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Cannes Briefing: Twitter’s absence at Cannes makes space for competitors

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

Despite this year’s rampant construction along the Croisette and the usual broiling heat, everyone who’s anyone is seemingly at the 2023 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and bragging about how it’s bigger than ever. However, one key player is noticeably missing along the Cannes beach boardwalk: Twitter.

The social media platform’s presence here would’ve been a signal to the ad industry that it means business from owner Elon Musk, who claims the droves of advertisers that left the social media platform have returned.

“Almost all of the advertisers have said that they’ve either come back or they’ve said they will come back,” Musk declared at the recent VivaTech 2023 conference in Paris, France.

Musk’s tumultuous takeover has left the app more open than ever to compete for users, ad dollars and — now — its iconic spot along the beach that in previous years saw buzzy performances from the likes of Ciara and talks from Chrissy Teigen. And according to reports from Adweek, incoming CEO Linda Yaccarino isn’t expected to make an appearance to appease Twitter ad buyers. Albeit, the former NBCUniversal executive seems to be teasing her participation, posting an aperol spritz to Twitter with the caption “You can take the girl out of Cannes but you can’t take Cannes out of the girl! #CannesLions2023.”

In Twitter’s place on the beach is influencer marketing company Influential (which, given the company’s spot bordering Pinterest, Yahoo and Disney Advertising, could perhaps be a telltale sign of the growing importance of influencer marketing at this year’s festival, but that’s a story for another day).

Twitter’s lack of physical presence is a visceral reminder of the opportunity its lack of participation is creating for others.

When the cracks in Twitter’s leadership first started to show late last year and, a number of competitors either moved into the limelight, including Spill, a soon-to-launch social media app co-founded by former Twitter employee Alphonzo Terrell. The platform doesn’t have a big top tent or spot on Yacht row yet and took its morning meeting with Digiday at the infamous Gutter Bar along the Croisette. 

“We knew we wanted to be very stealth. But we also have a ton of partners and relationships out here, just people that we know of, that it made a ton of sense to come here,” he said. “You can get at so many different people at the same time that otherwise, it would be very difficult to find. That justified the expense.”

Spill has a small presence, but a meaningful one, locking itself in with Inkwell Beach — a beach activation dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion at Cannes — for panels and activations. Per Terrell, he’s eager to connect with inclusivity-driven organizations, advertisers and potential advertisers, and leave an impression at the industry’s biggest event of the year.

“It’s sort of [to] put a face to what people may have been hearing through the trades and some of the buzz early,” he said. “It’s really just to get everybody on the radar.” 

Last year, the social media app’s big white tent, otherwise known as #TwitterBeach, could be spotted from a mile away along the Croisette with its signature big blue bird, Cannes swag and shady imported palm trees. 

Under the big white tent, attendees would get a chance to tune into a panel with Twitter’s unofficial mayor Chrissy Teigen, press had a chance to poke and prod executives over free food and if delegates were lucky, there was a chance to attend a late night party, one-two stepping with Ciara. 

While Twitter’s presence is scaled back, other key players are becoming more apparent. This year, Netflix is camped out at the JW Marriott, and TikTok is just a hop, skip and a jump away at the Carlton Hotel — both with dedicated spaces for events, talks and of course, opportunities to get bigger buy in from advertisers as both TikTok and Netflix have more robust ad offerings than years before. 

As social media and digital television continue to scale, eating up more of advertising budgets, advertisers say they want less shiny objects and more tangible measurement opportunities from companies at this year’s Cannes, said Jay Friedman, CEO of Goodway Group. (This year is the CEO’s sixth year in Cannes.) 

“Apple can introduce spatial computing and Twitter’s CEO can lay off 90% of its staff and all that other stuff. But at the end of the day, I care about where consumers put their eyeballs and their ears so that I can help marketers connect best with their consumers,” he said. “They can say whatever they want. We need to be able to forecast where eyeballs and ears are and where they’re going to be salient.” — Kimeko McCoy

Elsewhere from Cannes

Omnicom Media Group has partnered with Uber Advertising on a data collaboration that will let the media agency network serve up its clients’ advertising using Uber’s mobility and delivery signals.

Digiday podcast at Cannes Lions: How to deal with the reaction to ‘woke’ culture.

Spotted

Trevor Noah and Paris Hilton snapped photos at a private villa for Spotify’s Cocktails a Cannes event on Monday evening where H.E.R. performed. David Dobrik stopped by Snap Terrace’s DJ set by Q-Tip.

Overheard

“I had access to the Virgin Cruise last year but they asked for proof of vaccination. And I said ‘fuck that.'” — along the Croisette

 “She’s speaking today on a panel about AI. It’s hilarious.” — along the Croisette

Newcomer tip

It’s easy to get caught up in racing to meetings and sessions — don’t forget to stop and put on some sunscreen. And if you have some extra time, visit a pharmacy to satisfy all your French skincare and makeup needs.

Featured activation: Snap

Snap partnered with Disney to create an AR experience at La Malmaison that combines physical activations (The Tree of Souls from Avatar, a moving Mandalorian) alongside a VR experience that enhances the room while you occupy it from either the Snap app or with a scan of a QR code. In a briefing with press, Rob Wilk, Snap’s President of Americas, said the pop-up represented the “connections we make and the magic of media.”

What to do

10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Listen to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel and Kevin Hart discuss Big Tech, AI and brand building at Journal House.

12:15 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. Tools such as DALL·E and ChatGPT will take the spotlight in a conversation about AI and creativity between the owner of those tools, OpenAI, and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners at Debussy Theatre, Palais I.

2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Listen in on Keke Palmer speak on creating meaningful content in a panel conversation with Amazon Studios at Terrace Stage, The Terrace.

Nightcap

5 p.m. to 8 p.m. YouTube Music Night will feature a performance by Jessie Ware at Google Beach.

7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Jeff Lewis, interior designer and host of Freevee’s original series, Hollywood Houselift, will be at Amazon Port, Plaza Stage & Le Café.

9 p.m. Performances by Florence + The Machine and Jack Harlow as well as DJ sets from will.i.am and Uncle Waffles on Spotify Beach.

Elsewhere from the newsroom

  • Advertisers have been adopting data clean rooms, in part, as a means of equipping themselves for a future when they cannot rely on the third-party cookie for ad targeting. The problem is, clean room-based advertising at scale is a challenge. Here’s a video on WTF is IAB Tech Lab’s Open Private Join and Activation.
  • Less than half of The Independent’s revenue came from advertising in 2022. That shift occurred as a result of significant investment into new products, teams and regions as well as an internal reorganization.
  • There’s a common refrain among marketers and agency executives this year: “Do more with less.” Here’s what they’re trying to do about that.
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