24 June 2015
[VIDEO] Why The New Faces Of Culture & Cannes Are Kim Kardashian And Snapchat
Published 24 June 2015
The press room at Cannes was a madhouse.
Hundreds of journalists from dozens of countries jockeyed for position before the press conference began, hoping to capture an image and some insight that they could, as quickly and as furiously as possible, turn into a piece of content that would delight their readers (and, let's be real, their editors).
As the shuffling, tweet-bound horde waited, one could be forgiven for thinking that - this being the world's most important advertising festival and all - the interviewee was to be a living legend like WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell coming to announce some fantastic new initiative.
It wasn't. Instead it was the world's most famous woman; a person who has leveraged the direct access to an interested world that social media provides arguably better than any person or brand to date.
This year the world's most important advertising event launched a brand new festival entirely devoted to technology innovation.
They didn't do this to capture a hype cycle or to appear forward thinking, but in acknowledgment of the simple fact that, as technology has transformed everything about how people understand themselves and engage with the people they care about, so too has it changed the way businesses have to relate to their customers.
These changes are not superficial.
While new apps may come and go, the networks and platforms that have deep resonance all represent fundamental shifts in the consumer experience that speak to meaningful social and psychological changes.
Facebook provided the most incredible platform for maintaining connections the world had ever seen. Twitter allowed people to instantaneously participate in a global conversation about the most important thing that just happened. Instagram democratized the same spark that has driven artists for millennia by enabling everyone to beautifully capture pre-emptive nostalgia for the moments that made their hearts' swell.
Today, something new is happening.
The generation that has grown up with these technologies aren't just locked into one platform, but have a panoply of digital media experiences that they can quickly and effortlessly chose between based on what they're feeling or who they want to communicate with.
In that environment, no app looms larger for today's young people than Snapchat.
Like all the apps mentioned above (and likely every new one to come), Snapchat was written off by the established world of business and adult consumer society until it got so phenomenally big that it literally couldn't be ignored any longer.
When people first look at Snapchat, they see an app for sending often low quality photos and videos that go away after a few seconds. They see the "what."
What we often miss is why? All of the networks above matter, but the content we put on them lives forever. Every time we post we have to think about how it will reflect upon the image that we've carefully crafted to present our self-imagination in the most flattering light.
When we look at Snapchat, it's easy not to consider the incredible relief of having at least one medium in which to express ourselves where we don't have to worry about how people will think of us later, or judge ourselves based on how many likes we get. We don't feel the joy of a digital experience designed to bring the exact people we want into the silly, stupid, ultimately irrelevant moments that are the real dark matter of our lives as we actually live them.
Is it any surprise that kids - who for all of their tech and all of their violent video games and all of their generally-growing-up-too-fast are still kids - are attracted to those silly, joyful, low stakes sharing experiences?
More importantly, is it any wonder that those of us who aren't kids any longer would want to reclaim those sort of moments, as well?
The point of all of this is that if we really look closely, it's no surprise that the two most anticipated and discussed speakers of the festival are Kim Kardashian and Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel.
In their own ways, they have each contributed a pillar to the new cultural landscape.
Spiegel has built a technology that has enabled one of the essential social experiences of an entire generation; the next phase of a media world that will continue to evolve.
Kardashian has experienced the full spectrum of what it means to live in public - good, bad, and ugly - more than anyone else on the planet, and she's done it in a way where, in large part thanks to her direct line to people via social media, her voice always rings loudest among the wild cacophony that surrounds her. What's more, she's leveraged the insights she gained from that experience to build own of the most successful mobile experiences & video games of the last few years, grossing hundreds of millions of dollars and bringing millions of female fans to gaming.
Technology and celebrity are, ultimately, beacons of culture. The patterns and trends that shape them teach us about where we are as a society.
For marketers to be successful, they must be able to move beyond the easy stories and understand the throughlines of culture that shape consumer experience. It's a coup to Cannes that they've brought these two. Let's hope the audience engages with them as significantly as they deserve.