Cannes: Day 2 Recap

Run the World

“Another day at Cannes, another white guy pitching his product,” was how Phil Ellis described the start of his day. He’s got a point. Even if Cannes takes pains to put women on stage, the numbers in the rest of the world remain unchanged. 95% of directors in Hollywood are men, and women directed only 7% of studio pictures in 2014. (Fun fact: trans people directed .045% of studio pictures).

Actress and director Samantha Morton said she cherishes film too much to leave it to the white guys, even if her partner in promoting Female Firsts, an initiative aiming to support women who want to become filmmakers, is Jefferson Hack, one seriously white dude. Initiatives like Female Firsts will lead to more women putting their visions on the screen, which is clearly something the world wants. Shondaland broke a bunch of plates with Grey’s Anatomy, and a few more are being hurled with How to Get Away with Murder, whose star, Viola Davis, enchanted the audience with her frank relish in having the chance to play the kind of woman she had never seen on TV before.

Someday, Someway

Gender diversity isn’t the only thing that needs sorting. Ethnic and cultural diversity is essential, as Jonathan Mildenhall of Airbnb pointed out. “Shame on the agencies and marketers,” he said, “who don’t know how to build diverse teams.” Diversity looks different depending on your context, and that context is constantly changing. In the US, general market agencies appeal to the “Anglo Saxon market” as Sergio Alcocer put it.

He and his other two panelists urged the audience to develop a little “Latinicity” since there’s much in Latin culture to inspire amazing creativity. The US has a particular need for that, given the explosive growth in the Hispanic population. Soon, the majority of the US population will be comprised of minority populations, and the general market will need to expand to include them. “We believe,” said Bruce McColl of Mars, “in global ideas,” to which Mars then applies local expertise. That’s a different sort of diversity, especially given that the global ideas come from an aggregated collection of local marketers. Diversity—for companies large and small, global, regional, and national, is a competitive advantage and a business essential.

People Get Ready

In the future, those companies are going to need all the loyalty they can get, if Will Sansom of Contagious and Ray Velez of Razorfish are to be believed. Consumers, already powerful, will soon have so much information at their disposal that the era of asymmetrical information about your brand will be over. Build you brand around the consumer, they say, as if every marketer in the world is not already bouncing with anxiety about that very point.

“The consumer journey is the new heart and soul of marketing,” said Pete Blackshaw of Nestlé. “That’s the number 1 job responsibility of the CMO.” Legacy brands, like many of those in the Nestlé portfolio, have incredible power, but will that power translate into the personal relationship that Sansom and Velez say consumers seek? Of course, information isn’t everything. Americans preferred Pepsi to Coke during the days of the Pepsi Challenge. Americans also drink way more Coke, and they do because Coca-Cola means more to Americans and is a better personal signifier than Pepsi. Brands know—and have know for a while—this movement was afoot. Good intentions are not an issue. Instead, the peril lies in possessing some amalgam of agility and iteration—or so it would see judging by the numbing number of times I’ve heard those words mentioned here


Marketing giveth and Procurement taketh away, or so read the hymnal since the depths of the great recession. But rejoice, agencies! Jonathan Mildenhall has nailed his treatise to the Cannes door. Airbnb compensates Chiat with a percentage of every night stayed though the platform. According to Mildenhall, “A huge amount of brand vitality comes from ad agencies. As marketers, we must enable those groups to stay vital.”

That was a crowd-pleaser of a line ‘round these parts. Of course, he also extoled the virtues of smaller marketing organizations than what currently prevails, which did take a little air out of the room. Sansom and Velez would see that development as inevitable. Computer intelligence is already replacing the human minds in programmatic advertising, and both history and common sense suggest that computers will take on as many functions as technology allows. It’s unlikely that our business will be wholly replaced by computational intelligence—a statement I’ll no doubt regret when my job gets digi-shored.

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