendas are aligned.
What’s the focus at this year’s Cannes?
I think it will be on brand safety and AI and the impact on creativity. Anything that has impact on the creative process or data, or the context of brand safety, will be the hot focus.
Are client expectations different for MediaLink this year?
Clients have a high bar for MediaLink. God is good, and we continue to hit that bar, which manifests in how we perform for our clients in these tentpole events. But our primary business is the strategic advisory work we do for our clients, which goes well beyond Cannes.
We opened our London office two weeks ago to try to get traction in Europe. That’s different, because we have a European footprint.
Besides Cannes, MediaLink also has a big presence at CES and DMEXCO. How would you describe your strategies across all those big festivals?
Our big three events are Cannes, CES and DMEXCO, in terms of our tentpole strategy around the intersection of marketing, media and advertising, entertainment and technology.
You can create efficiencies at those events, because you have all the key industry leaders and influencers together in one place.
Cannes is all about brands. It’s when you get the one-on-ones with senior leadership and the meetings with the holding companies and large scale agencies. CES is more about exploration and discovery. It’s a good combination of brands, agencies and technologies and consumer electronics. And DMEXCO is more focused on technology.
MediaLink seems focused on the peripheral events at the Cannes Lions…
When you say “peripheral events,” you have to explain what you mean. One could have considered Daily Dose and Tech Talks, over the last few years, to be peripheral events. But they are anything but. I would say they are very front and center when it comes to experiencing Cannes.
How will MediaLink’s involvement in Cannes evolve?
Will we be closer to the center next year? Probably. We closed our deal at the end of February, so most of our plans for Cannes were locked by then. Will next year Daily Dose end up in the Palais? That’s a possibility, but we haven’t decided that yet.