Wolk’s Week in Review: Édition Spéciale Cannes

Wolk's Week In Review

Cannes Lions was this week and, as I had noted last week, I have mixed emotions about the event.

On the one hand it’s a great place to get things done, to see people you only see on Zoom and to get a better understanding of some of the bigger trends going on in the industry, merely by dint of everyone being in the same place.

On the other, there’s a very Marie Antoinette-ish quality about the excess, not so much the day-to-day that most attendees see or even the yachts which are nice but not as OTT as the word “yacht” would imply, but rather, the very over-the-top excesses the average attendee hears about more than actually experiences, and, which given the sorry state of much of the industry, come off as incredibly tone deaf and thus incredibly thirsty. 

So there’s all that, but at some level it’s also pretty easy to ignore, sort of like the pudgy middle aged guys in brightly patterned shorts suits where you kind of smirk to yourself for a half-second and that’s the end of it.

So on to what we saw, which was a lot more positive than what we disdained.

Why it matters

Collaboration seemed to be the watchword of the day. Meaning that there is hope that the various ad tech and media companies have finally gotten the message that no one is actually going to win and that they are going to actually need to cooperate with each other.

You can file this one under “I’ll believe it when I see it” because it is very easy to say that you are going to play nice with the other kids than to actually do it. 

But it does need to happen and I am a big believer in the “a rising tide lifts all boats” theory, especially when it comes to any new tech or content type. People just want to get a sense that a whole category is real, not just that one company is doing well. 

Particularly because everyone is aware that there is rarely a single company that dominates a category and that competition always creates a healthier and thus more innovative market.

It’s still far from universal: collaboration is particularly needed among the various companies in the measurement space and that does not seem to be happening just yet.

Ditto the various media companies, all of whom have yet to realize that they are not each other’s biggest competitors—that would be Google and Meta in the bad guy role.

But if the ad tech companies can work together, then anything is possible.

AI was strangely not as big a buzzword as you might have thought. Or maybe I’ve just become adept at tuning it out.

Either way, I did not really see many companies that did not actually use AI in a big way claiming that they did.

Companies like KERV, which actually uses AI for everything from product identification to content identification (e.g. what’s going on in a scene in terms of action and emotion) was getting a lot of buzz. The general consensus is that they’d created tools that meet a lot of unmet consumer needs but don’t use AI in a “that’s taking a human’s job” sort of way.

Which seems to be the sort of AI people are getting behind.

On a personal note (and because it blew me away) I got to my Airbnb and was confronted by an electric stove top with a bunch of seemingly random symbols on it, including a key. No words. 

I took a photo of it, sent it to ChatGPT and it instantly (and correctly) gave me step-by-step instructions on how to use the stove. It was even able to answer a follow-up question on whether the red light meant the lock was on or off.

The future is pretty fucking amazing.

Final bullet point is the continued interest in independent TV operating systems, whether from ZEASN, Xperi or Titan OS. 

Titan is the new kid on the block, a European company that is looking to have a global presence. They launched their ad product at a very well-attended (especially for Cannes) event that I had the honor of emceeing (who am I kidding—I love emceeing and being the center of attention like that) and moderating the panel session.

Look for a detailed write-up of Titan and the whole indie OS scene on Monday, but the fact that there was such a huge crowd for the launch of their ad product (which also features the IRIS_ID from TVREV TLC members IRIS TV, you’re welcome Richie) is a sign of the growing recognition that the TV operating system is the next battleground and that there isn’t going to a “winner” in the so-called “streaming wars.” 

Which was never an actual thing to begin with, but rather, a way for mainstream pubs to generate clicks.

So there’s that too.

Shout Outs

A great big shout-out to our friends at Madhive, who let us drink their coffee, eat their food and use their space at the Majestic for a variety of purposes, including a must-listen upcoming episode of the “XO with Spence” podcast. (That’s all you’re getting from me. Just stay tuned. And no, it’s not me, that one is already out.) 

Ditto Medialink, whose space is not only a second home but also the best place to run into everyone you know but forgot to make plans with. 

Ditto Tatari for hosting a very special dinner with me and Evan Shapiro that led to one of the best only-in-Cannes stories ever that we all had great fun retelling over and over the rest of the week.

Ditto Open AP for a wonderful dinner and evening of Riviera serenity high up in the hills.

Ditto Andy Plesser and Beet TV for letting me do some one-on-ones with some of the smartest people in the industry and find out what they’re thinking. 

Ditto Nathalie Bastian from Teads, Rebekah Kennedy from Magnite and everyone else who participated in our “Explain it To A Teenager” series featuring Rio Damata and Jensen Muller.

Ditto Beau Ordemann at Yahoo for going above and beyond to make sure I had a ticket to The Chainsmokers.

And finally a huge shout out to our ace cinematographer Guy Piaquadio who not only gets us great film, but puts up with every “Guy, can we just do one more…” request with equanimity and grace.

What you need to do about it

If you’re still delusionally thinking that “we are going to totally dominate our category and force everyone else into bankruptcy”-- news flash— you’re not. Not even almost.

So start working with your rivals. Because if you don’t, they’re going to get together and lap you and then eat you for dinner. Or the whole category is going to collapse because you’ve just made it too difficult for anyone to use it at scale. 

Collaboration, mes amis, is a consumer-friendly policy.

If you are using AI to create a product, remember that the ideal use cases are “things you’d need hundreds of humans to do in a way that would be completely cost prohibitive.”

At least for now. Let people get used to it and what it can do before you go promising them the moon. Or at least the next lunar landing.

Finally, if you’ve been sleeping on the importance of the TV OS, it’s time to wake up. You need a strategy, you need to be able to tell them apart and understand what indies, tech companies and home electronics manufacturers all bring to the table. Before your competitors do.

This TVREV special report can help. 

Au revoir and see you at the Stream TV Show on Monday.

Want to be up to speed about what’s on the horizon for free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST)? Join Alan Wolk and a lineup of industry leaders for TVREV’s Future of FAST Supersession June 24 at the StreamTV Show in Denver. Register today to hear the latest on the state of FAST, detailing what you need know, why it matters, and what you need to do about it.

Alan Wolk is co-founder and lead analyst at the consulting firm TV[R]EV. He is the author of the best-selling industry primer, Over The Top: How The Internet Is (Slowly But Surely) Changing The Television Industry. Wolk frequently speaks about changes in the television industry, both at conferences and to anyone who’ll listen.

Week in Review is an opinion column. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of StreamTV Insider.