Cannes International Advertising Festival Round-up: Social media’s impact on advertising

There’s no simple way to characterize the Cannes Advertising Festival so far this year, but there are a few phrases that keep coming up that are a guide. One is brand purpose (which I spoke about in my social media seminar with Alec Ross), another is ‘doing good’ and a third is ‘community’. These three concepts come together nicely in the close of the Yahoo-sponsored Ben Stiller and Jeff Goodby seminar. Theoretically the seminar was about how digital technology can build movements but after some fun banter and a t-shirt striptease by Jeff Goodby, the most powerful demonstration of the theme (and the key phases above) was the fundraising effort for Ben’s Stiller’s Stillerstrong.

The exercise was both simple and effective. We all put the Stillerstrong headbands on and they took this photo (that’s me…in the back) . Yahoo agreed to donate $1 to Stillerstrong for each time the photo was viewed on Flickr up to a ceiling of $50,000. Then they challenged the advertising community in the room to get the news of the effort out there as fast as possible using social media.

It took less than 5 hours to reach that goal and the number of views has now passed 100,000. It was a great example of a brand (Yahoo) earning goodwill by rallying behind a meaningful goal and cause (a new school in Haiti) that was enabled by the community (The Cannes Ad Fest group).

I spoke in detail about the new roles of citizen and consumer communities in my speech (video here) outlining the many parts they now play including publishers, distributors, curators, R&D and, finally, the moral compass of a brand. Perhaps the best overarching theme for the Festival is the re-characterization of community from audience to active partners. When you see the global ad community playing that very role themselves, it’s hard to argue that it’s not changing the business.

Would you agree with this re-characterization? How do you think the ad industry needs to do things differently?