CANNES, France—After holding court Tuesday night on the Croisette with media and advertising moguls (and an afterparty or two), Sean "Diddy" Combs was all business today, taking the main stage at Cannes Lions with Translation CEO Steve Stoute to pitch the fall launch of his music cable network, Revolt TV, and give his take on how he successfully reaches millennials—or kids, as he prefers to call them.
The Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group founder and CEO said the decision by MTV seven years ago to stop playing music videos, the explosion of digital media and his own proven ability to tap into what's cool are what helped make Revolt a reality.
"There was no longer a platform for musical artists to trust with their art and with their creativity, and also no place that was covering music [as ESPN covered sports and CNN covered news]," Combs explained. "For music, you just had to go into the abyss or the stratosphere with no plan, no destination. I was trying to get myself booked on Dancing With the Stars because there was no place for me to go to tell my story."
Revolt "will be authentic and speak their language," he said of its coverage of artists. "I want to celebrate who they really are … Cool is priceless."
This will be the first TV network built with social layers. Revolt also promises to help advertisers connect with up-and-coming artists in order to leverage strategic marketing partnerships. If you look at Twitter, top shows in the U.S. and globally are music-related, he said. "That's a lot of power."
Asked by Stoute about which marketers and brands inspire him, Combs pointed to those that are disruptive, risk takers and draw emotion, including Richard Branson and the new Jay-Z Samsung campaign. "I hate watching commercials just like everybody else," he said, to big laughs. "The truth shall set you free. So, I'm here to tell the truth, all right. That's why the best creatives win awards here. And if you ain't going to be great, you need to go home and get the fuck out of here!"
Marketers need to stay fresh and relevant if they want to successfully target millennials, he said. "These kids are extremely, extremely smart. They don't like no B.S., and they don't like a one-way street," he said, offering the example of launching a corporate Facebook page two years late. "That's not being part of the culture, or what's important to them. One of the mistakes is that brands don't listen enough to what's important to this generation. There's a way that you can advertise to them and also a way to empower them. If you empower them, you'll get your return 10 times forward."
Combs has his own way of staying fresh and reaching kids. "I'm extremely immature," he joked. "I'm a child in a grown man's body. I'm actually at the party. I'm at the festival." He also said he keeps a lot of kids around him, asks a lot of questions and sometimes eavesdrops on their conversations. It also helps that he has six children, who are all under the age of 22. "I have a perfect research team living in the house."
As for the naysayers who say others have tried and failed at music networks, Combs said that most importantly, his network will be "social by design" and global.
"It's a dream, man. All I can do is get up in the morning and try to make it possible," he said. "So, I wish myself luck."