Forget Amazon and Apple, smaller companies are the real disruptors, says top media exec

It's been a year since Amazon bought Whole Foods in a $13.7 billion deal that sent tremors through the grocery industry.

But while Amazon – and Apple - are major disruptors to business and marketing, it's the smaller companies which will shake things up now, according to Wenda Harris Millard, vice chair of advisory firm MediaLink.

"I think the real disruptors in many, many ways are … the Dollar Shave Clubs of the world, the Kind Bars, the Red Bulls," Harris Millard told CNBC at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France this week.

"Those to me are shaking the (marketing) industry to the core. In addition to some of those big, big players, but … they are to be contended with." Unilever bought razor subscription business Dollar Shave Club in a $1 billion deal in 2016, while Mars bought a stake in nut bar Kind in November.

Harris Millard said the "big players" – the likes of Amazon and Apple – are still major forces in the business and marketing world, however.

"Amazon appears to be the killer… It seems like there's nothing that they won't get into. There's nothing that they won't do. So I think all eyes on Amazon for sure, I continue to believe that

Apple will do some extraordinary things as we move forward. I don't see Apple and Amazon in the same in the same arena. But you know they are still a force. No question at all," she said.

She sees more large companies buying up challenger brands, or creating roles such as 'chief transformation officer' or 'chief innovation officer,' to try to teach people to innovate. "It's admirable, but the question is, you're asking people who've grown up with a certain (business) playbook that made them successful (to change their approach) ... It's very, very confusing to very large institutions."

This week has seen several interesting business developments. U.S. pharmacy CVS start delivering prescription drugs from its 9,800 stores, ahead of Amazon, which is said to be eyeing the pharmacy sector. On Tuesday, Amazon also announced a partnership with Marriott Hotels that lets guests order room service via voice assistant Alexa, in a move into the hospitality industry.