Cannes Lions? More like Cannes Lyin’…

Twitter’s marketing department likes to post their own ads where they attempt to promote success stories from their advertisers. Every one of them winds up being complete nonsense but I felt like I had to address this, specific article, as it is so ridiculous.

In case you do not know, Cannes Lions is a company which produces an “International Festival of Creativity [that] has been bringing the creative communications industry together every year at its one-of-a-kind event in Cannes to learn, network and celebrate*.”

This article was written by Alex Josephson, Twitter’s Head of Global Brand Strategy. Allow me to quickly state that after I directly challenged the claims he made in this article, Josephson proceeded to block me on Twitter which is alone, quite telling.

This article is a demonstration of the deceptive tactics companies use to create an illusion of success. I feel like I am at the point where I am having (almost) weekly, if not daily, conversations with people who are being fooled by nonsense metrics that prove nothing. Clueless marketers and those who run social media sites are always trying to trick their paying clients into believing that Likes, Followers, etc. achieve anything…they don’t. With any initiative, if it doesn’t make you money or if the net return is in the red, it wasn’t worth doing. Let’s break down Josephson’s claims and who knows…maybe he’ll unblock me and respond to this article. It isn’t an ego thing…I couldn’t possibly care less about receiving a reply from him but would love to see the excuses he crafts.

He starts the article by stating- “In a world where reach, frequency, and programmatic buying are becoming increasingly pervasive and necessary underpinnings of any advertising strategy, Cannes Lions serves as a reminder of the importance of creativity in our industry. Good ROI, in many cases, requires quality creative. Cannes Lions, of course, celebrates work that pushes the boundaries of creativity.”

I had to read the first part of this sentence about ten times until I was able to brush off the buzzwords and try to focus solely on what he was attempting to state. Josephson is implying that reach is becoming more widespread (pervasive), as are the amount of messages being sent/received (frequency), and programmatic buying (an approach the likes of Josephson would love for you to believe works but is actually nothing more than a tool that promotes mediocrity and empty promises) is also growing in popularity. He implies that these buzzwords are important and will replace the existing foundation on which existing efforts are built (underpinning).

The reality is that not a single word of this is true- I’m sure he wishes it were…but it isn’t. He’s right that there are ad agencies and other companies that either promote their services or technologies that prioritize these kinds of efforts. And as long as we never focus on actual net revenue increases, the likes of Mr. Josephson will continue to seem like they are really helping companies.

What consultants such as myself suggest, is segmentation of a company’s database and a thorough test strategy to help refine messaging and increase net revenue increases. We focus on quality, not quantity. It simply does not matter how many Likes, Followers, etc. you receive. It doesn’t even matter how many sales you get! What matters is that you achieve a positive net return on investment. And with that, let’s break down the examples Josephson included. You will notice one, common pattern between these example- revenue, much less, net revenue, are not even mentioned.

I have reached out to a few of these companies in the hope of updating this article with more specific data. Should I hear back and can secure the information necessary to be proven right/wrong, I will eagerly update this article. And yes, if I am proven wrong, I’ll concede loudly and proudly. To be fair, these promotions could very-well have been successful. But I don’t have all the info I’d need to draw an absolute conclusion. However, I go back to my earlier point…in these example, below, not a single reference to revenue? Not even one?

State Street Global Advisors: #FearlessGirl

“The work itself was physically disruptive on the pavement of Wall Street”

Technically this is a subjective opinion, so, I guess to some degree, this could have been physically disruptive. However, the reality here is that people are always taking pictures in front of landmarks, statues, etc.

“…while the message was socially disruptive on countless levels.”

Socially disruptive? Interesting. Short of Twitter crashing, I’m not entirely sure how a company or its promotion can successfully interrupt people socializing. If someone posted a picture, even if they included a hashtag, how is this disruptive? People share pics all day. I would love to learn what is included i these “countless levels.”

“ The activation served as a strong reminder that bold creativity can generate tangible reach and results.”

If we aren’t considering net revenue, how can we quantify what is considered to be “tangible?” And which results? Do you mean these, below?

“Within the first 12 hours of the statue being erected, Tweets erupted around the world — generating over 1 billion views.”

Woo hoo! How much net revenue did the company make? Without knowing this answer, I can’t possibly demonstrate how aggravating this statement is to me but hope I can get the chance to do so.

“Five weeks later, Tweets about ‎#FearlessGirl had reached 3.3 billion views, and finally 4.6 billion at the 12-week mark. When we look at traditional reach, this campaign tapped into the open and public nature of Twitter as a platform, where people flocked to ‎#SeeEverySide of a highly debated piece of creative work.”

And? If I own a retail store and have record traffic…more people stopping by than ever before and none of them buy anything…what do I care that they came through the door?

Under Armour: #BreakTheGame

“Under Armour made the observation that whenever Curry scores a three-point basket, conversation about him explodes on Twitter. So the brand decided to hijack this consumer insight by publishing a live, custom-produced three-second video ad featuring Curry on Twitter every time Curry hit a 3-pointer on-air. In today’s world of fast-moving feeds and short attention spans, Under Armour tapped into an organic user behavior with ‎#BreakTheGame and Twitter’s mobile, native video format to increase the global conversation associating Curry with its brand by 20%.”

This only further proves what Professor Mark Ritson always says…social media is intended for people to have conversations with each other, not with brands. I’m sure people did share these videos…but they were sharing a video featuring a person they like. Unless I see metrics to the contrary, I am going to stand by logic and state that Under Armour did not end up selling even one more product as the result of this promotion unless Curry himself asked his fans to do so.

Snickers Australia: #Hungerithm

“The campaign delivered more than 30 million earned media impressions, and more than 150 online articles with an earned PR value of more than AUS$1.4 million. Brand mentions on Twitter increased by 120%, which helped fuel website visits that reached 400% above benchmark.”

As my grandmother used to say “oy vey!” Few terms today annoy me more than earned media, which is defined as — “any publicity you haven’t paid for that’s owned and created by a third party**.”

I’ve written about this term before and remain baffled by why people continue to use it. Nothing is free. Earned media, PR, or whatever other spin you want to put on it is a ridiculous concept. First, these metrics are based on arbitrary metrics. Think about it- because an ad appeared in front of someone, does not mean they noticed it, cared about it, or took action as a result of it. This might (still) translate to being a form of publicity…but if people didn’t take action…who cares?

Brand mentioned increased, website visits went up…fantastic. Did they drive a net revenue increase? If not, was this really successful?


Thanks for reading! To learn more about how I can help your business cut through the clutter and benefit from the technologies you need to succeed, please contact me by visiting my website.

Brian Riback

Marketing Technologist