Cannes’ Power Shift: Performance, Retail Media Take A Leading Role On The Croisette

Social media Creators join creatives, media agency giants as the shape of advertising changes dramatically

As the yachts prepare to dock and tech and branding giants assemble their luxurious, if makeshift, beach houses at this year’s Cannes Lions festival, a new group of attendees will be absorbing greater prominence as artificial intelligence, the Creator Economy, retail media, and the elevation of performance marketing continue to change the way advertising is made, bought, sold, and distributed.

The fest, which kicks off June 17, along with the ongoing TV upfronts, represents the ways the traditional advertising and media models persist. The trappings of the big parties and promotions along the Croisette, the main road in Cannes, will look very familiar to past attendees. But all signs point to 2024’s gathering being very different in terms of the players holding sway.

Retail media networks such as Walmart Connect is returning to Cannes for its third time while Target’s Roundel has been touting its presence on Cabana Row. Instacart and Amazon, which also have been rapidly growing their retail media operations, are also expected to be back in larger ways.

Todd Cadley, president of creative and marketing consultancy Manual Labor, sees two prongs influencing the kinds of companies showing up and how they’ll redirect the client focus at Cannes. 

“The first prong is more around tech, and in particular how TV/CTV can avoid the past mistakes that digital made in creating heavy, costly, inefficient tech stacks,” said Cadley, whose agency will be at Cannes. “Companies are building smart pipes via machine learning to capture super helpful information, while consolidating features that marketers don't necessarily want to buy through multiple vendors.”

How Performance Plays Out At Cannes

The other prong is about how brands can lean into the human side to see that there is no difference between what they are selling, who they are, and how that is driving  their culture and marketing, Cadley added. It’s the overhang of AI that has placed new emphasis on defining and redefining “authentic” communications whether the messages are coming from traditional agencies, retail media networks, creators, or performance marketing platforms.

Still, Cadley noted that the establishment focus on brand marketing will also have an impact on the ways performance players need to show up at Cannes.

“While there has been a lean on brand marketing, I think the barbell of performance and brand is starting to look more like one entity,” Cadley said. “Most brands want both. They want to be known, and also want the engine revving all the time. And given the innovations in CTV and performance, it should be a great opportunity to learn more about where we're at and what needs to happen to make it a better reality. Data and audiences clearly play an important part and want to hear what brands are doing to activate that in CTV.”

Cannes’ Captive Audience

The extravagance of Cannes has always been called into question, in both tough times and bad. Still, the post-pandemic desire to gather “just like the old times” can’t be denied. And while most Cannes-goers can’t recall who won the big awards last year, the networking opportunities are a necessary expense, especially for platform companies that need to stand out as leaders.

“Cannes provides a unique environment, because unlike most other events and conferences, where people come and go, the brands are captive for three days at least,” said Cory Treffiletti, CMO of video advertising platform Rembrand. “It's the one time a year that you get this executive audience in a single location who are willing to meet and they're okay not being on their email or in their offices all the time so they're not distracted. Plus, the Lions are leaning into the Creator Economy and retail media much more meaningfully — that checks a lot of our boxes and that’s why I've gone and why we are going to go again this year.”

Looking At Cannes Through A Performance Lens 

Stefan Hajek, Executive Creative Director at global experience innovation company Designit, is looking forward to seeing work within the expanded Innovation Lions. The new categories include Brand Led, Environmental and Societal Innovation, and Fintech. 

“One of our clients, Mastercard, may be the best example of a company that will likely submit and have a chance to win across all three,” Hajek said.  In particular, the category of Brand Led Innovations seems like a real breakthrough moment. There are so many constructs in place, especially in marketing that can seem tried and true, but breaking out of established, traditional principles of brand expression can be a real breath of fresh air to our industry. I’m interested to see how brands are re-imagining their narrative and expression through completely new mediums and approaches.”

With the scrutiny to squeeze the most out of every intent-focused dollar at an all-time high, it would seem less important for performance-focused marketers to go all-in at Cannes this year, Hajek added. 

His “hot take”: Tally the travel, sponsorship, entertainment, and submission fees and divert it into your working media.  

other stories you might like