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“Sustainability is paramount, or get left behind”: Cannes LIONS, Day 4 round-up

Day Four of Cannes LIONS saw the theme of ‘sustainability’ take center stage and, probably for the first time ever, with proper intent. Waves of change are barrelling toward the media industry, with vague attempts at ‘greenwashing’ being replaced by serious attempts at deep, profound transformation.

Cannes LIONS, in its own State of Creativity Study, implores advertisers “to set a new standard for sustainability or risk being left behind”, adding, “disruptive action is needed now if we are to save our planet”. The paradigm of infinite growth on a finite planet is coming to an end – brands and publishers will need to adapt to survive.

85% of creative partners and brands agree creativity driving sustainability will be critical in 2022. The industry should continuously be solving problems with its products and services, not contributing to them. We must keep seeking out solutions instead of simply highlighting the issues.

Cannes LIONS ‘State of Creativity’ 2022 report

Nowhere is this being more felt than by the largest media buying groups, who are beginning to select publisher ad inventory using a checklist 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”. Similar announcements peppered Cannes and publishers need to be aware that media groups are starting to buy ad inventory (partly) based on their sustainability criteria.

GroupM’s ambition is to assess and reduce media-related emissions through its footprint analysis and offset-approach tool.

GroupM “Responsible Investment” buying framework.
Jeff Meglio, VP of Demand, Sovrn at Cannes

Jeff Meglio, VP of Demand at Sovrn, told What’s New in Publishing at Cannes, “Advertisers and media buyers are looking to ensure efficiency and eliminate waste, in all forms.”

Meglio added, “For example, publishers who can deliver to buyers clear attention signals that indicate high levels of reader engagement result in high attention campaigns that use less impressions to deliver the same outcomes.”

The theme was picked up by Pum Lefebure, Chief Creative and Jury President at Cannes, who said “Reduce, reuse, recycle is no longer enough. We have to rethink, repurpose, reinvent and reimagine. We have to constantly set new standards for creative solutions”

The advertising industry doesn’t need a new direction, it needs a restart. I learned that we need to rethink it from scratch, to find our way out the vicious circle. And nobody can do it alone – we can only do it together.

Anouk Jans, Creative Director and lead of Kill Your Darlings, the documentary film launched at Cannes (Fiverr/Togetherr)

Publishers start hiring ‘sustainability’ execs

A few progressive publishers are responding by hiring ‘sustainability’ professionals to transform their businesses from the ground up. Recurrent, the digital media company with titles such as Popular Science, Field & Stream, Donut Media, and others, has just announced two new sustainability-focused roles including a new VP of Sustainability to reduce its environmental impact. On the editorial side, it is also hiring a Sustainability Commerce Editor.

Both of these roles are important for our company and our commitment to sustainability, but we also hope our work will set an example for other media companies. We are working on a path to sustainability for each of our brands.

 Lance Johnson, CEO, Recurrent

ID Ward, first-party data

The afternoon of Day Four also saw us sit down with Mattia Fosci, Founder & CEO of ID Ward who focus on “cohort-based advertising for a privacy-based web”. Fosci is one of the world’s leading authorities on anonymized data – indeed, we were lucky to grab him, sandwiched as he was between meetings with two of the world’s largest banks and media groups.

Fosci was adamant identity will be redefined and that advertising will need to “move away from the individual consumer to patterns of behavior, interest, and intent”. He also argued that there will be a transition away from open marketplaces to private marketplaces where publishers will have more control over their audiences – “but with that control comes increased responsibility.”

We are in danger of going to a two-tier world where the larger publishers who can afford to build their stack, understand their audiences, and create PMPs will be in a far stronger position than those who can’t.

Other publishers will need to join forces and come together – agencies aren’t going to cut deals with million of individual publishers.

Mattia Fosci, CEO and Founder, ID Ward

Rankin takes our photo

We rounded off Day Four with a visit to The Drum Pub in downtown Cannes where one of the world’s leading photographers, Rankin, was being interviewed about his career and some of his most famous ad campaigns, including the iconic Dove ‘Real Beauty’ campaign.

Regaling tales about photographing the Queen for her Platinum Jubilee, as well as celebrities such as David Bowie and Kate Moss, Rankin laid into advertisers for pretending to know about the metaverse, saying, “No one knows about the Metaverse and if they say they do they’re lying – it’s the Metaverse for heaven’s sake!” The entire session is embedded below:

Final Thoughts

Victoria Usher, CEO, GingerMay

We leave with final thoughts of the week from GingerMay’s CEO, Victoria Usher, “Everyone expected Cannes Lions to be bigger, bolder and better this year — and no one was disappointed. But there are notable differences for 2022. We’re seeing a greater mix of digital and physical, with Cannes dipping its toe into the Metaverse alongside real-world events.”

“The crowd is also increasingly international, including more industry leaders and decision-makers from North American shores, adding an element of extra energy and deal-making.

“For any players unsure whether attending still has value, this underlines the fact Cannes has still got it; and more than it had before.”

She’s right.