06/19/19: Cynopsis at CANNES LIONS

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Cynopsis at CANNES LIONS

Day 3 of Cannes Lions got off to a surprisingly perky start, despite the participants painting the town red until the wee hours. At the first panel of the day even MediaLink’s Michael Kassan, who was moderating a discussion with Quibi Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman, said he was feeling last night’s rosé…and the martinis. No rest for the wicked tonight, either: Bebe Rexha and Tove Lo take the stage at Spotify Beach and Charlie XCX puts on a show at FreeWheel Beach. Twitter Beach has a mystery guest, which we’ll reveal tomorrow. But inside the Palais it’s another day of talks, and we’re your eyes and ears on the Croisette.…Until it’s time to enjoy a meal from Michelin-star restaurant Carbone at an undisclosed address in the hills above Cannes. Then you’re on your own.

Wednesday morning at the Palais started with Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman presenting their new quick bite entertainment company, Quibi. In a panel called “Raising the Bar on the Small Screen” the two previewed the mobile streaming service, set to launch in April 2020. “The ambition from day one was to bring together the best of Silicon Valley and the best of Hollywood,” said Katzenberg, who tonight will receive the Media Person of the Year Award. Quibi will serve up episodic content, seven to ten minutes in length, and has already attached creative forces like Steven Spielberg, Antoine Fuqua and Guillermo Del Toro. Long-form stories will be told in chapters, not unlike a broadcast series with act breaks. Whitman pointed out that Quibi is not a studio, but a company commissioning content, based on market segmentation. “Meg and I have been saying from day one that every single thing our teams are doing from now until April 6th of next year is going to be guided first and foremost by the instincts of 161 quibs,” said Katzenberg. “After April 6 it’s all going to be driven by the feedback and the data.” The use case is 7am to 7pm on-the-go moments. “The opportunity exists for us to do something really new and differentiated and is going to create a new consumption habit,” said Katzenberg, pointing out that less than 10% of HBO, Hulu, Amazon and Netflix viewers watch these services on their mobile phones. An ad supported subscription will cost $4.99, and the ad free service will go for $7.99/month.
Whitman and Katzenberg also announced their first six advertising partners: P&G, Walmart, Pepsico, Google, AB InBev and Progressive. “We decided to do something different for advertisers,” said Whitman. “We’re giving them an opportunity to participate in helping us build an advertising platform and sponsor our launch in a premium brand-safe environment. There is no user generated content on Quibi – nothing gets on the app that we don’t say gets on the app.” Every piece of content that is five minutes or less will have one six-to-ten second non-skippable ad in front of it, and content between five and ten minutes will have a 15 second spot, averaging at 2.5 minutes an hour. Chief Brand Officer for P&G, Mark Pritchard arrived on stage to make a case for joining Quibi. “Our world is being disrupted and that’s what we’re trying to get ahead of. We’d rather lead that disruption,” said Pritchard. “Let’s reinvent the advertising experience.” What that looks like on Quibi might be advertising in chapter form. “It’s going to be content that will be organic to the experience,” said Pritchard. “Our expectations are that hard to reach Gen Z and millennial audience that is decreasingly watching TV, if at all. And even in the digital world ad blocking is increasing. So, we’re going to be able to reach an audience in a very engaging way. But there’s high expectation. It needs to be like other media, which means it needs to perform.”
Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg took the stage to address the firestorm over the social networking site’s potential privacy and data breach violations in recent years. “There are things that we missed,” she admitted. “We wish we had understood the Russian interference in the U.S. election. We didn’t. We missed it.” As a result, the company is now working with a US task force, and Facebook currently takes down about 1 million accounts a day, often before users even realize they are there. As they expect new threats to continuously appear, Sandberg said Facebook needs to remain vigilant. In regard to users’ privacy concerns, Sandberg acknowledged Facebook has done a terrible job at explaining how targeted advertising works. “People believe that you can’t do targeted advertising and protect privacy. I want to be really clear – you can and we do,” she said, assuring the audience no one is reading their private messages and Instagram is not listening to their conversations. “If you’re targeted and you’re worried about how that happened, we need to make our case in a different way.” Sandberg also said Facebook is not currently in the market for big acquisitions, noting that it has made small acquisitions in the past, like Instagram at a time when the company only had 13 employees. When asked about Libra, the cryptocurrency recently announced by the company, Sandberg said it is a long way from launch, but conversations have begun about what they would like to achieve. “It’s a heavily regulated field, and we need to talk with people, so that is what we’re doing,” she said.
Though faced with severe backlash in recent years, and often under personal attack, Sandberg said she has not considered leaving Facebook. When mistakes happen, you have to really roll up your sleeves and be honest about what happened,” she said about feeling responsibility to fix these problems. “And the other reason is, I believe so deeply in what happens on Facebook.”
President and CEO of BBDO Worldwide, Andrew Robertson, gave a pithy lecture on how to get a message across effectively when the average video view is three seconds or less. In a panel called “Do you have a second? Oops, Too Late!” Robertson revealed that a viewable impression is currently defined by the Interactive Advertising Bureau as when at least 50% of an ad appears on screen for more than one second. Apparently, the average person scrolls through 300 feet of content a day, and the average video view on Facebook is 3 seconds, and on YouTube a whopping 6 seconds. Joking that 15 seconds feels like long-form content nowadays, Robertson implored the audience to get their inspiration from good old-fashioned print ads and billboards, by effectively creating print ads that move. What tends to happen, said Robertson, is that creatives write something longer and then work to shorten it, whereas the key is to think short from the beginning. Another way to think about creating brief, impactful ads is to use either bent headlines and straight visuals, or straight headlines and bent visuals (but not straight headlines and straight visuals because that is incredibly dull, nor bent headlines and bent visuals because they make no sense to the consumer). To further make a point about the scarcity of attention spans, Robertson finished the half-hour talk with eight minutes to spare.
In a penthouse suite across from the Palais, The Trade Desk Founder Jeff Green hosted a panel about Connected TV, with CEO of GroupM Tim Castree, SVP of Advertising Sales at Hulu Peter Naylor, Chairman of Advertising & Client Partnerships NBCUniversal Linda Yaccarino, and Associate Director of Global Brand Building of Procter & Gamble Eric Austin. The hour-long talk focused on keeping up with an industry that is rapidly changing. Green and Yaccarino speculated that Netflix’s business plan will have to shift, in the near future, in order to pay for all its content. “For Netflix, specifically, it’s not illogical to imagine, as several companies roll their programming off of Netflix and go to other platforms, that their business plan would have to shift because they have to make more [original content],” said Yaccarino. “NBCUniversal, last year, spent over 28 billion dollars on content, either developing it or acquiring it, so when the cream of the crop – like The Office, 30 Rock, some Marvel brand I heard about – comes off Netflix their business model has to shift. They have to make more programming that’s not guaranteed to be a hit. Spend more money, build the brand, help the consumer discover your stuff. First of all, it seems prices will go up for the subscription and it would be logical that to try to mitigate those increases, you would have to take ads.” NBC will launch its ad supported streaming platform next year. “We believe strongly that ads in exchange for content can be a pleasurable experience for the consumer if you do it right,” said Yaccarino.
Naylor told the panel that their discovery at Hulu is that there is advertising acceptance and 70% of Hulu viewers choose the ad supported service. But the future of ad supported media will have to evolve. Austin said that seven out of ten consumers think ads are annoying, forcing brands to reimagine the creativity piece of the puzzle. “We have to rethink and leverage the full power of the medium, and think about different ways to connect with consumers,” he said. Another subject that dominated was measuring ratings. “The single biggest contributor to the lack of innovation or inertia in this industry is measurement,” said Yaccarino. “The biggest challenge is that [the numbers] don’t reflect consumer behavior…The problem is there is not one verifiable place to be able to do that right now, so it screws up the costs of the commerce that we do together because you have to do it in a bunch of different ways. And most importantly it’s disrespectful to the audience.” The future of measuring ratings is agreeing upon a common currency. “I feel like all my conversations are about CPW – Cost Per Whatever, it could be CPM, cost per download – I feel like there already is an abundance of secondary currencies that people want to talk about,” said Naylor. “The future of measurement is probably going to be more complicated before it gets better, and the currency is whatever two people agree to trade on.” 

Verizon’s Chief Creative Officer made a pit stop in Cannes to participate in panels about how reflecting reality, through diversity and inclusion in advertising, is building better connections with consumers. Cynopsis sat down with McKechnie at Martinez Beach to discuss creative strategy in the age of infinite data and what Verizon wants to convey to their consumers.

What excites you about Cannes Lions this year?

Every year it changes. It’s always interesting to see where the industry is moving. I think the talent pool is constantly evolving. It’s always interesting to see who’s on the beach, because that changes. In years past it’s been the big agencies, network holding companies. A few years ago it was mostly tech companies. Obviously, you now see a lot more media companies.

What do you think the beach pop-ups say about the industry?

You are seeing a transformation on who’s taking the front-row seats. As brands, we now have so many options in terms of where to put our marketing dollars, but also with where our audiences are.

With so much data available right now, how do you as a content creator make sure that you’re talking to your consumers the way they want to be talked to?

We’re really focused on more of a traditional approach of creating authentic stories that we think are important from a brand perspective. Then it’s about, where do we meet our audience? What are the formats? Should that be a six-second thing in Snap or should this be a 15-second spot on TV, or should it be a long-form documentary, because that’s what we believe our audience is looking to engage with at that given time.

Can you articulate what the narrative is? What is the story Verizon is trying to tell?

For us the main perspective is, how do we humanize technology as a brand as we go through our own transformation and evolution? Not only because the industry is evolving super quickly, but because tech brands are in an interesting space right now. For us it’s really important to contextualize and humanize the network. What does it mean for a network to play a role in someone’s life? For many years, I don’t think we’ve done a great job either as an industry to really show the power of what the network is capable of and bring it into more meaningful ways into people’s lives.

Are you excited about where advertising is going in general? Is there a new energy to it?

I think there is. I think it depends on where you sit, right? As a brand it’s such an amazing time, because there’s so much opportunity and things are changing so quickly. I like the pace at which things are changing. It can give you, obviously, a little bit of anxiety in terms of where we should be focused, what are the mediums, but there’s no better time to be a tech brand.

What’s the evolution that has you the most inspired?

At Verizon, because we’re on the forefront of a new technology with 5G, there’s a lot of excitement around that. We really believe in the power of 5G, and how it will ultimately have an impact on people in society. A lot of those conversations, from a consumer standpoint, are yet to be defined, because it’s so new. But as a brand, there are very few moments in time when you have a product that could have a big positive impact on things, whether it’s within society, within companies, within hardware and devices – it’s pretty pervasive. That’s really exciting for us.

You’re here in Cannes to talk about diversity. Do you think enough is being done to make the industry inclusive?

I think the heightened conversation is great. We’ve all got to do a lot better in that space. I think in terms of diversity, it’s a long-term outlook that you need to really be focused on. When you look at the industry, you have to look at every piece of it, because there’s an ecosystem of influence, right? There’s obviously a responsibility that I need to take as a creative leader to ensure that my teams are thinking that way. But then what happens after that? What happens when you get into the production life cycle and then you get into the talent pool? It’s pervasive across all of those things. A lot of it is about education and repetition. You’ve got to be really intentional about it and put the right systems and processes and workstreams in place to allow for that to really come to life. We focus on that in terms of our agency partnerships. We think about that in terms of how we hire internally – not just because that’s the hot topic, but because we have 130 million customers that represent a very diverse America.

Media Person of the Year
Jeffrey Katzenberg
Social & Influencer Lions
Grand Prix
‘Keeping Fortnite Fresh’ for Wendy’s
VMLY&R, Kansas City
PR Lions
Grand Prix
‘The Tampon Book: A Book Against Tax Discrimination’ for The Female Company
Direct Lions
Grand Prix
‘The Whopper Detour’ for Burger King
Creative Data Lions
Grand Prix
‘Go Back to Africa’ for Black & Abroad
FCB/SIX, Toronto

Media Lions
Grand Prix
‘Air Max Graffiti Stores’ for Nike
AKQA, São Paulo
Creative Strategy Lions
Grand Prix
‘The E.V.A. Initiative’ for Volvo Cars
Media Company of the Year

On Thursday, Shonda Rhimes takes the Lumiere stage to talk about smashing beauty stereotypes. Rhimes is followed up by Kenya Barris, in a panel named “Stop holding your breath.” We will find out more about the future of entertainment through the eyes of Jeff Goldblum. And surely, more concerts and beach parties! 
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