Recap: BSI at Cannes Lions 2024

Posted by Brand Safety Institute • Jun 26, 2024 4:35:19 PM

Last week, BSI’s leadership team joined our partners and colleagues in Cannes for a packed week of launches, pivotal discussions, and exploring the latest trends in brand safety and responsible marketing. With jet lag having mostly worn off, here are the key highlights and themes from our time at Cannes this year (we’ll do our best not to mention rosé):

Key Announcements

BSI Publishes A Marketer's Guide to Platforms

BSI kicked off the week with the release of "A Marketer's Guide to Brand Safety & Suitability on Platforms," co-authored by our COO AJ Brown and Dave Byrne, founder of TrustRaise. This guide leverages the expertise of current and former brand safety leaders from both platforms and major brand advertisers to equip marketers with the insights, tools, and strategies needed to navigate the complexities of digital platforms. The guide received extremely positive reactions both online and from Cannes attendees, including representatives from advertisers, agencies, platform sales teams, and trust & safety teams, who expressed gratitude for this candid and comprehensive resource. Get the guide here.

ANA and TAG TrustNet Launch Programmatic Transparency Benchmark

The ANA and TAG TrustNet announced the launch of the Programmatic Transparency Benchmark, which will provide quarterly progress updates for the industry on key issues in programmatic advertising. The launch event was packed with insightful discussions, revealing significant progress in reducing spend on made-for-advertising (MFA) sites from 15% to 4% and decreasing the number of websites on which the average advertiser appeared from 44,000 to 23,000. Bob Liodice, CEO of the ANA, emphasized, “There’s much more work to be done beyond what we studied in the ANA Programmatic Transparency Study. Our intent is to now focus our efforts on the walled gardens next.”

Continuing the discussions into their second day, on Tuesday AJ Brown, moderated a conversation between BSI cofounder Mike Zaneis and Octillion CEO Gabe Greenberg on the inclusion and implications of Connected TV (CTV) in the ANA Programmatic Transparency Benchmark. This conversation underscored the importance of transparency and effective measurement in the rapidly growing CTV landscape, and the opportunities for CTV to push the boundaries for transparency in programmatic. Check out videos from the launch event here.

Global Framework to Measure Media’s Carbon Emissions

GARM and Ad Net Zero announced a global framework to measure media’s carbon emissions. This framework enables advertisers, media owners, and agencies to measure and track emissions from media activity across six major media types, aligning the industry with broader sustainability goals. This initiative helps advertisers reduce the carbon impact of their media plans and fosters industry-wide sustainability. 

Themes from the Week

Programmatic Transparency and Quality

One of the major themes of the week in Cannes and of the past year has been buyers coming to grips with what they want from the open web in terms of inventory quality, a conversation that MFA websites kickstarted last year. The sessions hosted by the ANA and TAG TrustNet at Cannes approached the conversation from multiple angles, including:

The pros and cons of high-quality publisher lists

There is value in thinking critically about the characteristics of a high-quality partner, such as a loyal audience, quality content, and a strong user experience (inclusive of overall visual design, ad density, and types of ad experiences included). However, this approach introduces challenges as well, including how to communicate what constitutes quality to the publisher community, a process for onboarding publishers who meet that standard and offboarding those who let theirs deteriorate, and an approach to cultivating emerging and diverse publishers who will have to mature into matching their more-established counterparts and meeting the standard.

How media buyers’ relationships with procurement teams contribute to the success of MFAs

The most common metrics used to evaluate the economic efficiency of digital media buys are “cost-per” metrics (e.g., CPM, CPC). If an advertising campaign is an investment in outcomes such as people being more aware of a product, trialing a product, or becoming regular buyers of a product, then the total cost of achieving those changes in behavior should be the criteria used to evaluate success rather than the cost of a view or click that may or may not have led to a behavioral change.

The unintended consequence of “cost-per” metrics being so prominent is that media buyers and their agency partners have an incentive to keep that metric small and shrinking, even if it means buying inventory that has almost no chance of contributing to achieving the business goals of the campaign. If, on the other hand, the metric used was the total campaign cost compared to the changes in behavior achieved, then media buyers and their agency partners would have incentive to either (1) spend the same amount of money but deploy it to the inventory most likely to help incite behavior change, or (2) achieve results similar to those being achieved in the current environment but for significantly less money after eliminating the “filler” impressions primarily included to keep down “cost-per” metrics.

Making real changes to how enterprises evaluate advertising spend will require real partnership between CMO and CFO organizations to overcome well-established approaches to measuring advertising outcomes, but there is significant value to be unlocked for those willing to do the work.

The Future of News

On the flip side of avoiding low-quality inventory, there was also a strong push for investment in quality journalism, coming off the heels of a May study from Stagwell on brand safety and quality journalism. The study revealed that ads placed adjacent to news topics such as politics, inflation, and crime perform as effectively as those placed next to business, entertainment, and sports stories. Kara Swisher also made multiple appearances in sessions highlighting the need to support quality journalism and discussing the viability of the news business.

A Rosy (Rosé?) Outlook on AI

[Ed. note: You promised!]

Unsurprisingly, AI came up in nearly every conversation last week, to the point that non-AI focused sessions joked that they would be better attended had they included “AI” in the session title. The overall tone on AI was largely positive, focusing on its potential to optimize and improve the quality of media activations, significantly improve training data for trust & safety efforts, and more.

That said, we also encountered concerns about AI-generated content labels being rolled out by platforms and how marketers should view them from a brand safety perspective. These conversations centered around whether AI-generated content is intrinsically brand-unsafe (and whether marketers need tools to avoid any content with an AI label), or whether existing industry frameworks for brand-unsafe content should be applied consistently to all content regardless of how it was created.

The role of AI-generated content during elections also came up in several sessions. Avoiding misinformation remains a priority for marketers, with industry players working to operationalize industry frameworks effectively to address misinformation across the web ahead of upcoming elections in France, the UK, the US, and many other countries. The intersection of AI technology and election integrity was a key focus on panels hosted by Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify, and GroupM. Check out the conversation between Michael Barbaro of The New York Times, Richard Raddon of Zefr, Samantha Stetson of Meta, and Mark Weintraub of EssenceMediacom on advertising in the era of generative AI & global political turmoil here.


There were multiple impactful conversations on diversity in responsible marketing. A Thursday “Riviera Rainbow” brunch session hosted by Chris Kenna’s GenBTV and BA Diversity Media emphasized the importance of including members of the communities you’re trying to reach in every aspect of the development process, from writing to marketing. The sessions also stressed the importance of continuous investment in diverse communities rather than seasonal engagement, and panelist Ndubuisi Uchea challenged the notion that diverse audiences are “hard to reach.”


In line with the GARM announcements, discussions on transparency and sustainability played a prominent role throughout the week. On Monday, June 17th, the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) and Ad Net Zero released their Global Media Sustainability Framework. In a session at Cannes, Good-Loop indicated that they were already applying the newly released framework to help one of their clients evaluate and optimize sustainability in their media buying activities. Among the findings were that some of the quick wins were also tied to better business outcomes like the exclusion of low-value inventory such as MFAs, which were reported to over-index on carbon emissions, and reduction in the number of SSPs involved in their supply chain.

Topics: Transparency, Ad Quality, buy side, Events, News, AI, Cannes, Platforms