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June 19, 2013, Article

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Ad Tech Crashes Cannes

Link to original Digiday article

Our coverage of the Cannes International Festival of Creativity is brought to you by Centro, a provider of media services and software that aims to improve campaign performance and digital media teams’ productivity.

The Cannes Lions Festival is intended as a celebration of creativity, but technology companies are quickly muscling their way into the action.

Last year, ad tech vendors were on the periphery of the event, taking meetings in hotel suites and upscale restaurants on the seafront but mostly absent in any official or obvious capacity. But this year, many have upped the stakes, splashing out on cabanas and expensive sponsorship deals.

Turn, Appnexus and Adknowledge all invested in beachfront cabanas this year, for example, which start at around $40,000 before things like furniture and catering. Meanwhile, Mediamath and Pubmatic hired a stunning rooftop venue for the week, at which they’re taking meetings with potential new clients.

Tech companies have had a presence at the festival for years, of course. Google’s beach venue, the “Creative Sandbox,” gets bigger every year, for example. But this new breed of small, venture-backed ad tech providers is a new addition, and not all attendees are that impressed by it.

“When did Cannes Lions go from being a creative agency showcase & festival to becoming ad:tech Cannes?,” grumbled one Twitter user.

But most are simply oblivious to the presence, and even the existence, of these companies. Digiday stopped passersby the Appnexus and Turn cabanas, for example, and asked them what those companies did. Few were aware, and many were unfamiliar with concepts such as “demand-side platform” and “real-time bidding.” Despite the foot traffic past those venues, the tents appeared eerily quiet for much of Tuesday.

But according to senior execs at some of the companies mentioned, Cannes is a revenue-positive exercise for them; otherwise, they simply wouldn’t do it. “If we land a couple of deals on the back of being here, the whole thing has paid for itself,” said one. “The extra branding and awareness is a bonus.”

They’re not expecting to sign deals this week, of course, but tech companies say meeting in a setting like Cannes often just “helps plant the seed” in the mind of agency decision-makers. A rooftop lunch overlooking some of the most beautiful sea views in the world helps their technology stand out from the crowd, it seems.

The tech they’re selling isn’t intended for all at the festival, of course. It’s targeted at a small subset of digital media buyers, in most cases, not the creatives that Cannes has historically been geared toward.

But as a handful of tech companies involve themselves more heavily with the event, more will inevitably follow. Many are pitching similar products to the same potential buyers, so a presence at Cannes will only become more essential.

That means, like it or not, that ad tech at Cannes is here to stay. Not only that, but it’s poised to play a much, much bigger role.

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