June 15, 2014 – For decades the agency world has descended on Cannes each summer to celebrate its finest work at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, starting Sunday. But in recent years the festival has become less about creativity, and more about the broader business of advertising.
That’s cleared the way for the new wave of technology-driven advertising companies to inject themselves into the week’s events. Companies that have little to do with the creation of advertising, but that are helping revolutionize the way ads are bought, targeted, and delivered to consumers. This year the presence of these ad tech firms will be felt at the festival more than ever before. The reason: It’s a great place to drum up business.
For example MediaMath, which helps marketers purchase online advertising, is this year embarking on its fourth trip to Cannes.
“MediaMath is planning a bigger presence [this year], since years prior have proven worthwhile and have led to unique business opportunities,” the company’s co-founder Greg Williams explained.
That presence will involve renting a large rooftop space for the week where it will host various parties, events, and private meetings.
Meanwhile PubMatic Inc., a tech company that helps website owners manage and sell ad space, is sending about 10 of its executives to the South of France this year, and will spend roughly $100,000 to woo clients at rooftop parties and other events of its own.
Rajeev Goel, the firm’s chief executive, said being seen in Cannes gives real credibility to companies like his. “If they meet you in Cannes they think ‘there must be real substance to what you do’,” he said.
Mr. Goel, whose firm is making its third trip to Cannes, said last year he landed deals with a handful of new publishers at the ad festival and began relationships with about 10 new ad firms. Those deals, he said, translated to about 10 times more money than what the company spent on its Cannes’ outreach.
Similarly Turn Inc., a company that helps marketers purchase data-informed advertising, is sending more people to the festival than it did last year, including most of its senior executives. It too will host events and dinners for prospective and current clients, hoping to attract new business or to broaden existing relationships.
“For companies like ours trade events are often measured in leads. With Cannes, with measure it by how many major partnerships we’ve moved forward. Cannes is where the decisions happen,” said Paul Alfieri, Turn’s vice president of global marketing.
Turn sends more of its senior staffers to Cannes than it does any other industry event throughout the year, Mr. Alfieri said. But it doesn’t just show up and expect things to happen. Yes, there will be time dedicated to drinking rose wine on the beach, but the company enters the week very strategically.
“You have to approach it with a very specific plan. We go prepared. It takes a lot of work,” Mr. Alfieri explained.
The rise to prominence of “ad tech” firms at Cannes has been quick and noticeable. Just two years ago many of the same companies attended but kept relatively low profiles. Now, they’re very much front and center.
In some ways the shift isn’t surprising. Media sellers have always made the trip to Cannes attempting to catch the eye of agency executives. The difference is those media companies just look different now. Agency execs are now in the market for much more than just ad space; they’re shopping for things like data and technology, too.
“There are new business models being introduced into the conversation at Cannes,” Mr. Alfieri concluded. “It’s always been about advertising, but the industry is talking about a new form of advertising now.”