Cannes Lions 18: The Magic in the Middle

WE Communications Blog: Alan VanderMolen

— Alan VanderMolen 

After arriving at Gatwick Airport yesterday morning via Uber, I checked into my flight for Nice using my BA app. Then, I sat down with the print edition of the Financial Times. It was the first time I have read a newspaper in print for as long as I can remember…and the only reason I read the print edition vs. the mobile edition is that my smart phone was low on battery.

In the first section of the paper three of the largest stories by column inches (remember those?) were related to modern economy companies: One story each on Amazon’s audacious acquisition of Whole Foods, Google’s looming EU anti-monopoly fine and Facebook’s doubling down on video to compete with YouTube, Hulu and Netflix.

This set the context for my journey to the 2017 Cannes Lions: Media/entertainment and technology…the bedfellows of modern marketing.

When I arrived in Cannes and went to the Palais to register, I was greeted by two large activations: Snapchat and Sonos. Then, a quick walk past the cabanas: The obscene beach bar by Oracle followed by IBM and complemented by cabanas from Hulu, Vivendi and Turner/CNN.

Today, the first session I went to was “Mobile-Only Pioneers: What’s Next”. The session was anchored by Spotify – entertainment meets technology. 

What strikes me in this environment is the fading visibility of the marketing services holding companies (notable exception of the inescapable Havas Fun Fest). The other thing that strikes me so far this year is the emergence of small- and mid-sized specialist agencies attending sessions in droves and spending time with the technology and media vendors. 

I believe this portends the struggles of the holding companies, where a focus on constant growth by any means overshadows client-focused innovation. While the tech companies and consultancies (hello to a very visible Accenture this year) sell direct to brands and find partners in small and mid-sized agencies, the holding companies flounder with specialist generalization to the peril of their shareholders (oh, and their clients and people, too).

My first useless prediction for Cannes 2018: The Magic is in the Middle. Mid-sized private agencies innovating directly with technology platforms and entertainment-and purpose-based content for the benefit of brands and their customers.