If you had your druthers, you’d rather be a top executive in the advertising world this week than a tech mogul. While the ad world is meeting, dealmaking, and partying in the glittering and steamy French Riviera at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, tech leaders answered the summons of President Trump to have a near-meaningless conversation about modernizing the federal government’s technology infrastructure.
This is a noble goal, to be sure. It’s just not a new one. The ‘we’re-still-using-floppy-disks’ meme is a hearty perennial for all new administrations. It will be for the next one too. The New York Times reports that businessman of the moment Jeff Bezos urged Trump to focus the government on buying commercial technology, a worthy aspiration and also not a new one. The photo accompanying this Wall Street Journal story of Apple’s Tim Cook, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, and Bezos looking as if they’d just received word of an illness in the family while Trump orates tells me almost everything I need to know about this meeting.
Meanwhile, in Cannes, I moderated a panel consisting of Jean Lin, CEO of the global ad agency Isobar, and Vincent Wei Liu, head of her client Tencent’s artificial intelligence lab. Yes, AI is invading advertising and marketing too, and in exciting ways. Face recognition, for example, might help marketers better target customers. The two were upbeat, as one tends to be in Cannes, that AI will take over repetitive tasks, like monitoring media mentions, while leaving the truly creative work to humans. IBM Watson makes a similar argument about how machines can help doctors buttress their diagnoses while they focus on patient care.
Swinging subject matters wildly, Monday evening I interviewed Steve Schiffman, CEO of Calvin Klein, part of publicly listed PVH. He talked about the challenges of unifying creative leadership for a global brand after taking over as CEO several years ago. He also broke a little news, strongly suggesting that Calvin Klein is working again with one of its most famous spokeswomen, Brooke Shields, after 37 years. “We are going to be working with Brooke again very soon,” he told me, in a comment picked up by The New York Post’s Page Six (!). (Incidentally, Shields hinted as much in February, when she appeared at a Calvin Klein fashion show.)
I’ll report more from Cannes tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m honored to have my book about Uber, Wild Ride, reviewed on the front page of the upcoming New York Times Book Review, and by Walter Isaacson no less.
Merger face plant. The Federal Trade Commission said on Monday it will sue to block the merger of DraftKings and FanDuel, likely killing the deal. If combined, the companies would control more than 90% of the market for daily fantasy sports contests. “This merger would deprive customers of the substantial benefits of direct competition between DraftKings and FanDuel,” said Tad Lipsky, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition.
White House sourpuss. President Donald Trump met on Monday with the heads of 18 U.S. technology companies including Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft, seeking their advice on improving the government’s IT. “Government needs to catch up with the technology revolution,” Trump said. But the most lasting news from the meeting may be the picture of some pretty unhappy looking CEOs surrounding the president.
Outraged expression. A database containing the personal information of almost every American voter was left unsecured and unprotected on the Internet by Republican data firm Deep Root Analytics, cyber-security firm UpGuard discovered. “That such an enormous national database could be created and hosted online, missing even the simplest of protections against the data being publicly accessible, is troubling,” UpGuard said in a blog post.
Mouth watering. The meal delivery startup section is certainly hot. Freshly raised $77 million in new funds, led by Swiss food giant Nestle, to support expansion beyond its current 28 state operating area. That follows news of Blue Apron’s upcoming IPO, expected any day now. And already, Unilever had invested in Sun Basket, and Campbell Soup put $10 million into Chef’d.
Accident analysis. The man killed in a crash last year while using the “autopilot” feature in his Tesla Model S, Joshua Brown, kept his hands off the wheel for extended periods of time despite repeated automated warnings not to do so, the National Transportation Safety Board reported on Monday.
Same face as grandma. The genealogy research service Ancestry.com said it was preparing to go public and had made a confidential filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company said it hasn’t decided how many shares to issue or at what price.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Artificial intelligence has applications in almost any industry, as Adam discussed in his essay today. It’s a big part of the secret sauce at Ant Financial, the payments and finance unit related to Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. In Technology Review, Will Knight takes a look at Ant’s efforts, including a computer-run image recognition system for assessing auto insurance claims. Yuan (Alan) Qi, vice president and chief data scientist at Ant, explains:
We use computer vision for a job that is boring but also difficult. I looked at the images myself, and I found it pretty difficult to tell the damage level.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Twitter Enlists Chance the Rapper for New Ad Campaign by Tom Huddleston, Jr.
Verizon Has the Fastest U.S. Network—But Not in Every Region by Aaron Pressman
Former EMC Chief Joe Tucci Is Joining This VC Firm by Barb Darrow
Here are the Best and Worst Cable TV Companies by Aaron Pressman
Microsoft and Accenture Unveil Global ID System for Refugees by Jeff John Roberts
BEFORE YOU GO
Even for a hardcore Trekkie like myself, the news about CBS’s latest TV effort has been disappointing. Now comes word, finally, that Star Trek: Discovery is on track, with a launch date of September 24. But even though the show is aimed at the streaming video crowd via the CBS All Access service, there will be no binging, just a weekly wait between episodes, and a dreaded hiatus from November to January. Still, the trailer looks pretty sweet.