CANNES, FRANCE: One large component of Cannes that has changed in recent years is the ubiquitous presence of the heavyweight digital brands on La Croisette and beyond.
Microsoft Advertising, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and now Twitter have recognized the upside of spending quality time with 11,000-plus influential and curious delegates, over a quarter of whom are clients with those elusive budgets burning a hole in their pockets.
Yesterday, it was Twitter's turn to take to the main stage, as CEO Dick Costolo addressed the Palais with his thoughts on the way his medium has revolutionised all forms of communication and brands', corporations', and governments' interaction with it.
My main takeaway from Costolo's talk was his mantra that brands must now “adapt campaigns for the moment instead of planning them for the future.”
Even the most diehard executive from the Mad Men school of advertising would admit the days of the six-month lead-in to a biannual TV spot that was planned out in advance to the nth degree for a grateful client are well and truly gone.
Costolo's point is that consumers are creating the campaign themselves now, through the conversations they are having about brands and companies in social media.
He gave the example of Cadbury bringing back Wispa Gold after having discontinued it, mainly due to the massive backlash from consumers on Twitter. The chocolate-maker then engaged those fans that had lobbied for the brand in conversation and thus produced a user-generated promotional campaign.
“The planned campaign is dead” affirmed Costolo, pointing to Audi's response to a US woman who constantly tweeted about the fact she desperately wanted one of the automaker's R8 cars, spreading the message across Audi's and lots of other motor-related feeds with the hashtag #WantAnR8.
Audi decided to surprise the woman by dropping off one of the cars for her to use over the weekend. It also adopted the woman's hashtag and started using it itself, spreading the buzz. When the automaker “retired” the hashtag there was outcry on Twitter and it was brought back, thus extending the campaign.
The growth of Twitter is nothing short of extraordinary. Costolo revealed there are now 400 million tweets every single day. This week, there have been more tweets about Cannes every hour than there had been for the whole event last year. That is exponential by anyone's standards.
He called it a “global conversation between people who don't know anything about each other” – a shared experience. Where we used to receive perspectives on stories filtered through third-party media, now we get perspectives direct from the participants, and everyone else involved.
“Through this immediacy comes emotion,” said Costolo. Any lack of authenticity is immediately apparent and people see right through it. For brands, they have to adapt to the conversations and what comes back at them.
In an environment where ads have to be more and more interruptive to produce lower and lower engagement, Costolo's description of a Porsche promoted tweet campaign that produced an 87% response rate – yes, 87% - was truly compelling and certainly food for thought for delegates as they spilled onto La Croisette for a glass of Domaines Ott.
* Look out for PRWeek's roundtable from Cannes on the subject 'Is the campaign dead?', produced in conjunction with Weber Shandwick, which will be written up and published on July 2, including video interviews with panelists.