Cannes 2012

The Mobile Circus Is Coming to Cannes

When Festival Adds Categories, First-Time Delegates Will Follow

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The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity , the weeklong ad-awards show held on the swank French Riviera each year, will award its first mobile ad awards this June. And, as entries vying to be named the best in the mobile advertising flooded in for the ad festival, mobile-ad sellers began making their travel plans.

Many mobile-marketing companies are making their first trip out to Cannes this year. The trade group Mobile Marketing Association and mobile ad company Velti are erecting a big top tent near the ad festival's epicenter, the Palais des Festivals.

It's a big step for an industry that 's previously concentrated its efforts -- and marketing budgets -- at tech events like Mobile World Congress or CTIA. Those events have long been the domain of the carriers that have wielded so much power over the industry. At Cannes, however, mobile companies will kow-tow to brands and their agencies instead. Cannes will be Velti's second-biggest event based on investment -- the first is the Mobile World Congress, said Velti Chief Marketing Officer Krishna Subramanian.

"Mobile needs to bring itself in front of marketers where they are," MMA CEO Greg Stuart said.

"This is my first time," Mr. Subramanian added. "The who's who from the agencies will be there."

The festival sees a similar pop in delegates and entries -- and a scramble for the best hotel rooms -- whenever a category representing a new-to-Cannes industry is added. Branded entertainment is also making its debut, bringing the number of competitions with their own juries up to 15.

Creative effectiveness was added last year, and public relations in 2009 and design the year before, and so on. The newer contests more than make up for a steady decline in entries for some of the older categories like film.

Eric Litman, Medialets' chairman-CEO, calls Cannes, long the haunt of agency execs hungry for awards to validate their work, "the last, true bastion of brand advertising." (However, his ticket's not yet booked. He's not the only mobile ad exec sitting this one out: Pandora, which claims to be the second-biggest mobile-ad seller behind Google, is not attending the event either.)

Paran Johar, former adman and current chief marketer for mobile ad network Jumptap, claims he was "the only mobile guy [at Cannes] for years."

"Mobile World Congress is a great event, but the amount of brands and agencies are incredibly limited," he said.

Even though consumers the world over, from the south of France to the slums of Mumbai, have proved to be crazy for mobile devices, marketers aren't yet spending freely there. EMarketer projects that U.S. ad spending in mobile will hit $2.6 billion this year, compared to $64.8 billion in TV, $39.5 billion online and $33.8 billion in print, even though U.S. consumers are already spending more time with their mobile devices than with newspapers or magazines.

So mobile execs will show off their wares. In addition to the MMA Circus, which will host, of course, phone-charging stations as well as roundtable discussions and refreshments, a number of constituent companies (the MMA has 700) will make their first trip to the festival.

Mobile ad network Mojiva will make its first appearance. Mobile ad network InMobi, too, is sending employees for the first time.

Google, which has long had a presence at Cannes, will have its mobile ads folks on hand. Google Mobile Ads attended last year, but their delegation is growing. It's the second year for AT&T ad unit AdWorks, too. AdWorks is the presenting sponsor for the inaugural mobile awards and is sending 10 execs.

As for the festival, it doesn't have an official headcount of mobile execs, but is seeing a flood of entries for the mobile ad awards. It looks like there will be more than 900 entries, so many that Lions has had to add mobile jury members.

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