C Squared Communications, the consultancy and publisher of international media industry magazine Cream, this year launches the Venice Festival of Media in the Italian city, taking place April 16-18. The festival aims to be the media world's answer to the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival while offering a global forum where advertisers could meet media owners or agencies.
Complement to Cannes
C Squared's CEO, Charlie Crowe, admitted he sees his own conference as a complement to Cannes, which added a Media Lions award in 1999 but is known largely as a forum for creative agencies.
"Our primary targets are the people who motivate media buying and media creativity and innovation," he said. "Our secondary targets are creatives -- they have their place in the sun -- although we do acknowledge that it is important to reflect the business properly, so some senior creative heads will be on the conference platform."
Mr. Crowe thinks it's about time media had its own place in the sun -- if not beach-side, then canal-side. In 2005, he started Cream in the belief that "media companies needed to be more creative in how they use their client's money and to differentiate themselves on the basis of quality and creativity."
The festival is the logical next step: Not only is the conference an examination of best practices, but it also allows executive to discuss the latest digital and wireless technologies and how to integrate them into media planning.
So far, the guest speaker list reads like a who's who of the media world. The day-one schedule boasts OMD's Joe Uva and Publicis Groupe Media's Jack Klues showing half-hour reels of their best and defining work. On day two, Media Link Principal Michael Kassan will chair a session on content and the role that content plays in global advertising strategies. Mr. Crowe also expects to have media owners addressing their future. C Squared has not yet announced just who those media owners are, but Mr. Crowe assured Advertising Age "they will be senior chief executive-level people of global media companies. [And they will] talk about their businesses and how they are going and they will be able to receive questions from the floor."
The festival will also include a trade market and a last-night gala. One plan was to include a series of awards for the best campaigns following that gala, but C Squared subsequently decided to concentrate on building other portions of the festival and table the awards.
Advertising Age is serving as a U.S. media sponsor for the event, helping to promote the event and sell sponsorships and tickets in the U.S. "The media discipline has enormously grown in stature in recent years and deserves the dedicated attention of a global festival like this," said Scott Donaton, associate publisher of Advertising Age. "Changes in media are obviously revolutionary right now, particularly with the advent of digital technologies, and advertisers are increasingly realizing that the medium is always as important and sometimes more important than the message. And how they use media to hit the right targets and hit them in the right context has a lot to do with their success in selling their products and services."
With group bookings for networks such as Aegis and Omnicom already in place, Mr. Crowe projects an audience of 300 to 600 in April. "We are trying to be quite prudent, though in three years' time we expect many thousands of delegates to attend," he added. His concern, it seems, is not so much about whether the people will come, but about securing enough water taxis to ferry them about from event to event.