News & Views

Cannes Lions / Friday's Highlights

by Contagious Team


BRANDS, BANDS, FANS (and sorry about that foot photograph)

A day of music in Audi A

The worlds of music and advertising collided on Friday for a day of discussion about the future ways in which the two industries might better engage one another.  Most of the sessions were wide ranging panel conversations, so find below a few of the more interesting thoughts and ideas that the participants bought to the Audi A audience.

Inventory and Infrastructure

Making the case for music as a growth platform for brands to connect with consumers, were Jonathan Carson, Chief Revenue Officer, Vevo and Ted Mico, COO, Mirriad. Mico pointed out that one in every two videos streamed globally is now a music video, emphasising both the immense popularity of music and the importance of video as a platform for artists. In recent years, he pointed out, as video has become a revenue generator (courtesy of the likes of Vevo) and a way for artists to grow, major bands have gone from recording perhaps two videos of some sort per year, to as many as twenty.

By making it easier for brands to buy music-related ad inventory, the market would more easily grow. Vevo’s Carson told the audience that this is what ESPN had done in sports in the States. ‘Music can be a bigger platform than sport. That’s our goal,’ he said. Vevo has helped to some extent by creating an aggregated platform to drive views and in turn advertising revenue since its birth five years ago. 14 of the 20 most shared videos, across any category, are from Vevo he also pointed out.

Meeting of Minds

Rather than infrastructure, some panellists pointed out that the two industries continue to lack common ground. With most of the panellists coming from music backgrounds, the agencies and brands were left out to dry a touch in one session. ‘The demands made on artists can be overwhelming,’ said Sam Scott, artist manager, Rocket.

Nathan McGough, artist manager, Red Light Management agreed that working with agencies could be challenging as few of them plan ahead enough or are clear about their agenda. Many brands also make last minute requests of artists that are unreasonable and outside of the scope of work agreed – especially with social media.

Money Talks

So it seems that most agencies aren’t clear on what might be a reasonable or realistic expectation of an artist for a given budget, meaning that many deals fall through. This was a point emphatically emphasised by Rafael McDonnell, brand partnerships and sponsorships, CAA (they of Chipotle’s PR Grand Prix winning The Scarecrow fame, and ‘Back to the Start’ before that in 2012): 

‘We have hundreds of artists and we get a lot of requests and they’re usually not right,’ he said. ‘Money is one big reason. Another is that it hasn’t been thought through and they won’t fly with the artist. My big job is closing down the dead ones.’

McDonnell was speaking on a panel in the last session of the afternoon, where he was joined on stage by international pop star, actor and Motown Records A&R exec Ne-Yo. He believes that artists should work with brands in order to expand. ‘Many artists don’t understand that they’re a brand,’ he said.  ‘The main goal for an artist should be to become more and working with brands helps you do that.’ He emphasised that brands need to look at the research to consider deeply the artists that they want to work with, in order to develop an ‘organic’ and deeper relationship, built for the long term.  

Joined by Brad Rains, VP, brand partnerships / licensing, Atlantic Records, Vincent Geraghty, executive director of production, Leo Burnett, and Chris Clarke, director of music services, Leo Burnett, the group lingered on the example of Diddy with vodka brand Ciroc, which is based on equity rather than rights. These sorts of relationships, they agreed, can help a brand participate in culture rather than borrow from it.

Ne-Yo saw this as the most sensible way forwards for the industry. ‘When you have an artist and equity deal, he [the artist] is going to go for it. If it’s a success for a brand it’s a success for him too.’


Highlights from a day of chat in the Grand Audi...

Today's session in Audi A were a genuinely mixed bag, running the gamut from the reboot of Detroit as seen through the eyes of Lowe Campbell Ewald, to the turbo-charged rise of a new consumer economy in China, and finally the sweary double-act of Messrs Hegarty and Droga.

China's Empowered Consumers 

The pick of the sessions was The Real Awakening of China: Consumption Economy and Digital Revolution, a title that feels considerably more intimidating than the seminar itself, in which Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe interviewed Sy Lau, the president of China's Tencent.

Lau explained, perhaps surprisingly, that the transformative power of mobile was initially underestimated by China. However, the emerging mobile-first economy, he said, is bringing about the emancipation of consumerism. The part that Tencent's WeChat mobile chat service is playing in the emerging should not be underestimated... The key players are working hard to understand and adapt to the emerging consumer behaviours enabled by smartphones. This year's WeChat promotion which saw Mercedes Smart cars being sold via the platform is one example: the project was mostly a proof of concept, one of many projects undertaken by a crack team dedicated to experimentation on the platform.

CEOs, Robin Thicke, missed opportunities and blurred lines?

Something about this Cannes Debate didn't quite click. Although, with Sir Martin Sorrell up on stage with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman all the initial signs were so, so good. We didn't quite get to the bottom of what New Platforms and New Engagement would mean for Media, Consumers and Clients, although it was cheering to hear Costolo allude to the fact that the shoddy UI of most cable channels has actively held the industry back. That's a fact that Twitter is poised to exploit as soon as the next generation of interfaces sees the light of day: we can all look forward to a wider range of content and better distribution via Twitter.

Uncontroversially, the panel agreed that, yes, there is a massive opportunity to do better job with mobile advertising, a point illustrated by a slide borrowed from Mary Meeker's annual Internet Trends presentation demonstrating a $30bn opportunity currently going begging. 'We believe in providing measurability and accountability,' explained Viacom's Dauman, 'We don't have good metrics yet but we will soon and that will increase spending.'

Costolo also suggested that the industry had been caught on the back foot by the swift migration of consumers in developing markets to higher quality smartphones with bigger screens and effective user interfaces that should auger well for the brave new world of mobile marketing that still remains tantalisingly beyond reach.

Finally, what is up with Sorrell and Co's proudly displayed, yet incongruous snap with Robin 'Blurred Lines' Thicke: was it an allusion to the tangled relationship between legacy media, new platforms, engagement and marketing? Who knows. Was it weird? You bet. 

Crowd-pleaser of the day was undoubtedly Sir John Hegarty and David Droga's afternoon-ending Q&A session, a deftly run affair that saw the Grand Audi audience submit questions to the pair via Twitter. In that spirit, here are the key points:

Then this:

But this is the one that really hit home:

That's it for Friday at Cannes Lions. Make sure you join us live in the Debussy tomorrow for the Contagious seminar: Teaching New Technology Old Tricks. It starts at 11am, and you can also watch it live-streamed on YouTube.