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A Tale of Two Cannes — Actually Three Cannes — Michael Kassan

Michael Kassan

As I reflect professionally on Cannes 2014, I think it is fair to say that the notion of Cannes is at a tipping point, one that must be navigated carefully and thoughtfully. We at MediaLink have for some time understood the value of a tent pole event as part of our Corporate DNA and, as well, that of the partners and friends we interact with across a wide cross section of the media, marketing, advertising, entertainment, finance and technology ecosystem.

Let’s look at the multiple personalities of Cannes – it is Mount Olympus, Yalta, the Super Bowl and so much more.

Mount Olympus

In my very first blog — seven or eight years ago — I described Cannes as a place where “Mere Mortals Can Interact With Gods.” Looking around this year, it was impossible to miss the superstars of our industry today — folks like Sheryl Sandberg, Dick Costolo, Ben Silbermann, John Wren, Sir Martin Sorrell, Maurice Levy, Michael Roth, Tim Andree, Bill Koenigsberg, Miles Nadal, Sir John Hegarty, Ben Horowitz, Ron Conway, Nikesh Arora, Keith Weed, Marc Pritchard, Wendy Clark, Irwin Gotlieb, Andrew Robertson, Daryl Simm, Laura Desmond, Steve King, Jerry Buhlmann, Todd Pendleton, Dana Anderson, John Costello, Kevin Burke, Anne Finucane, Salmin Amin and Frank Cooper to name a few. Let’s not forget the entertainment bold face names: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ari Emanuel, Bono, Jared Leto, Spike Jonze, Kanye and Kim and Kris Jenner, Courtney Love — there was even a Springsteen sighting.

These folks are there as much to present as they are to learn. This happens directly and indirectly at the in-Palais thought leadership sessions they anchor and at the social gatherings they attend.

The only thing they can’t get vs. the hoi polloi is better service on the Carlton Terrace. In France all are created equal when it comes to table service :)

What draws such a diverse array of notables? Creativity truly serves as the glue of the festival and allows for continued growth while retaining a common core. As the number of Lions awards categories increases or the population of media/technology/data vendors expands, that expansion is anchored in the creative work that drives engagement. Whether it’s the right time, right device, or right audience, it starts with the right message.


In a place that attracts so many luminaries and puts them on an equal playing field (while their work on behalf of clients is going head-to-head), you could see a battle royale. Instead you have mutual respect and even détente.

That is because Cannes fosters a strong sense of community and connection amongst its attendees. I thought about using the word “celebration” here, but that would minimize the importance of this aspect of the Festival. Cannes is Switzerland (well, almost).

The clearest example of this was the Viacom dinner on Thursday evening hosted by Philippe Dauman which brought together every Agency Holding Company CEO — not only at one event, but at the same table. Truly remarkable. Sir Martin even opened up his main stage debate with a picture from the event.

This was the first time since the conscious uncoupling of Publicis-Omnicom that Maurice Levy and John Wren saw each other — and they greeted each other with a hug and pleasant conversation including a good joke or two.

The Super Bowl

We’re an industry about awareness and engagement. In a world where “everything is content” (one of the refrains for the week), marketing is getting closer to show business than ever.

Cannes — like the Super Bowl — is where the marketing takes over the content. It is a place for advertisers to make their statements and trumpet their message.

And lest we forget, this content is in pursuit of commerce — the notion of “Cannes as a Marketplace” continues to expand. Admittedly or not, the Festival has always been an epicenter for recruiting talent. Today, just walk along the Marina or the Croisette and you can see for yourself the cavalcade of media/technology companies in attendance.

Bloomberg News observed that the trend “was more evident this year than ever, when companies such as Google, Facebook [...] and Microsoft spent the week pitching advertisers … Smaller independent ad technology companies entertained prospective clients with dinners, drinks and parties on yachts in Cannes’ harbor, while venture capitalists and bankers prowled the town on the lookout for potential investment opportunities.”

Cannes can be these three personalities (and many more) because it’s a unique event in that its evolution reflects the industry today.

The Festival attracts ever-increasing constituencies and — with this expansion — it demands more of its participants. For an industry focused on innovation and engagement in an ever more fragmented world, the event is a mirror to what marketers deal with every day.

Integration isn’t a buzzword, it’s a reality. If the goal is celebrating excellence in an industry that is often described as a mix of “art and science” or “psychology and business,” then weaving together the solutions offered by the many constituencies becomes table stakes in the game of success.

That’s what we heard time and time again in the MediaLink Daily Dose sessions featuring industry luminaries such as Tony Weisman, CEO of Digitas North America; Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever; Ben Silbermann , CEO of Pinterest; and Bonin Bough , VP of Global Media and Consumer Engagement at Mondelez. This was echoed in panel sessions by the leadership of companies such as Salesforce/ExactTarget, Ace Metrix, Return Path, Simulmedia, Vibrant, Outbrain, Collective Digital Studio, Popsugar, Talenthouse, true[X], Zonza, Deep Focus, VEVO, ZEFR, Maker Studios and Unified Social.

It’s why the major publishers — Conde Nast, Time, Inc, The New York Times, The Guardian, The New York Post, Hearst and of course, Adweek and Ad Age — all show up in force.

It’s not enough to educate. One has to activate.

Integration is exactly that — not doing something for its own sake but utilizing different factors in pursuit of a goal, business or personal. And it’s the difference in work done with meaning and purpose (that which is rewarded even if not awarded).

It reminds me of a beautiful sentiment from novelist John Fowles in his postmodern classic The Magus: “He had the charm of all people who believe implicitly in themselves, that of integration.”

Hmmmm…this gives me a good idea for a business :)

Original Article.