Russell Parsons: There’s value at Cannes if you look in the right places

Our columnist Mark Ritson believes the Cannes Lions festival is a waste of time for ordinary marketers, but I’m more upbeat about the insights you can find there – if you know where to look.

Russell Parsons

I write to you while in Cannes, the industry’s annual gathering of the great and the good. Three days in and I have witnessed all that you imagine comes part and parcel of the festival: mystifying/bonkers experiential promotional activity organised by any one of the panoply of marketing services companies displaying their wares; earnest discussions about the future of life, the universe and marketing; and fabulous people being fabulous. Oh, and some actual real-life insight.

You may have noticed that Mark Ritson’s column is a tad different this week. His assessment of what marketers can learn in Cannes? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. It’s meant to be provocative and should be seen as a conversation starter: ‘What worth is there at Cannes for marketers? Discuss’ (and please do in the comments on his column and below).

For those looking on from afar, Cannes might seem to be as far removed from the daily grind as you can possibly be. For the majority of marketers tackling data capture, segmentation and research, what Gwyneth Paltrow, Oliver Stone or Channing Tatum might have to say about anything is not going to provide any silver-bullet solutions to anything that matters. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of discussion about technology that will only ever graze your day-to-day. There are also plenty of the “big ideas” that sound inspiring but are a hard sell to the boss, as our Secret Marketer recently wrote about.

And yet, I have found plenty to provoke, prompt and pique the interest of marketers. Our Cannes Lions coverage so far sees Jorn Socquet, AB InBev’s VP of marketing for the US calling into question CMOs’ willingness to have tough conversations with their bosses about taking creative risks. Elsewhere, “arbitrary bullshit” was the pointed assessment of the IAB’s 50% viewability standard delivered by Ben Jankowski, group head of global media at MasterCard.

Insight is also to be found at the events Marketing Week is hosting – on cross platform measurement, on the challenge of reaching younger consumers in an increasingly fragmented media landscape and on using influencers to create content in the world where marketers are up against world weary cynicism.

Yes, there are plenty of wide-angle conversations with little to no actionable insight and that have no consequence for what marketers do. But there are many facets to Cannes – and value is to be be found.

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