Q&A: Twitter’s Head of Events Talks Creativity at Cannes Lions

Twitter’s Head of Global Events Talks Experiential at Cannes Lions 2019

Twitter’s Head of Global Events Talks Experiential at Cannes Lions 2019

Nous sommes arrivés! Event Marketer has touched down at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, a five-day event for marketing, advertising and creative professionals taking place at the Palais des Festival June 17-21. Attended by the crème de la crème of marketing and creative executives, Cannes Lions is far more than networking and high-level meetings on the beach. (Though we love that part, bien sûr.) It’s also a prime opportunity for brands to activate for the creative class. One brand that has taken advantage of the prime real estate at Cannes is Twitter. We sat down with Helen Stoddard, Twitter’s head of global events, to talk about how the brand has approached Cannes through the years. Read on, and stay tuned for more coverage.


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Event Marketer: Tell us about Twitter’s presence on the ground at Cannes this year.

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Helen Stoddard, head of global events at Twitter

Helen Stoddard: Twitter has been at Cannes Lions for a number of years, but we’ve put a stake in the ground heavily over the last few years. When Twitter comes to Cannes Lions, we want to lean into the importance of conversation, and we do that in a couple of ways. First, we create two dynamic spaces that allow for high-level, top-down meetings with all of our key advertisers, marketing partners and content partners in our terrace, which is a private, invitation-only space. And then we have Twitter Beach, where we take over the Plage du Festival. How we program our spaces changes over the course of the day, from simple meetings and brunches in a more quiet setting in the morning, to various panels and discussions. Everything from great industry conversations to conversations about the topics that are exploding on Twitter, including K-pop with Steve Aoki, who’s coming in for a dialogue. And then we go into our happy hours, which are a bit more fun, loud and bright, and open to badge-holders. Then, we have a series of evening programs including our big Cannes after-dark party on Wednesday night. We also have an event we’ll be live-streaming with Chrissy Teigen as part of our #SheInspiresMe initiative.

 

EM: How has Twitter’s activation at Cannes evolved over the years?

HS: Cannes Lions itself has done a great job shifting and evolving its programming based on what the industry is experiencing, and we’re trying to make sure that in our space the conversations are reflecting and reacting to that. The festival is so large and it’s always changing, but we always strive to make a space that feels like a home away from home for people to come, park and relax and charge—literally and figuratively. Sometimes you just need to come in and charge your phone while you have a glass of rosé looking out at a beach. So, we continue to lean into being that oasis at large conventions and spaces like this, but also, we continue to get better and better about our programming and the spectrum of things we’re offering, so that even if you’ve been to Cannes Lions and Twitter Beach before, it will feel different every year. In the past, it has been more of a closed in, and closed door, invitation-only space, and we’re excited to open it up for the larger Cannes Lions badge-holder community to come visit with us.

 

EM: What are some of the Cannes Lions themes that Twitter has integrated?

HS: It’s not a new thing for Twitter to talk about the importance of multiple audiences and inclusion of all audiences and voices in the conversation. So, we have an event with, as I mentioned, Chrissy Teigen, so we can talk to women in the industry. We have a special dinner planned for our Twitter Voices community, so that we can continue to talk diversity on the platform, diversity of ideas, diversity of voices. And we’re also making sure that within the programming we’re not just focused on business stories but that we’re focusing on what’s happening in the world and making sure that we’re reflecting the conversations that are happening in the media.

 

EM: Talk a bit about the look and feel of the Twitter spaces.

HS: We know that the Twitter audience is different because it’s where the most receptive folks are. We’ve got to have really engaging spaces so that our customers can understand what our audiences already know: That Twitter is really what’s happening. For us, that means creating awesome, multi-functional, multi-layered spaces. At Twitter Beach, we continue to lean into the inspiration of our logo. Our logo is made up of concentric circles. When you think about it, it’s also a visual representation of our platform. It’s a lot of overlap, a lot of different conversations on top of each other, and so we’ve created a space with circular designs that are reminiscent of that overall look and feel of our brand and our logo. We’ve got cabanas and a large core structure in the middle, but we don’t want to forget our time and place. We’re at a wonderful creative festival in the south of France, so we’re going to make sure we don’t ruin the view of the beautiful beach and water. I hate when people come in and build a structure so big that you forget you’re in Cannes. We also made sure we have great tech and big screens that allow us to share some of the programming highlights from the year, as well as conversations that are happening in real-time across industries. And then from a hospitality standpoint, to be able to host multiple events means we have to have a space that changes over a lot. You’ll see a difference in lighting and decor and designs that layer on top of the core structure during the week. What Cannes looks like after dark versus what it looks like in the day will always be different.

 

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At Cannes Lions, Twitter is leaning into the importance of conversation to inform its experience design.

 

EM: Talk about the demographic you’re targeting.

HS: If you’re attending Cannes Lions, you’re someone who is active in the marketing space and in the advertising space. We will have specific closed-door, invitation-only dinners that will have great décor and scenery in beautiful locations. But we also have Cannes after dark, where anybody and everybody can come and just have a great time celebrating the year. Our audience this year is as wide as it’s ever been because we have events for general badge-holders as well as cmo dinners. We’re excited to see everyone, and that’s intentional. There is an interest on our end to make sure everybody gets to participate over the course of our five-day activation.

 

EM: Are there any challenges to marketing to an audience that is so creative?

HS: It’s a really good question. The first thing to acknowledge is that most of the people here are launching campaigns and programs that have some sort of Twitter integration or are Twitter-centric. We know, specifically, that at least half of the Grand Prix winners in the last year had Twitter as a part of their campaign program. So, we’ve got to make sure that we’re sharing the best information we can with them to help them be successful and get them excited about what we’re doing. Our approach is that it’s important to leverage Cannes as a platform to make sure marketers understand that Twitter is valuable and effective and a great channel for creative and culturally relevant messages.

 

EM: What is Twitter’s strategy at major events moving forward?

HS: Our strategy for some of these year-over-year, larger tentpole events is to make sure that we’re constantly evaluating where our customers and where are our advertisers and marketers are going and meeting them where they are. It’s a great opportunity, especially if we’re accurate in our selection over the course of the year, to make sure we maintain a regular cadence of communication and we’re showing and sharing what we’re doing and what the new things are at Twitter that will help them drive their business. On the brand side, it’s helping people understand what Twitter is up to. Shows like SXSW, Comic-Con and E3 are important to make sure people are aware of all the great things that are happening at Twitter. From a strategy standpoint, it’s about making sure that they have a chance to hear from us directly.

In terms of teasing what’s coming up, we’re excited about Twitter the brand starting to talk directly to our users. That’s something we’re going to be teasing out over the course of the next few months in a number of ways, including some experiential activations that I’m working hard on but not ready to reveal quite yet. We also love the surprise and delight aspect of Twitter and the way a simple conversation can spark something bigger. So, we’re doing a lot of quick-turnover programs as conversations or moments of impact come up on the platform, and supporting and shining the spotlight on them.

Photo courtesy: Howard Sayer Photography

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