Media Briefing: 2024 publishers’ guide to selling at Cannes

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

Thanks to Blockboard for sponsoring Digiday’s Cannes coverage this year and presenting this edition of the Digiday+ Media Briefing, normally available exclusively to paying subscribers.

‘Catch that lightning in a bottle’

On Monday, droves of media and marketing leaders will descend on the Croisette in Cannes, France, for The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity – more colloquially known as Cannes – for a week full of wheelin’ and dealin’. 

And this year, media companies are sending more of their sales folk than in years prior as the lure of face-to-face time with prospective advertisers and clients becomes all the more enticing. 

Eight publisher execs shared with Digiday how they’re strategizing with their sales teams to make Cannes one of the most lucrative selling moments of the year and how last year’s efforts are influencing their pitch to marketers and agency execs in 2024. 

More boots on the ground

This is the first year that Josh Stinchcomb, global CRO of Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, said he is sending all of the sales team’s sector leads to Cannes. But it’s also the first time that Dow Jones’ CEO Almar Latour, CMO Sherry Weiss and the WSJ’s editor-in-chief Emma Tucker will attend with the company. 

“[It] is great … for our advertising clients and CMOs and agency leaders to hear their perspective, and [see] their vision for where they’re taking these publications and brands and not just hear it from people like me,” said Stinchcomb. 

Last year, Bloomberg Media’s CRO Christine Cook and one other salesperson handled the selling efforts at Cannes, but this year, the publisher is increasing that headcount to 10 with additional global sellers, said Andrea Ching, the company’s global head of integrated marketing.

Future plc is doubling the number of sellers it’s sending to Cannes this year from two to four, including Matt Trotta, svp of U.S. sales. The primary focus will be to connect with U.S. marketers, Trotta said, as the company continues its push into the North American ad market. 

Turning conversations into deals 

Having a near pedantic approach to booking meetings ahead of time is a strategy that all of the publisher execs have leaned into this year – though serendipitous run-ins can be just as lucrative so allowing for open blocks of time in the day can be just as critical. 

But based on the level of attributable revenue from previous Cannes meetings, entering each day of the festival with three to five meetings on the agenda is the way to go. 

“Safe to say that millions of dollars of business were driven on the back of meetings from [Cannes] 2023,” said Stinchcomb. Last year, he said he met two CMOs at Cannes whose companies are now advertisers for the Journal. “Another instance, we met with a CMO and her whole team and our whole custom studio team, and did a deep dive, hour-long pitch of capabilities. And now we’re in business with them in a way we had never been before.” 

Similar to previous years, The Wall Street Journal will pop up its Journal House event franchise at Cannes, where panels, cocktail parties for agency execs and their clients and other programmed events will take place. Stinchcomb said his team has more than 50 business meetings scheduled with marketers (the majority being at the CMO level) and agency leads to take place at Journal House next week. Personally, he said he has 15 meetings already scheduled, with prioritization going toward clients and CMOs based outside of the U.S. that he doesn’t normally get to see.

“Good business” – i.e. how companies can have a positive impact on society and culture – is the theme that will be peppered into all of the conversations that Bloomberg’s sellers have with the buy-side next week, Ching said, with the added goal of giving marketers actionable insights and takeaways they can take back to their companies. 

“We heard from senior marketers [last year], that actually, they missed hearing from us in terms of our workshops and being able to come away with real tangible things,” said Ching. So research from Bloomberg’s new corporate reputation study will also be core to the conversations had in the more than 100 individual meetings set with marketers as well as all of the programming taking place in Bobo Bistro, a restaurant across from the Croisette that Bloomberg is taking over for three days. 

Future’s Trotta said that while he wasn’t part of the team that went to Cannes last year, many of the conversations that the CEO Jon Steinberg had on the ground were used as jumping off points for “a lot of the deals” his team was able to activate in 2024. “It’s really just taking that same approach and doubling down this year,” he said. 

Also in a bid to grow its U.S. client base, U.K.-based FootballCo is sending its recently appointed CEO of North America, Jason Wagenheim, and two other U.S.-based sellers to Cannes to sell alongside six sales folks from the central team in the U.K., Wagenheim said. 

He added that his team is heading into Cannes with 30 to 40 meetings booked with prospective clients, a lot of whom “are [not] foreign to me, personally over my career, but they’re people that haven’t necessarily invested in FootballCo yet, either in the U.S. or globally.”

While four sellers will be headed to Cannes from Axios’s business team this year, Jonathan Otto, gm of Axios Live, said the litany of pre-planned meetings is not the only opportunity to strike gold. “Don’t oversubscribe your schedule … Longer term partnerships were birthed from meeting serendipitously in Cannes over the course of the week. Maybe catch that lightning in a bottle one or two times,” he said. 

Two main goals Otto has for Cannes this year is showing prospective clients that haven’t previously worked with Axios all the capabilities of its events business, as well as its expanded editorial coverage of women’s sports. This will largely be demonstrated through its Women’s Sports House – a venue where three-days’ worth of programming will take place in partnership with Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment. 

Gallery Media Group, a subsidiary of VaynerX, is showing out at Cannes on a yacht – again. But CEO Ryan Harwood said it’s not about the show of glitz and glamor as much as it is the convenience factor of having one accessible location to host all of the team’s meetings during the week. 

Four business-side folks from Gallery will be hunkering down on the yacht, taking on about 10 meetings per day, and while the media company did have to pitch in (an undisclosed amount) to pay for the boat, Harwood said the investment pays for itself.

“The reason why we continue to go to Cannes and invest in Cannes is because those, let’s call it 30 to 50 meetings that I have that week … that would take six months to accomplish,” he said.

What we’ve heard

“I’ve been on every platform, and I have never experienced the level of engagement and honest interaction with intention, than on Twitch.” 

Tyler Oakley, Twitch streamer and YouTube content creator on the fourth and final episode of the Digiday Podcast’s Creator series

The decline-to-disclose trend continues

A growing percentage of employees are choosing not to disclose or self-report their ethnic or racial backgrounds, according to several publishers’ latest annual reports showing the diversity of their workforces

And it’s a trend that appears to be progressing from when Digiday first reported on it back in September.

In Gannett’s latest diversity report published in January 2024, the percentage of its overall workforce who declined to self-identify was 14%, up from 5% in 2023.

“During the application and hiring process, we have noted an increasing trend where candidates are choosing not to self-identify,” LaToya Johnson, Gannett’s senior director of inclusion strategy, said in an email. “At Gannett, employees are able to update their personal information at any time. They are also reminded on a quarterly basis to review their profiles to make any appropriate personal updates and ensure accuracy.”

Of Condé Nast’s overall workforce, 8% were “undeclared” in its latest diversity report based on December 2023 data, up one percentage point from 2022. Among those in senior leadership positions, there was a one percentage point increase in the number of employees who chose not to share their information (5%) as well.

But the biggest change was among Condé Nast’s new hires – 18% were “undeclared” in 2023, up from 12% in 2022. (Condé Nast declined to comment.)

However, there were some improvements, too. BuzzFeed’s November 2023 diversity report showed a two percentage point decrease in U.S. employees who did not share their data, from 11% in 2022 to 9% in 2023. But CEO Jonah Peretti noted in the report that the percentage of U.K.-based employees who did not declare their race or ethnicity increased in that period, meaning the 2023 data only represented 69% of those in the U.K. 

“At this time, due to the small population size and low data completion rates, we cannot provide an accurate picture of our population in the U.K. or other international offices,” Peretti wrote.

At The New York Times and Vox Media, there wasn’t any notable change in the percentage of employees unwilling to disclose their demographic data, hovering around 2-3%.

Back in September, DEI consultants told Digiday there were a number of possible reasons behind this growing trend, such as changes in the makeup of companies’ workforce, a growing cynicism toward DEI work and skepticism from staffers on what their personal data is being used for by their employers. – Sara Guaglione

Numbers to know

2: The length of a new partnership in years between The New York Times Cooking and Instacart, which allows readers to buy recipe ingredients through the grocery delivery platform. 

1,265: The number of “pink slime” websites that are masquerading as local news sites but are politically motivated, per data from misinformation tracking company, NewsGuard. This now exceeds the 1,213 daily local newspapers that existed in the U.S. last year.

$10.9 million: The amount of money that AI news reader Particle raised in a Series A round of funding that included investment from Axel Springer. 

What we’ve covered

How a work platform redesigned BuzzFeed’s former offices after moving in:

  • Work management platform Monday.com’s move to what was once BuzzFeed’s office tripled its NYC footprint compared to its previous space. 
  • In some ways, it followed the blueprint of a startup where you can find ping pong and pool tables, a hammock, a vinyl record player and even a corn hole set-up. However, the designers of this space didn’t create these benefits without data.

Learn more about the strategy of designing a modern office space here.

Suddenly ad economy forecasts get rosier, but the biggest companies will benefit the most: 

  • GroupM now expects global ad spending to grow 7.8% in 2024 to $989.8 billion, excluding political advertising — a notable bump from its original 5.3% growth forecast.
  • Most of this growth will come from the U.S. and China, which together account for nearly 60% of global ad dollars.

Read more about the updated projections for ad spend here.

Publishers’ newest workforce diversity reports reveal mixed results in efforts to diversify newsrooms: 

  • This spring, Gannett, NPR and The New York Times released the latest versions of annual reports sharing the diversity of their workforces.
  • The reports show mixed results in companies’ efforts to diversify their newsrooms.

See the latest from publishers’ diversity reports here.

Publishers invest in programmatic ads despite budget and data challenges:

  • In this edition of the Digiday+ Research Briefing, we examine how publishers are continuing to invest in programmatic ads despite budget and data challenges.
  • Recent data from Digiday+ Research found that 53% of publishers will put a large focus on programmatic this year.

Learn more about how publishers are thinking about programmatic advertising here.

What we’re reading

After layoffs, GBH employees are upset over high salaries for the public media org’s top execs:

GBH, the largest producer of PBS content, laid off three dozen employees last month, meanwhile, the 16 top execs of the organization were not impacted by the layoffs, according to a report by The Boston Globe. Those execs collectively earned $5.9 million dollars in compensation last year. 

Why are America’s biggest newsrooms being led by British journalists?

The Wall Street Journal, CNN and, now, The Washington Post and The Daily Beast, have British leaders in the newsroom or organization at large in a pivotal presidential election year in the United States, The New York Times reported. 

The Baltimore Sun’s staffers are starting to question owner’s influence over editorial: 

The Sun’s owner David Smith bought the paper in January and since then, the union representing the Sun’s journalists say that certain articles have been published that fall below editorial standards, according to The Washington Post. What’s more, two reporters at the paper this week reportedly demanded their bylines be removed from an article after significant changes were made without their knowledge.

The Washington Post’s CEO is attempting some serious damage control: 

After the Post’s newsroom was left enraged and confused from the dismissal of now former top editor Sally Buzbee, the company’s CEO William Lewis is attempting to reinstate trust with employees, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Forbes and the Walmart Creators program launch a Creator Upfront: 

This October, Forbes and Walmart Creators are hosting a two-day long upfront in Los Angeles for 20-25 creators who will pitch themselves and their platforms to marketers and agency heads, Adweek reported. The Upfront event is an extension of Forbes’ Top Creator franchise and an added revenue stream for the publisher.

https://digiday.com/?p=547722

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