Creativity Brand Strategy

Hey Cannes Lions, the next generation of creators is at NFT.NYC right now

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By Webb Wright | Junior Reporter

June 22, 2022 | 6 min read

Even as it attracts top talent and leading brands from across the web3 world, the four-day event in midtown Manhattan has been overlooked by many marketers who are (understandably) fixated on Cannes Lions.

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The Sandbox hosted an event for NFT.NYC at Gotham Hall in Manhattan earlier this week / Webb Wright

While much of the marketing world sips rosé in the French Riviera – celebrating the return of Cannes Lions after a two-year hiatus brought on by the pandemic – another, lesser-known event has been thriving in New York City. It’s called NFT.NYC, and it’s drawing in a new generation of creators by the thousands.

Now in its fourth year, NFT.NYC is an annual event during which every echelon of the increasingly massive NFT community – from digital creators to brand executives, industry legends to up-and-comers – congregate in the heart of Manhattan to network and generate a collective buzz of excitement for the growing virtual marketplace.

NFT.NYC is still viewed as fringe by much of the traditional marketing establishment, and the event is largely overshadowed by the Cannes Lions (which has been more or less synonymous with prestige in the marketing world since it began in 1954). But make no mistake: this is a big deal. It’s attracted some of the leading lights from a broad range of industries, it’s grown rapidly over the years (around 12,000 attendees are expected this year, compared to fewer than 300 in its opening year, according to The Wall Street Journal), and there’s an electric buzz of excitement and energy at its gatherings. Leading crypto exchange company Coinbase has called it “the Superbowl of NFTs.”

The fact that it coincides with Cannes Lions, the biggest annual marketing event in the world, also feels like something of a statement from its organizers to the old guard of advertising: We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere.

Rubber Ducks NFT billboard

Into the Sandbox (v the sand on the French Riviera)

The biggest brands in web3 have been renting out real estate in midtown Manhattan to drive that statement home. The Sandbox, for example – an immensely popular gaming platform that’s become a hotspot for the brands looking to break into the metaverse and NFT marketplace – hosted a fairly lavish event yesterday at a venue not far from Times Square. Andy Milonakis emceed. There was a giant, voxelated replica of Snoop Dogg with whom visitors could pose for pictures.

The Sandbox event brought together a wide range of voices to discuss the future of web3. In one panel, Ian Rogers, chief experience officer at Ledger – a crypto wallet hardware company – reminded the wider world (including, presumably, marketers) to refrain from chiming in on NFTs unless they know what they’re talking about. “Reading about Bored Ape [Yacht Club] in The Wall Street Journal and then commenting on NFTs is like listening to Despacito and then commenting on music,” he told the crowd. “So shut the fuck up.”

Amid all of the frenetic enthusiasm percolating throughout NFT.NYC, one might never guess that the event is happening during a moment of crisis for the cryptocurrency market. In recent weeks, crypto prices – including those of major coins such as Bitcoin – have plummeted rapidly, wiping out huge amounts of money for some investors and forcing some big crypto companies – including Coinbase – to lay off some employees.

But far from an air of apocalypse, the vibe at NFT.NYC appears to be one of radiant positivity for the future. For some, the recent dip in the crypto market isn’t a reason to mourn, but rather an opportunity to pounce. “When you have a crash that happens in a few weeks, you should never worry about that,” says William Quigley, co-founder of Tether (a stablecoin cryptocurrency) and Wax (a blockchain for NFTs). “It’s rare that an entire industry’s prospects disappear in weeks. Now, [if] over five years, you just see this erosion, that you should worry about ... But when it drops super fast, you should just be salivating.”

While Cannes Lions celebrates tradition, the web3 community at NFT.NYC is celebrating innovation – and plotting its course for future growth. Marketers of all stripes are encouraged to pay attention.

NFT.NYC continues through tomorrow, June 23.

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