Skipped Cannes for VidCon? VidCon for Cannes?

David vs. Goliath, sorta. image via Florian Klauer

Yep, last week was the perfect week for a #fakedrama.

by Todd Lombardo

It was a set-up for the ages, when it was announced that up-and-comer VidCon was moving to June this year, at the same time as the massive and historic Cannes Lions Festival.

But what shall we do…Cannes or Anaheim?

Oh, please. It made for great press, but this was quite the old-school vs. new-school manufactured crisis. Then again, we are living in a reality-show nation, #Kardashian2024, so maybe we should just give ourselves the cliffhangers we want.

The skinny on each:

Cannes Lions: in Cannes, France. Most def had some amazing ads worth celebrating, in-between champagne yachts. This year, think: Fearless Girl; Google Home of the Whopper; or Anchor, New Zealand’s smile-tastic milk (see all the Grand Prix winners here).

VidCon: in Anaheim, California. A madcap, multi-track frenzy of digital business folks darting between YouTube keynotes, Facebook chill rooms, and that elusive, working plug. Attendees celebrate the mythical YouTube creator, while dodging hordes of screaming fans.

This year’s scheduling conflict did shine a light on a perplexing moment in our times. The media business used to be straightforward one-two punch:

1/Media companies created content to reach a lot of eyeballs.

2/Marketers, working with agencies, paid to insert their messages between that content.

This model worked for TV, print, out-of-home, and radio, and there were very clear homework assignments for who did what, and what earned an A+. So you had media planners and buyers securing inventory, and creatives would make the stuff that would go into those secured slots, whether it was “page 4 color” or a 30-second spot.

But we’re not in 1995 anymore. Hell, we’re not even in 2005 anymore. Blame that pesky iPhone (happy 10th birthday, btw!) for fucking up a lot of things back in ‘07. Well that, and the Internet and wifi and technology in general. Because in today’s modern media culture, the future ain’t what it used to be. Advertisers are content creators, content creators are publishing on social networks, and social networks are TV broadcasters. It only hurts if you try to make sense of it.

And the new boss? Same as the old boss, but with a raise and a board seat: the viewer. More than before, the viewer has the control to see whatever he or she wants. Ad free environments (Netflix etc.), ad skipping (YouTube TrueView), ad blocking (hello Adblock Plus), and ad swiping (thank you Snapchat), not to mention cord-cutting, have made the job of the marketer and of the content creator very difficult. And we’re all still talking about 30-second TV spots?

It’s all very red herring to ask, Cannes or VidCon, and evade the real question: do we really understand the world in which we live?

NO. Or at least, not enough.

Yes, in a rules of the universe kind of way, we can’t be in two places at once, so it is a literal choice about what plane you board. But intellectually speaking, this isn’t a choice between celebrating ads or celebrating content. It’s all just stuff we spend time watching. It’s ALL supposed to be engaging. It’s all supposed to elicit an emotion or solve a problem or inspire an action.

At Mistress, we were mesmerized by Gravity Cat this year, an ad we did not create. We forgot it’s an ad and just watched (see also Gravity Cat behind-the-scenes, and Stephen Spielberg’s same special effect in 1982’s Poltergeist).

So we can get distracted by fake questions, or look in the mirror and start asking ourselves some real ones:

How should we redesign the next generation “TV spot”?

Who is going to watch all this content?

Will short-form originals for mobile viewing scale?

Is my content safe?

Is my agency/media company/marketing department structured for the likes of Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube?

How will this all really work to achieve my biz goals (and how will I know)?

We shouldn’t be choosing between Cannes or VidCon. It’s Cannes AND VidCon. The ad world of yesterday and the content world of tomorrow both have to exist, because great content isn’t free. And neither is Facebook, or Snapchat, or this very article you are reading.

So listen here, Cannes and VidCon planners: sync up your 2018 calendars so we can go to both next year.

And as for us marketers and media companies: we’re all in the same, very-leaky and disrupted boat. We risk the rising tide drowning all of us, unless we work together to change ourselves for what’s next.

Todd Lombardo is a digital strategist and editor at Mistress. On Twitter and LinkedIn at @toddlombardo.

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