The Smart Kids Get To Rule The Beach

At last count, I’ve violated eight of the Ten Commandements and am guilty of violating every single one of The Seven Deadly Sins.  Since I’m not writing you from jail, you can rest assured I’ve yet to murder anyone, temptation notwithtanding.  I’ll let you guess which of the other nine is still not yet crossed out.

As far as the sins, the one I cop to with the least degree of remorse is envy, particularly when the topic of Cannes comes up.  I can’t help it.  I’ve only been once, and it rained for most of the MIPCOM convention I attended.  But while I didn’t get to experience that gorgeous beach and the often topless sunbathers that frequent it, I did have one of the best professional experiences of my life, and to this day the best bottle of wine I’ve ever consumed.  (For the record, it’s a viognier called Domain D’Ott, and it was reasonably priced, not that I paid for it).

Which is why I’m more than a bit jealous that in an era where media marketing has become undeniably global, the convention of record for marketers, researchers, strategists and those that benefit from them has become the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which kicked off yesterday in the same venue where the Film Festival and MIP take place.  I know plenty of executives who made the trek across the pond, and all indications are they’re having way better weather than I did on my one fall excurison lo so many decades ago.

THE WRAP’s Liza Foreman set the stage with her report that dropped Sunday morning:

 Launching on Monday, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity will be an advertising mecca drawing everyone from Elon Musk to Queen Latifah and John Legend, redirecting the focal point of the creative economy from legacy properties to streaming platforms powered by AI.

At a press conference Sunday, Lions organizers said 12,000 delegates from 90 countries were registered for the event. The creative economy is worth $250 billion currently, they stated, expected to rise to $480 billion by 2027. 

All that commerce may be well and good, but the drama will be among the power players stalking the Croisette. That includes ‘The Lions King’ Michael Kassan and UTA-owned MediaLink, the company he founded, which is a strategic advisor to media and marketing outlets and helped catapult the Lions to a global advertising powerhouse.

Kassan and MediaLink were nascent when I was on the invite lists, so I had to settle for more mundane domestic gatherings in venues like Nashville and St. Louis.  Occasionally, midtown Manhattan, which has its own benefits.  But to me there is no locale like Cannes, no venue as captivating as the Palais, and no boulevard more exciting to traverse than the Croissettes.  And this week, on the cusp of summer, the sharpest minds in the word are taking it over, much in the way that stars and creatives genuises did a month ago for the Film Festival.

But those who are really smart are back yet again, lucky stiffs.  And as Foreman reported today, the more proactive ones are champions of the necessity for it, such as this testimonial:

The intersection of advertising and entertainment is front and center at this week’s advertising festival, the Cannes Lions, and as she preps a documentary about Megan Thee Stallion, award-winning director and producer Nneka Onuorah said it’s crucial for filmmakers to make the trek to ensure their work is represented accurately.

“I came to the Lions to do a lot of panels to talk about television, diversity. Inclusion, intersectionality and LGBQTIA+ in the intersection of all of it,” she told TheWrap. “I’m Black, a woman, I’m queer, I’m a director in film and a lot of my work gets highly publicized and advertised.”

Onuorah won a Primetime Emmy for outstanding directing work on a reality show for “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” and on Monday she was a speaker at an Empow“As a director, it’s very important for me to intersect with advertising people, not only because they are the people that help get our work into the world,  but because we want to make sure there are accurate depictions of our work in the world,” she explained. “So having direct conversations with advertisers about what that looks like. Also bringing our stories to the forefront for people that look like me is important. I need to be a part of these conversations, as someone who is a person of color and queer.”er Cafe panel called “Celebrating LGBTQAI+ Trailblazers and Their Legacy of Authenticity”

It is mindsets like Onuorah’s that I have best connected with over the years.  Artists who get that their visions and passions have to align with the realities and challenges of the business they are seeking to gain a foothold in, let alone get rich doing so.  I’ve often counseled dubious creatives on this necessary evils, lest they see their careers play out like starving arttsts living in cold water flats.  An uncomfortable percentage of those I’ve dealt with over the years somehow choose to create their own narrative and gravitate toward enablers.  That’s the attitude that tends to be pervasive at Cannes’ other gatherings.  Even those of us who are invited have been in the background while the really cool kids do the step-and-repeats and the parties.

But at this one, it’s the brains that are front and center.  And even the really pretty folks who are used to the others are there for reasons other than their latest film or show.  Take Jessica Alba, as reported by FOOTWEAR NEWSs Amina Ayoud this morning:

Jessica Alba attended an intimate evening of music and culture hosted by Spotify during held at Cannes Lions 2024 on Monday in Cannes, France. During the event, musician John Legend graced the crowd with a performance.

In a summery move, the “Sin City” star sported a pair of platform espadrilles. The breezy style featured thick black crisscrossing straps, open toes, thick platform soles and block heels standing at around 3 to 4 inches in height. The sandal style was lofty, offering Alba a substantial boost in height. Platform styles are a go-to for the thespian, given they elongate her silhouette.

The “Honey” actress paired her platform footwear with a black maxi dress, also in a summer-centric style. The garment featured decorative thin straps, a fitted structural bodice akin to a corset and a flouncy maxi-length skirt that stopped just above Alba’s ankles. The Honest makeup mogul also toted a black leather mini bag from Dolce & Gabbana featuring a gilded heart-shaped clasp and coordinating gold hardware.

From my own experience with her, Alba is much more interested in her personal brand and the businesses she’s linked them to than the projects she’s actually performing in.  Whether or not her makeup or even her attitude are indeed “Honest” is an open question.  But she has legions of followers and clients who believe it is.  And that’s why she’s back in Cannes this week.

And there are even government officials making news as well, which MEDIA INSIDER contributor Steven Rosenbaum noted in his opinion dropped on that site yesterday:

As the world’s top advertising minds gather in the sun-drenched south of France for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, raising glasses of rosé to celebrate the latest achievements in advertising, a powerful and urgent message rings out from across the Atlantic. The U.S. Surgeon General’s recent op-ed in The New York Times paints a starkly different picture, highlighting the pressing mental health crisis among young people and the significant role social media plays in exacerbating it.

“In an emergency, you don’t have the luxury to wait for perfect information. You assess the available facts, you use your best judgment, and you act quickly,” writes the Surgeon General. The urgency of this statement contrasts sharply with the festive atmosphere of Cannes, where the advertising industry’s luminaries toast to their successes. Yet, behind the glamour and celebration, there lies an industry deeply intertwined with the very social media platforms the Surgeon General warns are contributing to a mental health emergency.

The Surgeon General’s call to action is clear: “Adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media face double the risk of anxiety and depression symptoms. Nearly half of adolescents say social media makes them feel worse about their bodies.” As the architects of some of the most engaging and persuasive content on these platforms, the advertising industry bears a significant responsibility. The juxtaposition of these two events — the somber warning about social media’s impact on youth and the jubilant celebration of the industry that feeds this very ecosystem — is striking.

There are some that might call Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy a killjoy.  I sure wouldn’t.  Nor do I suspect my peers and even my friends who got to see his speech in person would.  Being able to better tailor messages to target audiences that provoke interest and not angst is more of a necessity than ever, especially if you’ve taken a look at Paramount’s stock price in the last couple of days.  I personally know a few folks in Cannes this week who are doing just that, and they’re cutting back greatly on their sightseeing excursions.

So I’m quite happy that conventions like this exist and appear to be growing in size and stature.  I’m even optimistic that there will be a need and an ability for moi to be in attendance at a future one.  It’s been way too long since I’ve been there, and I suspect there are even better viogniers these days awaiting my impersonation of a sommelier.

Untl next time…






1 thought on “The Smart Kids Get To Rule The Beach”

  1. Never felt envy or wanted to be in a place that I have been to too many times that I can count. Fortunate enough that my wife’s family had a vacation home in the French Riviera. Been to all those places with people I cared for and wanted to be around.
    If they want to invite me and pay my expenses I may consider it, otherwise a waste of my time.


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