Day 3 at Cannes Lions: yacht rock and blowouts

Cannes reaches a midpoint crescendo with maritime millions, creator commerce and digital personas steering the conversation, as AI fatigue sets in as the Big Tech platforms host their biggest parties yet.

Wednesday at Cannes Lions sees PMW Editor Robin Langford explore the Reddit funhouse and spends more time at the harbour where he learns the eye-watering price of a yacht at Cannes, and why it's worth it for international attention.

If you want to measure the success of Cannes Lions 2023, the number of adtech companies moored along the Jetée Albert Edouard is as good a barometer as any.

“Last year it stopped about where the Equative yacht is…over there,” Paul Coggins, CEO at Adludio, gestures into the distance down the Jetty. “This year it's right up to the end. We even have the Wall Street Journal set up beside us.”

PMW is joining Coggins onboard the JoyMe yacht, as he reflects on a bumper first half of the year for Adludio. In Cannes, brands are coming to him – presenting his team with audience reach challenges that they are hoping the AI-powered mobile ad solutions firms can solve. Coggins confides in me that most companies shell out upwards of a million pounds to have a presence in one the harbour yachts.

"It’s likely many of the companies in the harbour paid for these yachts six months ago when the industry was in better shape,” Coggins tells me. “It’s no secret that the ad industry is now in recession. But the business we are doing here still makes the investment more than worth it.”

Global, not local

A short trip over to the DoubleVerify yacht and we hear a similar story from Nick Reid, DoubleVerify’s Managing Director, EMEA. “The difference with Cannes Lions to other major marketing events is its international scale,” Reid says after remarking on how much attention the independent media quality and performance solutions company is getting from US brands walking up the jetty.

“For the adtech businesses here, there are very few people who deal exclusively with their UK or regional clients. Nearly everyone here will have an international element to their role.”

How to reach highly relevant customers

Alongside Amazon Port, Reddit’s Explorer Club installation is one of the standout new features outside the Palais. Inside is something of an interactive funhouse, and PMW is treated to a special guided tour that represents the user experience and how the social media platform has transformed its ad offering in recent years with a strong emphasis on helping brands measure performance.

Kaitlin McGirl, Global Head of Creative Strategy, Reddit KarmaLab, is in charge of helping brands get the most out of the platform, and supplies some fascinating insights into what works on Reddit, and how it can help brands reach highly relevant customers and advocates that other platforms cannot reach.

Brands that used ‘Redditisms’ such as TIL (Today I Learned) or TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read) drive much higher conversion rates, and Reddit's recent work with brands as diverse as Oatly and Ulta have returned impressive results.

Reddit is well known for its passionate communities of subreddits that are keen to advocate for and engage with brands, so advertisers are given several levers of safety they can choose to adopt, but ultimately McGill encourages brands to really embrace the community to get the best insights and results.

New AI tech bonding with old school market research

By day three of Cannes Lions it was clear everyone was getting Generative AI fatigue. So PMW welcomed the chance to talk to someone who had been developing AI well before ChatGPT hype.

Back in the old town, we sat down with Tim Geenen, Founder and CEO of Rayn, which helps companies turn “content into context”, combining it with behaviours into cohorts, ready for collaboration and bolstered by validations.

Geenen is passionate about ‘digital twins’ and how society will be reaching an inflection point in a few years where people spend more time cultivating their digital personas, like social profiles, gaming avatars, shopping accounts, app logins, than they do their real-life ones. So Rayn is forging ahead with a new cohort and validation solution with two essential steps: developing AI to create personas from vast amounts of clean data, then working with several publishers across Europe to validate these assumptions with real users via simple thumbs up or thumbs down online surveys.

“We’re finding all sorts of great ways to incentivise this,” Geenen says, adding that Rayn has been working with the likes of Uber Eats and Just Eat to offer free delivery in return for these short survey responses, which in turn helps those brands understand their customers more and validate the data.

The mix of new AI tech and old school market research is the perfect example of how AI can be more than just a buzzword to help audience targeting work better for advertisers. “From this type of cohort validation, we can know if someone who is into Polynesain food is just into cooking, or if they are also into travel or sustainability. That will be hugely valuable for brands to know,” Geenen concludes.

"Creators are media - not branding exercises"

Influencer marketing has matured post Covid - and is now big business for brands. But where it sits in the marketing mix has become a key issue in recent years. As the afternoon sun beats down, PMW ventured into Whalar House beside Meta Beach to learn more about the creator commerce company, which helps creators, brands, and social platforms drive growth together.

Gaz Alushi, President of Measurement and Analytics at Whalar has a refreshingly simple take on the role of creators. “I think the industry is often guilty of measuring creators wrong. Creators are media, not branding exercises or something separate from TV, search or display. There are billions of people a day using the platforms creators are found on. Advertisers need to bring them into the media planning process.”

The value of creators is more than just a sponsored TikTok post. Alushi uses an example of a Dyson hairdryer that was getting criticised on social pages for not achieving the ‘blowout’ effect on hair it promised… until an influencer put out a product demonstration video that showed its correct usage, resulting in a huge uplift in sales.

“When measuring creator commerce It all comes down to the CFO,” Alushi concludes. “They care about two things: how much did we spend and how much did we make."

It’s no secret that Wednesday is the biggest party night in Cannes, with many attendees checking out the following day. So I finished the evening at Amazon Port watching Grammy Award winning DJ Honey Dijon, with the line of adtech yachts glistening on the harbour behind us.

Going by our conversations today, it’s easy to bet that line will be even longer next year.