Breakfast Epiphanies: Free Speech, Mama

IMG 1071
  • Text Eli Williams & Clara Malley

Day One is reporting live from the 2024 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. Tune into Day One FM daily for a special edition of the podcast from Eli and Clara — “Breakfast Epiphanies” — where they break down the Croisette’s highs and lows.

Linda Yapparino

CEO of WPP, Mark Read, asked Elon Musk why he told advertisers to go fuck themselves last year. “First of all, it wasn't to advertisers as a whole. It was with respect to freedom of speech” he said. His appearance at the festival is seen by many as a bid to win back ad dollars (X’s revenue is apparently down nearly 50% YoY) and talk up the platform’s latest features. Musk’s interview at the Lumière Theatre was a hot ticket, people waited up to two hours to see the man who just locked in a $56 billion payday bend the knee.

Musk is a key figure in our post-shame society (although this definitely deserves shame), and it was always wishful thinking that he’d issue a hand on heart apology. Instead, he doubled down on the importance of free speech when running the “global public square,” while trying to reassure advertisers of his platform’s new safety features.

X CEO Linda Yaccarino is here too. We saw her speak after a stomach churning drive up the mountains to Axios’ Women’s Sports House. A lot of bloviation, light on details. Donning a gold plated “Free Speech” necklace (lol), Yaccarino spoke about how sports is the number one conversation on X, and about “70% of the conversation ahead of the Paris Olympics this summer is about women's teams.”

IMG 1070

Yaccarino hyped up the platform’s longform original sports content, like a Hard Knocks meets “Real Housewives” (her words) docuseries on the US Women’s National Soccer team, and claimed an original series on the Boston Celtics hit 30 million views per episode. For all of the discussion around X as a “video-first” platform, I’ve never once organically come across—or heard of—any of these. Have you? She also teased a Venmo-style payments feature, said that Community Notes is a “global collective intelligence,” and refused to say how many subscribers X’s premium tier had. Some other lowlights included:

  • On Grok, X’s LLM: “It is the best, truth seeking production out there”

  • On X’s speech moderation: “We’re really looking at what’s lawful, not awful”

  • On her decision to join X: “Many days I go home and tell my husband ‘I witnessed history today’”

“This is Your Life, and It's Ending One Minute at a Time”

“Saving Creativity from Death by the Algorithm” (what a title) revved up with the opposite of a hype video: a compilation of near-identical TikToks, scenes from Fight Club, and headline screen grabs to the effect of “culture is dying.” All soundtracked by The Pixie’s “Where is My Mind?” I was into it.

Friend of the pod Kyle Chayka discussed some of the key arguments in his book Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture on a panel with Lucia Aniello, writer and producer of Broad City. They explored how algorithms tend to push and popularize lowest common denominator tastes, a reticence to take chances on new or fresh ideas in Hollywood and the specter of AI-generated entertainment.

The great conversation was in-line with a lot of what we’ve been talking about here. Meanwhile, the better part of the in-app Q&A section was very “you’re telling me now for the first time” (cue “Tiny Dancer”).

The discussion was—to be fair—on the rarer side as Cannes programming goes. It largely skews toward feel-good case study presentations and pledges to “help you unlock your next breakthrough creative idea.” There’s not a lot of serious reflection on what might be currently wrong with the state of advertising or culture at large, which is what makes panels like this one so refreshing.

IMG 1069

Poll Position

Conversation around the 2024 Presidential election took center stage at both the Wall Street Journal House and Sport Beach, where media execs traded theories around how—if at all—the American public are engaging with the news ahead of November. The conversation comes amidst a backdrop of other consequential elections across Europe. Here in France Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party dominated the European elections eleven days ago.

But all eyes are on the U.S. election and its sweeping global ramifications. Wall Street Journal Editor in Chief Emma Tucker admitted that they’re likely “not going to see the 2016 Trump bump” that earned newspapers record audiences. Stagwell CEO and political consultant Mark Penn felt differently, admitting that while most Americans have already decided, “we are just revving up.” He also pointed to record fundraising following Trump’s conviction in the hush money trial as evidence that Americans are likely to tune in en masse as we get closer to November.

CNN is hosting the upcoming Presidential debate on June 27th, where Mark Penn said all Joe Biden needs to do to stay in decent favor with democrats is to literally “not fall down.” The bar is so low. The other Mark (Thompson), CNN’s newly appointed CEO, said that he’s looking to curate the debate as a sort of “set piece event,” a “heavyweight boxing bout,” and was excited about the prospect of a “classic debate. Kennedy v. Nixon. No audience, two candidates.”