Farhad Manjoo, an Opinion Columnist for New York Times, found himself in a party yacht in French Riviera listening to the conversation of two American businessmen talking about the highpoints of Cannes Lions, an advertising conference that gathered thousands of marketers in the South of France.
The scenario led him to question the state of the advertising industry and the global economy, such as why companies pay for all the expenses of their people to travel all the way to Cannes for such event that concerned a few.
During the whole duration of the event in Cannes which lasted for a week, Manjoo was confounded by the incongruence of the image that the advertising industry projects and the actual scenario that he saw unfold right before his eyes. The burning question that kept plaguing him was, “Wasn’t the ad business supposed to be ruled by data now?” The columnist was keen to find out the reason behind the extravagant expenditure of companies for yearly excursions such as this trip to Cannes.
But in the course of the columnist’s rough week in Cannes, and through his conversations with various businessmen from all over the world, the reality that the global economy operates on parties dawned on him.
While the internet is believed to eradicate middlemen and make policymaking more efficient and data-driven, in reality, it only shifted the control in the hands of the new cool kids on the block.
Despite yielding to the data-driven age, businesses are still driven by human relationships fueled by human pleasures. And those humans that machines were not able to replace have become more powerful than ever. Such is the case not only for the ad industry but for the global economy. Robots may take the reins, but not for a certain social class who will always get to be the life of glamorous business parties all over the world.
The realization came to Manjoo after a talk with Mr. Kassan, MediaLink founder and one of the industry experts who recognized the potential of the Cannes Lions as a platform where the biggest business connections can be created. In 2017, Mr. Kassan sold MediaLink to Ascential, a British Company, and has since become a representative whose job is to link people from different companies.
It’s the people like Mr. Kassan who help big businesses like Facebook, Google, and YouTube decide about their money expenditures and brand advocacies.
And with the case of Cannes, it’s FOMO that makes them spend a big chunk of money to send their people to what seemed at first to Manjoo to be a boondoggle.
The incongruence that bothered Manjoo at the very onset of the Cannes event was further heightened when during the event, an investigation about the horrible working environment in a certain contract facility for Facebook moderators came out. At Cannes, Facebook purchased a part of the beach where they built amenities to entertain their clients.
According to Manjoo, there is no truth to predictions that robots will invade the workplace because humans are still scattered all over the social media supply chain. The internet may have changed everything, but it also changed nothing.