Last week, selected members of the Lab descended into Cannes, France to attend the ad industry’s annual Mediterranean celebration. More so than the years past, we felt a strong presence of tech startups and ad technology. Much like how brands are flocking to Austin every year and co-opting the SXSW festivals, more and more ad tech companies are now travelling to Cannes to get in direct contact with the numerous brands in attendance.
The same observation was echoed by Philip Thomas, CEO of Lions Festivals, in his interview with AdAge. “Startups have not been to Cannes before in any numbers,” he commented, “The early adopters are here and I think they’ll go back and spread the word.”
The increasing presence of tech startups was most evident near the Palais, where, for the first time in Cannes history, festival organizers set up a designated “yacht row” for tech startups and established digital media agencies to rent out yachts for client entertainment and meetings. In some cases, the costs of renting the yachts were shared among multiple startups within similar product categories, which made the tech scene in Cannes less adjunct and more organized this year, according to the observation of a Lab member.
Moreover, the ad tech companies did not just come to shake hands with clients. This year, their involvement also seems more legitimate by working with known consulting groups, as well as some big-name brands. Unilever, for example, hosted a two-day Lions Innovation event where 50 top-notch tech startups were selected to meet and demo their business to brands and agencies, which includes the Lab. Bank of America also inked a deal with Pinterest to promote its brand-sponsored Vice videos on its social platform to reach the campaign’s target audience of millennials.
All in all, the Cannes festival has evolved into a full-fledge industry event where all players come together, be it brands, agencies, or tech startups. From what the Lab members experienced first-hand, technology is undeniably at the center of conversation this year, which the New York Times seconded with a report titled Cannes Lions Festival Shifts Focus Toward Ad Technology”. It seems safe to conclude that Cannes is quickly becoming the SXSW for ad tech, and all players in this space need to be aware.