TV and Tech Tuning in to Cannes Lions

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Viola Davis

Viola Davis, Kim Kardashian and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, alongside tech superstars like Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel and WWW creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee will take part in the ad festival in Cannes this week.

The television industry – at least the creative side of the business, has often overlooked the Cannes Lions, the festival showcase of the best in advertising. But for this year's Lions, which kicked off today and runs through June 27, the small screen elite are descending on the Croisette, rubbing shoulders with the ad buyers, agency execs and branding gurus that typically dominate the event.

The list of Cannes Lions speakers reads like an Emmys preview show - including
Veep's Julia Louis-Drefus, How to Get Away with Murder star Viola Davis and The Walking Dead actor Steven Yeun. Reality TV goddess Kim Kardashian West will grace the Cannes Lions stage this week, as will Brit TV chef Jamie Oliver and CNN reporters Christiane Amanpour and Nina Dos Santos.

Michael Edelstein, President of NBCUni International Television Production, told The Hollywood Reporter that, while he won't be at the Lions this year, “everyone else seems to be going. The TV side (at the Lions) is really getting big.”

That small screen creatives (and behind the camera talent like Walking Dead exec producer David Alpert and How to Get Away with Murder's Betsy Beers and HBO Chairman/CEO Richard Plepler) are flocking to the Cannes Lions should come as no surprise. The seismic shifts in the television business have pushed creators and advertisers closer together. Branded content is no longer a dirty word as broadcasters look to find better ways to finance their shows and leverage them over multiple platforms.

"The TV companies are understanding that at our festival are a lot of brands and advertisers who they would very much like to be communicating with," Cannes Lions CEO Philip Thomas told THR sister publication AdWeek. "So it's the business side and the creative side that have created this perfect storm."

The ad industry, which has openly embraced social media and mobile technology as a way to reach potential consumers, also has a lot to teach a TV biz struggling with a increasingly splintered, digitally-savvy audience. Tech talk will be a major focus of the Lions again this year, with talks with World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Snapchat co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel, and Tinder president Sean Rad among the hottest festival tickets.

And for those just looking for inspiration (the festival's official title is the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity), there's the main draw: the ads competing for this year's awards. The Lions are the ad industry's equivalent of the Oscars and the campaigns that win here are typically groundbreaking, both in style and content.

For the first time this year, the festival will award its inaugural Glass Lion, focusing on work that “breaks through unconscious gender bias" and "shatters stereotypical portrayals of men and women."