At Cannes Lions 2024, TikTok doesn’t talk about a U.S. ban

Digiday covers the latest from marketing and media at the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. More from the series →

What a difference a year makes. Last year at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in the South of France, all TikTok had to worry about was a shaky ad economy. This year, while the entertainment platform is heavily focusing on business as usual, it still has to contend with whether or not it will exist in the U.S. for the long term.

It could be argued that since TikTok filed to sue the U.S. government over the “divest or ban” bill in May, there’s not much to tell. The platform’s legal battle is currently tied up in paperwork, and it probably will be for the foreseeable future. But instead of addressing this metaphorical elephant in the room, the TikTok team doesn’t seem to acknowledge it at all anymore.

In a TikTok presentation at Cannes on Monday, during which the company shared upcoming trends on the platform, neither Haley Paas (head of global marketing solutions) nor Dan Connor (global creative solutions lead) mentioned the fact that their product still faces a ban in the U.S.

It was a similar situation at the TikTok press briefing on Tuesday. During the audience Q&A, the team was asked whether they had seen any uncertainty around advertisers committing to spend ad dollars on TikTok, or put more time into the platform — given the ongoing saga in the U.S. While Blake Chandlee (president, global business solutions) acknowledged it was the obvious question he’d been asked since being in Cannes this week, he responded by saying that “the advertising community has been really supportive of us,” and rolled through some of the work TikTok has done around data handling (think Project Texas) before the session swiftly ended.

“TikTok just doesn’t acknowledge the bill with any of its partners or with advertisers at all anymore, there’s no updates, nothing. It’s as if it’s not happening,” said one ad exec in attendance at the Cannes Lions festival who wanted to remain anonymous, adding that it seems like TikTok is quietly confident that it’s not going anywhere.

Instead, TikTok’s press briefing was used to focus on the impact of discovery on the platform, its product launches at TikTok World 2024 in May, as well its latest launch at Cannes: AI powered digital avatars.

But given the concerns around AI influencers, namely that they could steal jobs, Digiday asked if launching such a product now could cause any further challenges for the platform in light of its legal battle in the U.S.

Adrienne Lahens, global head of content strategy and operations at TikTok, responded by saying: “We’re super heads down on our product team and we’re just focused on building the future of creativity. And so as you can see, we’re continuing to roll out more and more products to really support our creators as well as brands.”

Still, not directly addressing the potential ban speaks volumes, and the message was loud and clear: TikTok doesn’t seem even remotely concerned about the “divest or ban” bill in the U.S. So much so that the platform still boasts its same high-profile spot that it had last year on the Croisette, in the garden at the center of the Carlton Hotel.

“The fact that TikTok has taken over the Carlton garden again this year, it says a lot,” said another ad exec, who also wanted to remain anonymous. “Evidently, U.S. Congress just isn’t bothering them.”

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