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Cannes LIONS 2022: Five takeaways for publishers

This blog was originally published on What’s New In Publishing.

We’ve only just returned – sunburnt, drenched, windswept (take your pick) – from a week at Cannes LIONS evaluating the key advertising trends and innovations that publishers need to know about. We weren’t disappointed, not least because Cannes has evolved and tech innovation now takes a far bigger seat at the table. In fact, it owns the table.

“It’s hard not to go around here and see the giant beaches, and Amazon having a compound, and not conclude that technology is driving the media industry and not vice versa.”

– Brian Morrissey, The Rebooting, speaking to Media Voices podcast at Cannes


Here are the 5 key TL;DR Cannes LIONS takeaways you need to know about:

1. Third-party cookies won’t go away in 2023

A bold call to be sure, but from the numerous industry insiders we talked to throughout the week, the overriding feeling was that the ad tech industry was too discombobulated for third-party cookies to be dissolved in 2023 – new estimates ranged from 2024 to 2028, with one influential exec telling us that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it never happened”.

The entire discourse around third-party cookies was confused – for example, whilst some execs heralded ‘data clean rooms’ as the answer, other execs insisted that these would fail EU compliance criteria because they simply aren’t in the spirit of the law.

Ditto authenticated audience IDs which were pilloried for only working with the few percent of audiences who actually log in – indeed, one exec told us “the Trade Desk already knows log-in IDs don’t work with Apple log-ins” whilst another pointed out that authenticated IDs solutions had already fallen foul of the UK’s ICO. It’s a mess.

Key takeaway: “Keep your options open – don’t put all your eggs in one basket”

2. Ignore sustainability at your peril

Infinite growth on a finite planet was never going to be a winning strategy, and sustainability has now taken front and center of many brands’ wishlists. Greenwashing has been replaced by media buying groups selecting publisher ad inventory using checklists of ‘sustainability criteria’.

GroupM, as one example, recently announced its ‘Responsible Investment’ framework which, amongst other things, “evolves methods to account for social and environmental impact like a media placement’s carbon emissions.”

“Advertisers and media buyers are looking to ensure efficiency and eliminate waste, in all forms.”

– Jeff Meglio, VP of Demand, Sovrn

Publishers are slowly starting to respond, with the U.S.’s Recurrent (publisher of Popular Science, Field & Stream, Donut Media, etc) this month announcing a new VP of Sustainability to reduce its environmental impact. Expect this trend to go exponential.

Key takeaway: “Publishers will have to demonstrate their environmental footprint to advertisers”

3. DEI is here to stay

Diversity, equity and inclusion were other key themes at Cannes, with a multitude of forums both in the main auditorium as well as the numerous fringe theatres dotted around Cannes’ beaches and yachts.

Amidst the great resignation, publishers are already having to work hard to convince potential recruits that their workplaces are beacons of DEI and fit for purpose in 2022. This trend will only increase, with publishers now being judged by brands on their DEI framework and policies. A failure by publishers to uphold a rigorous and transparent DEI framework will see advertising budgets being pulled – maybe not this year, but it’s coming.

We also noted at Cannes that a number of renaissance publishers – for example, Metaverse publisher TrooVRS – are majoring in wellness, health, sustainability, and DEI content. At Cannes, this is clearly what advertisers were looking for, whilst topics that could be seen as divisive were being avoided.

Key takeaway: “Publishers will need to demonstrate their DEI credentials, with benchmarked criteria”

4. The Attention Economy is gaining prominence

A key theme at Cannes was the ‘Attention Economy’ which is adspeak for how brands can cut through the clutter of ubiquitous content. Attention is now the single limiting factor in the consumption of information and brands are looking at ways of not only reaching their audiences but doing so in a way that is accountable.

Measurability is taking the forefront, with publishers who can prove to ad buyers ‘clear attention signals that indicate high levels of reader engagement’ being chosen in preference to those publishers solely relying on Google Analytics. Page views, as a measurement, are most definitely out.

As one exec told us, “The buy-side of programmatic is searching for new, anonymised metrics and technologies that can be used at scale for their campaigns, with consumer attention at the heart of it.”

Key takeaway: “Brands want to see attention metrics, not visits or page views. They want to be SEEN!”

5. You need to understand how young people are consuming media, and fast

A key theme of Cannes was how younger people are now consuming media. In short, they are Web 3.0 natives. One exec told us how their eleven-year-old spends hours on Roblox, with the child’s social media on the very same platform via 200 handpicked friends. If you don’t know Roblox, as just one example, you need to – 49 million people each day are using the gaming platform, not just to game but to interact with each other.

More examples? Snap’s Evan Spiegel disclosed on AXIOS/ Zefr’s private yacht that Snapchat sees 250M augmented reality snaps per day and that the technology is now a core part of its future roadmap.

Jamie Elden, CRO of Shutterstock, simply told us, “The new generation aren’t interested in print, nor dot com websites, instead they are interacting on social media as their primary vehicle for communication. These audiences don’t look at the brand, they look at the story.”

Key takeaway: “Publishers MUST understand how the latest generation are interacting with, and consuming media. Things are changing FAST.”

That’s a wrap!

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