In a week that saw the bank Santander take home the Grand Prix in Entertainment, it should come as no surprise that the festival’s entertainment-focused event welcomed social influencers and brand leaders alongside the actors, singers and celebrities who once held a monopoly on this space. With the entertainment model in flux, they were in town to discuss what it might look like in future, and the role brands can play within this.
Among those kicking off proceedings on Wednesday was the Paramount Network (the freshly rebranded version of Spike TV). The network had chosen Lions Entertainment as the launchpad for its new original series American Woman, and co-stars Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari were there alongside Paramount’s Keith Cox and Kevin Kay to shed some light on bringing the show to our screens.
On the making of American Woman, Cox explained: “We’re developing shows with strong female characters. We need to make a statement from a marketing perspective that we’re not just for men anymore.”
He acknowledged that they were facing big challenges. “At commercial TV we must have that ‘did you see that?’ moment – but how do you get those in the binge watching era?” The answer? "To create a comedy show that is not only funny but compelling.”
“Part of our pitch to the creative community is that people are going to talk about it. There’s a conversation around it,” he said.
Continuing the discussion about women in film and TV was Refinery29’s Amy Emmerich and Oscar-winning actress and director Gabourey Sidibe. Speaking on representation, the Empire star commented: “There are billions of ways of being a person, but if you just watch TV there are three ways. Well, if you’re a man there are ten ways, and if you’re a black woman? There’s one.”
“I’m an anomaly – I’m not meant to be part of the conversation because of my size and the colour of my skin,” she added. But, she said, “I’m not a fad, I’m not a costume.” She urged the entertainment industry to diversify both their onscreen and production teams: “I love working with women – let's do more of it until talking about it is boring and obsolete.”
Over on the sweltering terrace, hip-hop star and fashion favourite A$AP Rocky shared his thoughts on social media, successful brand collaborations and what makes for good storytelling. In a chatty interview, A$AP declared that today, “Social media is a bigger platform than television,” suggesting that “If you have the internet or a phone you could be the next fuckin’ Steve Jobs.”
As far as good storytelling goes, “The most enticing things come with a story – they have legacy. Otherwise there’s no point in indulging it.” He also endorsed perfectionism, recounting how he “shot Fashion Killa three times before you saw it, because the way it was made and produced was trash. Invest more time until you fix it. Don’t just put something out because you spent two years on it.
“Trash is trash – once you make something trash it solidifies you as that,” he advised.
The day’s packed schedule saw advertising, marketing and culture collide, possibly nowhere more so than at Greenlight’s session – a talk which lifted the lid on the joint ‘Music Happens Here’ venture between Greenlight, Spotify, Hilton Hotels, Live Nation and bands such as OneRepublic. It’s all about “creating culture rather than brands plus bands,” said Greenlight’s Dominic Sandifer.
As part of the project, Hilton partnered with Live Nation to create “heartfelt moments,” Hilton’s Mark Weinstein explained. As a result of this savvy partnership, OneRepublic performed to 200 ‘Hilton Honors’ members at Abbey Road studios, which was then pushed out across social to show “this is the kind of experience Hilton is delivering," and placing the brand at the heart of a cultural conversation.
On day two, former Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg started things off with a discussion about the so-called “new TV” business. The new model, he explained, was based on the bite-sized consumption of content in chapters seen in popular novels by Dan Brown and James Patterson.
In a conversation with MediaLink’s Michael Kassan, Katzenberg spoke about his new mobile-first venture, WndrCo, which will invest in emerging opportunities wherever new media and technology intersect. The mogul said he envisions short episodes of six to 10 minutes in length, featuring a strong advertising component and catering to short attention spans.
Collaboration was a strong theme throughout the event, but El-P of hip-hop duo Run the Jewels was keen to stress the importance of retaining an element of independence within this. Speaking about the band’s approach, he said: “We didn’t feel like we needed a centralised structure. We didn’t want to give up all our ideas and all of our work to someone else.”
Lions Entertainment welcomed WWE back for a second year for a session focusing on ‘the art of engagement.’ Stephanie McMahon, WWE Chief Brand Officer and and Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque walked the audience through their top tips for engaging fans, which included advice to “tell stories”, “super-serve your audience”, “listen, respond, take action”, “be authentic” and finally, “create a community.”
Talks and work from Cannes Lions 2017 will be available on the Cannes Lions Player.