Yes We Cannes
By Norm Johnston, Mindshare
Everyone from Jenson Button to P. Diddy made an appearance at this year’s Cannes Advertising Festival. However, as per previous years, much of the action took place “off Palais”. Here are my notes on those smaller meetings staged in numerous hotel suites, penthouses, and beach venues along the Croisette.
Twitter Gets a Penthouse
In a mere two years Twitter has gone from informal chats on a beach sofa to taking top executives through its plans in a swanky penthouse overlooking the Palais. Twitter is on fire, and is firmly positioning itself as the connective bridge between TV and online, a USP reinforced by a slew of new initiatives including TV re-targeting and new broadcast content replay partnerships. With 64% of US mobile users watching TV with Twitter, and a global user base at over 500m users, the company is in a good position to take on Facebook in the social TV wars.
Yahoo Has a Pulse
After a lengthy period of silence from new CEO Marissa Mayer, Yahoo is finally showing some signs of life. Several recent acquisitions have given Yahoo an extra bounce in its step, not to mention some much needed youthful talent and energy. Summly’s algorithm condenses and summarizes longer stories, while Tumblr adds long-tail social content into the existing premium created or aggregated content, which along with scale is Yahoo’s main USP. All of this content will appear in a new newsfeed, which will also naturally include paid advertising. However, like search or social, brands may also enter into this newsfeed via organic means if that content is relevant to a user. Also of note is the new weather app, which now contains local Flickr images and enables real-time ads that can be triggered by location or climate changes.
Microsoft Ignites with Xbox One
Microsoft’s expansive beach compound hosted its Ignite sessions, which enabled visitors to demo some of its latest technology. The star attraction was the new Xbox One, which is simply a stunner. Unlike the initial Xbox package, this time around the Kinect technology will be included in every box shipped, which means the really sexy stuff will finally get some scale. The new Kinect adds a host of new features, e.g., measuring your heart beat, ascertaining whether you are smiling, recognize the products in your living room, respond to more voice commands, etc. For advertisers, the Xbox One will reinvent the engagement model and opportunity between consumers and branded content. With Xbox also expanding beyond gaming into entertainment, Microsoft will also get a solid TV boost in the three-screen battles.
At Google it’s Hip to be Square
Google’s newfound hipness was perhaps best represented by the bizarre site of Google Glass wearing hipsters singing along to Tinie Tempah at its Thursday party. You can’t make this stuff up. Google didn’t have much new to share at Cannes, other than the wonderfully named Project Loon effort to provide more Internet access to rural areas via balloons. However, it was clear to all that YouTube continues to be a major creative and commercial focus for the organization, both for TVC migration to online as well as the more expansive branded content and channel opportunities.
Facebook Grows Up
Anyone who thinks Facebook has peaked should ask the 800,000 people who are joining the social network every day in emerging markets, or the 100 million folks now on Facebook owned Instagram. There’s still plenty of life in the old social network, with more exciting enhancements to come. The worst kept secret in the industry – the forthcoming video ad units – are very compelling albeit expensive. What was notable this year is that the social network, and the discussions around it, has matured. The decision to reduce the number of ad units is a welcome one. The focus on business objectives rather than fan building is a step forward. And the debate around hard data and results rather than the usual lofty rhetoric is a relief.
AOL shared its ambitions around new live video content, including real-time brand advertising (think video tweets). Spotify invited advertisers to real-time hacks to explore new ways for brands to play within its music ecosystem. Apple and Amazon kept much lower profiles than the others, arguably reinforcing the continued industry perception that perhaps advertising isn’t that fundamental to their businesses, or they just don’t know how to throw a good party.