It’s apparently a major faux pas to advertise oneself at an advertising conference.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer learned this the hard way during her Tuesday presentation at the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which unfortunately attracted some criticism.
Laura Petrecca at USA Today noted the following tweets that panned Mayer’s performance:
Yahoo CEO at Cannes – am I at a sales pitch??
— Jim Donaldson (@jdonaldson1) June 17, 2014
The Cannes Lions festival, which is the ad industry’s biggest trade show and awards competition, has more than 300 speakers this year, including several notable women in tech like Mayer and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.
But as to what exactly went wrong during Mayer’s presentation, Page Six did a nice job breaking down exactly what happened:
Mayer attempted to use some obscure artworks to illustrate the company’s approach to advertising — but ended up creating mostly confusion during a presentation to Madison Avenue on Tuesday. One art installation was a giant piece of twisted glass set among a series of aloe plants. It wasn’t clear if it was supposed to be an analogy for “native advertising,” a newfangled term for advertiser-sponsored content, or something else.
According to Page Six, it seemed like Mayer was trying to illustrate the similarities between advertising and art, asking ad execs to “see themselves as artists” and explaining that mobile is constrained by the size of the screen in the same way a picture is limited by its frame. Still, many found these analogies to be overly promotional for Yahoo.
Though Mayer spent a lot of time discussing Yahoo’s various properties and ad campaigns, she did try to espouse the importance of storytelling in advertising. She also talked up the capabilities of using Tumblr as an ad platform, even though the company is still figuring out how to squeeze revenue from the microblogging site.
Here’s Mayer’s promotional video filmed for Cannes Lions.