Cannes Lions

Twitter takes over Cannes with billboard domination

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The Snapchat Ferris wheel may be gone, but Cannes-goers next week will still find an inescapable ad message from one social media service: Twitter, which plans to blanket the festival from carrier to Croisette.

The micro-media app says it bought billboard space everywhere from Nice airport to the Palais, the heart of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

"We are greeting execs as soon as they step off of the plane," Twitter said in its announcement of the ad push. The ads will be posted throughout Cannes, too, the company said.

Tech companies always vie for attention at the annual gathering of advertising's elite. Snapchat has done billboards and last year erected that Ferris wheel. Ad-tech companies rent yachts. Google, Facebook and Twitter eat up prime beach real estate with private cabanas for entertaining clients.

The billboards were designed by Twitter's in-house creative team, led by Jayanta Jenkins, the global creative director at Twitter Studio.

The Cannes billboards are tied to the World Cup, touting the coverage available on the platform. Fox Sports, which has rights to the soccer tournament, is sharing highlights and analysis videos to Twitter.

The campaign leans on Twitter's "What's Happening" tagline, which the company has used in marketing for two years, a nod to its role in the daily cultural conversation.

Twitter also plans to use Cannes as a showcase for design changes it just made to the platform. This week, Twitter revealed updates to the user experience that are meant to help people find tweets and videos that are most relevant to them.

Twitter tweaked how it delivers content to people in the "explore" page and search results. It also expanded the "Happening Now" box, which once focused on sports, but now will surface different categories of content at the top of people's timelines based on personal interests.

Twitter also updated the "Moments" section, the place where people go for in-depth coverage of popular topics on the platform.

Last year, Twitter Studio won a Grand Prix at Cannes for an outdoor campaign with billboards that featured hashtags and images from breaking cultural moments. For instance, one of the ads showed closeups of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump with a hashtag and Twitter logo.

This year, Twitter is coming to Cannes on more confident footing than it has been in years past; the company is riding on growing momentum in its ad business. In the first quarter, Twitter's ad revenue rose 21 percent year-over-year to $575 million, and the company was profitable for the second consecutive quarter with net income of $61 million.

What a difference a year makes: During the same period from 2017, Twitter's ad revenue dropped 11 percent year-over-year, and the company posted a net loss of $62 million.

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