Thought Leadership

Hitting the Mark: Future of News Takeaways from Cannes Lions


Mark Penn

Stagwell brought the Future of News to Cannes Lions, where our recent study showing that it’s safe for brands to advertise in the news was “the talk of the town,” according to Andrew Ross Sorkin in The New York Times’ DealBook and on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” In the June edition of Hitting the Mark, I’m bringing you the Cannes highlights of all things Future of News, including insights from my interview with Business Insider; a Future of News panel featuring the CEOs of The New York Times, CNN, and Business Insider; and a Business of News panel featuring the CROs of top publishers.

As a recap, Stagwell’s landmark 50,000-person News Advertising Study, released in May, found that 1 in 4 Americans are news junkies — an audience whom advertisers are not capitalizing on. We showed that brand safety concerns — the idea that brands will suffer if their ads appear next to the “wrong” story — were unfounded: Americans don’t judge brands based on what news stories their ads appear next to.

I brought our findings to CMOs of the world’s biggest brands and news executives at Cannes this month. Four overarching themes emerged across our discussions:

  1. News junkies are an under-tapped, highly desirable, and wide-ranging audience. As I told Business Insider, if you’re not advertising in news, you’re probably not targeting your optimal consumers, so you’re probably not maximizing the benefit you can get out of your budget. News junkies are curious and persuadable individuals who come to the news with wide interests, ranging from cooking and games to fashion and sports.
  2. The vicious cycle of brands abandoning news is harming democracy. At the end of the day, news runs on business models. But because of brand safety apprehension, brands don’t advertise on news, news revenue declines, news quality worsens, and democracy suffers. Instead, advertisers need to start a “virtuous cycle” of investing in the news, as I wrote about in The Current. In the Sport Beach Content Studio, Dow Jones CRO Josh Stinchcomb talked about concrete ways to feed this virtuous cycle, such as convincing brands to move away from extensive, outdated blocklists.
  3. The news business has to be global. On the Sport Beach mainstage panel about Future of News, the CEOs of top publishers discussed the strength of having a global audience and why they are investing in their international coverage as a competitive advantage. In the same vein, we are planning to bring our Future of News research and studies around the world, with London up next.
  4. Integrating AI into journalism can help both news and brands target audiences even more effectively. Just like everyone else, newsrooms are tackling AI, and publisher CEOs spoke at Sport Beach about the ways they are implementing it: from an AI-enabled paywall at Business Insider to an AI-powered ad product designed to target consumers beyond first-party data at The New York Times. Stagwell agencies are already at the forefront of helping newsrooms with this AI reinvention. Code and Theory, which was just named ANA’s B2B Agency of the Year, is building expertise in this area with major projects such as designing and engineering NBC’s “Big Board” — a reliable, data-driven storytelling device depicting the nation’s political landscape in real time.


Coming out of Cannes, the future of news is clear: advertisers have a unique opportunity to target a curious, cream-of-the-crop audience, and AI will only augment reach.

The responsibility to invest in democracy is urgent: free, independent journalism is under ongoing attack. Just this week, The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich appeared in court for the start of an illegitimate and secret trial after 15 months of wrongful detention in Moscow. Share this letter from the Journal’s editor in chief to help elevate Evan’s story until he can tell his own.

We would love to have you on board our follow-up studies and summits as Future of News expands across the globe. Reach out to partner with the Stagwell team, and as always, please don’t hesitate to connect with any thoughts or questions.

Until next time,

Mark Penn



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