BACK ROW TRAVEL AND A FRONT ROW SEAT TO THE EXCITEMENT.
People are often intrigued by the process of entrepreneurship, perhaps because it’s usually a “throw every emotion in the bowl” recipe, calling for healthy helpings of excitement, joy, camaraderie, hard work, and pure terror. Since VidMob’s week at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity seemed to encapsulate this full-bodied experience to a T, I thought it might be fun to provide a quick recap.
When people think of Cannes, they often think of the more high-profile film festival that is held there every year. But after the film portion is over, the festival continues with segments that attract people from all over the world involved in communications, marketing, design, and tech. VidMob fits squarely in all four of these, so we decided to send a delegation this year for the first time.
Our meetings started on Sunday the 18th, so we took a redeye Saturday night. This meant missing Father’s Day, which is not ideal for four fathers of children who, despite being of various ages, were all similarly capable of voicing their displeasure at being separated on the celebratory day. A flight cancellation also led to some last minute changes, which culminated with three of the team sharing a non-reclining back row for the overnight flight. Now you may think you know your co-workers, but you don’t really know someone until they’re drooling on your shoulder while you sit, with a seemingly sub-90-degree angle in your lower back, at 5am staring at a re-re-re-re-run of Everyone Loves Raymond. But hey, soon you’ll be in France, so nobody is complaining.
After landing in Nice, we took an Uber (a company we’ve made Snap Ads for) to the villa we rented in the hills overlooking Cannes through Airbnb (a new client of ours). How does that old saying go again, “Keep your friends close, and your clients closer?” Regardless, we were soon comfortably ensconced in a stunningly beautiful property in the hills overlooking Cannes, and after a few cannonballs and flying squirrels into the pool, we headed into town to get to work.
We had dinner that night with one of our investors and then met up with friends from Snapchat for drinks afterward. We learned a few things that night—namely, that it is, in fact, medically possible to eat so many oysters that your elbow swells up, and there is a seemingly endless array of bottle sizes in which the French can fit rosé.
The following day we had an early meeting with executives from Pinterest to discuss the growing amount of work that VidMob editors are doing for them. The Pinterest platform is becoming more dynamic every day, and as more and more of their advertisements transition from text to video, many challenges arise that VidMob believes it can help with. This was followed by meetings with partners at Instagram, more Pinterest meetings, and then Facebook.
Agency Friend, Not Foe
One thread running through all of these meetings was how VidMob sees its relationship with traditional agencies. Surrounded by the hundreds of yachts owned or rented by folks from the traditional advertising agency world, we were repeatedly asked if we viewed ourselves as a combative disruptor, aiming to replace services offered by legacy players (a position apparently taken by some of the other upstarts in the space).
We pushed back on this view heavily. After all, VidMob has already partnered with a number of agencies, and our view is that the task ahead is not one of service replacement. It’s about new services. We are in the midst of a transition from singular hero creative to an era of scaled (video) creative. As terms like “creative fatigue” continue to gain traction in the marketing world, and brands are encouraged to refresh creative every few tens of millions of impressions, vastly more content is needed. Additionally, platform diversification and spec expansion have led to a need for hundreds, if not thousands, of videos, when previously a handful would suffice.
But through all of this, the underlying story or concept that ties it all together continues to reign supreme: VidMob’s view is that it can be a powerful platform to help today’s agencies offer a NEW service to their clients and, through that, increase the value of their core ideas. We made this point repeatedly throughout the course of Monday, until rosé levels reached the point of diminishing returns and the team returned home “to get some rest.” Unfortunately, it was still early on East Coast time, so instead of going to bed, we decided to go for a swim. This turned into a strategy session until the small hours of the night when no strategy should ever be discussed.
Instagrammy about Town
Tuesday sprang anew, pool strategies were cast aside, and the team got ready for a big day. After all, this was the day that VidMob was scheduled to be presented with an Instagram Innovation award, for work that we had done in partnership with Facebook for Michael Kors. In this case, Michael Kors had needed a variety of ad assets to be one of the first companies to try out the new Instagram Stories ad format. For timing reasons, the final assets were needed in less than 48 hours, and the only raw materials to work off of were some previously-made, long-form YouTube videos. Michael Kors worked with editor Dana Meaux on the VidMob platform and had multivariate ads to test before the deadline. When the case study results came in from Facebook a few weeks later, the ads had generated a 10x lift in brand recall, and a 4x lift in brand favorability; and we found out that we had won.
After a long day of meetings, the team went to the Facebook party at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean to accept the award from our friends there. It was a truly wonderful experience, and our only regret was not being able to share the whole thing with the rest of the team back home and Dana Meaux, who had helped make it a reality. We then took the award, which at this point had been renamed “The Instagrammy,” and proceeded to take it all over town to celebrate. It may not be quite the Stanley Cup, but on this night it certainly felt just as big.
That said, Tuesday was intended to be a quiet night—I was hosting a Live broadcast on the Facebook Beach at 9am the following morning and was then speaking on a panel on the main Facebook stage at 11:30am on Scaling Creativity. Additionally, Craig was leaving to head home at 4:30am so that he could be home for his sons’ graduation. We all figured that a restful night was a good idea, so we headed home early to get some sleep.
The Big Break(-in)
Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards, as we arrived back at our villa to find that it had been broken into while we were gone. Windows were shattered and bags were thrown everywhere. Two teammates’ passports had been stolen along with their bags, and Craig’s bag and passport were missing too, casting serious doubt on his impending efforts to leave the country. Luckily, we found his bag at the bottom of the pool. And there, in the bottom of his bag, sat a very soggy passport. After spending hours on the phone with French police, realizing (a) how poor our French is, and (b) how little the French police care about our break-in, we packed Craig off to the airport minus a bag and plus some humidity in his documents, and sent Jason and Greg off to Marseilles to meet with the US Consulate in an attempt to get two new temporary passports. Our goal was to avoid unintentionally opening up a permanent VidMob office in Cannes.
Instead of a good night’s sleep, I settled for no sleep and headed off to the beach for the Facebook Live broadcast. I had a great time interviewing the CEO & Founder of Popular Pay, Corbett Drummey, and highly encourage folks to check out their service.
From there, I went over to Facebook’s mainstage for the panel discussion on Scaling Creativity, hosted by Weera Saad, the regional head of Facebook’s Creative Shop EMEA, and was joined by the founders of Whalar and Tongal. I have a great deal of respect for the platforms that both of them have built, and the discussion that ensued was highly enjoyable.
We all have different visions on how to solve different aspects of the same underlying problem—how can companies adjust to a new communication paradigm, where significant portions of our marketing and communications mix migrate from static text and imagery to video—but if we’re collectively right and the 60 million companies that communicate on social networks all need video in the years ahead, there should be plenty of opportunity for all of us.
We had a number of additional meetings left in the day before it was finally time to relax and prepare for home. It was an exhausting week, but a good friend of mine once told me after a short night’s sleep that there was “plenty of sleep in the grave.” I’m going to assume that he was right because it’s got to be somewhere, and there certainly isn’t plenty in France.
All in all, VidMob’s first Cannes was a wonderful experience. We’re lucky enough to have built a platform that times well with the needs of the market and to have attracted a wide number of talented creators to our marketplace. These things support one another. Without a platform to make scaling human creativity efficient, we could never hope to attract such incredible partners. And without the jobs that flow from being partnered with a number of the world’s leading technology platforms, we could never attract such talented creators. We’ve said from the beginning that our goal was to create a million jobs. We’re not there yet, which means that our job is far from done. Sometimes that unfinished job casts you on the shores of the Mediterranean with a bit more excitement than you bargained for, and a bit less sleep than your body begged for. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that’s a job we’re more than happy to answer the call for in the long process of building a great business.