CANNESPRESS Day 3: Pinterest’s Bill Ready, Natasha Maharaj, Rebecca Rowntree on AI and GK Barry


SKMG’s CANNESPRESS will package up the best and worst of Cannes, the team’s picks and recs, and what they’ve overheard at the Palais and on the boardwalk.

SKMG’s third Cannes-edition of its newsletter COMMPRESS, CANNESPRESS, covers the Cannes Lions from La Croisette.

No lanyard tans today, kids. Day 3 was an overcast one, a welcome reprieve for the many sunburned faces putzing around the Palais. And while clouds may be low, the temp, UV and the ambition remain high. But with rain comes free branded brollies, so it ain’t all bad.

Many of today’s sessions zeroed in on community building in one way or another. Pinterest CEO Bill Ready promised that his platform is a positive community — an oasis from toxic social media discourse — while the Guinness marketers outlined their model for co-creation, with its “Guinnfluencers” making it one of the fastest growing beer brands globally among Gen Z.

Heineken’s global marketer Natasha Maharaj somehow managed to bring Fortnite into the equation, explaining how it evolves from gaming platform to social hub through an effective community building strategy. Three NFL superstars mentioned authenticity 27 times in 30 minutes but still managed to sound, ahem, authentic about why it matters to them as brands and their communities of fans.

Some campaigns just couldn’t stop popping up, like Dove’s Real Beauty, which turned 20 this year and celebrated with a commitment to never use AI models in its marketing and to help shape the beauty standards that are becoming so biased by AI programs. It was the third time today that the campaign copped an onstage mention, and rightly so: it nods to Dove’s legacy since Real Beauty’s inception, while its stance on AI makes it relevant today, and its endeavour to change the way AI operates in the future for a more diverse and inclusive world sets the stage for what’s to come.

We also looked to the future – 18 months to be precise – when Leo Burnett’s Rebecca Rowntree reckons AI will continue to shape our lives but will only get more biased, making for a greater need to scrutinise AI answers in order to collectively help facilitate more diverse answers. And speaking of diversity, she also insisted that the future of diversity is microtransactions. That is, it’s the small actions of everyday people which make the biggest differences. We think she may have been subconsciously paraphrasing J.R.R Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings, when he penned, “I have found that it is the small everyday deed of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay” and we’re not even mad about it. If Gandalf was presenting; we’d be first in line.

Overheard in Cannes

“People come to us and say we’re fearless. They have no idea what they’re talking about. I don’t sleep when I’m launching a new campaign.” – Fernando Machado

“Your job is NOT to be a prompt queen; if you want that, go to another classroom. That can be automated too. Your job is to apply human intelligence.” – Australian marketer David Shing, ex AOL

“Stop thinking about omnichannel, start thinking about the ecosystem. Elevate your thinking.” – David Shing

David Shing

“We saw it in the auto industry when seatbelts were regulated. Fast forward a number of years and auto manufacturers now compete on their safety measures. I would like to see a world in which social media companies compete for online safety.” – Bill Ready, Pinterest CEO,  on social media regulation for children

“For every influencer, the first rule when writing or speaking is don’t be a knob. If it sounds knobbish, cut it out.” – Satirist and creator Munya Chawawa

“People hear the word influencer and think it means I’m a member of the Kardashian family. It doesn’t and I’m not.” – Munya Chawawa

“Of course I’m afraid of AI. Hasn’t anyone seen Black Mirror? But if I was still at uni, I can tell you that every essay from me would be written by AI.” – Influencer and podcaster GK Barry (it’s funnier in a Cockney accent)

GK Barry

“A brand relationship with an athlete doesn’t work when it’s a one off. It needs to be long term and for the future. And I want to work with brand CEOs who are personable.” – Tennessee Titans receiver DeAndre Hopkins

“Your core brand principles keep you grounded. Practices change but principles are permanent.” – Callum McCahon, Born Social, chatting about Guinness

“AI has a diversity issue. Type in ‘show me a picture of a CEO’ and it’s a white man. Diversity clearly is an issue here.” – Rebecca Rowntree, Leo Burnett (she ain’t no Ellen when it comes to the group selfie)

Rebecca Rowntree

“Four in five consumers would reward brands that uphold their values in the face of criticism.” – Anastasia Karklina Gabriel, Reddit

“The thing to remember with advertising in game is it’s not a passive audience, you’re running onto the Super Bowl pitch, don’t offer someone a Heineken while they’re trying to score a touchdown.” – Droga5’s Pelle Sjoenell, ex Activision Blizzard

Picks & Recs

Food of the day

Nothing notable other than a light coating of some Saharan dust that’s just blown over the south of France. Close your mouths when you walk, people.

Vin diving

This cheap and cheerful white blend from Alsace that ran laps around the fancier stuff. Fished out of the recycling bin specifically for this photo.

Conference speaker tip 1: Have an opinion

What is the worst thing a speaker at a big global conference can say? “It depends.” Not good enough. Have a clear opinion, FFS.

Conference speaker tip 2: Smile

The NFL’s celebrated “Helmets off” strategy was designed, in part, to show the players’ personalities. Great idea, but Cannes speaker Joe Burrow clearly left his personality at home. Would a smile have killed him? There wasn’t even a flicker of enthusiasm when asked about his upcoming runway turn at Paris Fashion Week. Fail.

Retail tip of the day

Look down, always. That’s how, lost below eye level in a vintage clothing store in a Cannes backstreet, you can find a pristine vinyl of Aretha’s Gold, the 1969 album that includes 14 of the Queen of Soul’s biggest. Dr Feelgood indeed.

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