Insights from Cannes – The future of advertising.

You can’t have a world festival of advertising (sorry creativity now) without the inevitable discussion, over an over priced bottle of beer outside the Gutter Bar, about where the hell the industry is going.

We’ve seen a lot of change, dramatic change in fact, over the last decade or two – Bill Bernbach probably wouldn’t recognise the industry any more. Some good, some bad.


The introduction of technology (the forth element) has been the most significant, not only has it given us the world of digital but it’s influenced so many aspects of our industry – the list is endless.

The discussions were varied, as were the solutions. One concern is how the creative end of the industry is suffering financially, while the back end online build sector is raking it in.

Certainly we are globally giving away the creativity and intelligence – the real talent – and charging for the production, because clients are happy to pay for tangibles but less so for the clever bits.

There’s a lot of talk about data – good and bad. The obvious fear is that it is more likely to be abused than used wisely. Not just in terms of privacy but it can be easily used instead of intelligent insight.

The quality of thinking is still high, even if clients are less inclined to pay for it, but a gripe from the more experienced creative is that most of our industry is owned by bean counters. No disrespect to Martin Sorrell, but when the biggest voice of the creative industry is an accountant, you really have to wonder what happened? I guess ourselves, to use the script from V is for Vendetta, “To see who is to blame you only need to look in a mirror.”


One message was the importance of focusing on outcomes not just on techniques, technologies or channels. Even though the world is changing, basic human needs, desires and behavior changes little. If you start with the key outcome – “how do I deliver joy to the consumer” – then you naturally work your way back and may find a better way to communicate and engage them.

The trouble is, the methodology still used by much of the ad industry, starts with the channel, or more progressively, technology.


Of the many talks about the future of the industry (and there were many points made during our day of talks on creativity in social business) one of the more interesting was from the Wharton Fellows Program based in University of Pennsylvania.

Yoram Wind, Professor of Marketing, introduced us to several methodologies including RAVE:





It’s an adaption of other more established methodologies, but AGILE CHOPS, despite having too many elements and an unusual name, was more interesting. It is their model for a future process of thinking.

A – orchestrate superior experiences across ALL touch points. However, the problem is clients love silos and don’t communicate enough between those silos. What agencies need to do is encourage them to set up a ‘linker’ role, to connect the silos and improve cross thinking.
G – global local. Most big brands are opting for global bland campaigns but these need to be adapted to local needs and cultures.
I – Insight and data – it’s still core to all good marketing. Know your audience, what they think, what they feel, not just what they do.
L – live – we live in a time when we expect real time delivery, brands need to respond quickly and be able to go out with live messaging.
E – extended and open innovation – technology is challenging us to do more.

C – context – we all know we need to think about the context of where the message is conveyed. Right place, right time, right frame of mind is still one basic that will never change.

H – human emotions – brands need to remember we are dealing with people, not numbers on a chart. Real people have emotions and they use them to purchase.

O – on demand – consumers want information, answers, insights – they are calling the shots and they want it now.

P – prioritise adaptive experimentation – simple put, test and learn.

S – social impact – how brands are valued within modern society. Ethics is becoming key to a brand’s ethos. It not what you say but what you do that defines a brand these days.

I think there are a number of things missing, especially in the area of co-creating and customer input, but the list is long enough.


Of course there are the threats to the industry as well – legislation – technology filters to create ad free zones, consumer confidence – especially over data – and the most obvious – there’s simply too much noise out there. Being the one ad a consumer notices, remembers and acts on is getting harder.

Thankfully we have got past the “old media is dead,” though I did hear one comment, “digital is dead, the app is king.” Thankfully we live in a world where they can all survive and work together.

Next year I think there should be a day dedicated to future thinking, discussion and debate, featuring those in the industry, who like myself, are challenge conventional thinking and developing new ideas.

No one knows where the industry will be in 5 or 10 years. It’s proven time and time again to surprise us. Some basics will remain but as an industry we also need to take more control of our destiny. As a former chair of both the DMA Agencies Council and the Creative Council, I am all too aware that we are good at talking but when it comes to the walk we need to take a lot more action. It’s our industry and if we don’t take control of our destiny, we’ll only have ourselves to blame.



  • Rick Pullan

    Great summary Chris, probably not a lot of surprises but the
    message thread is clear.  The reality is balancing
    being influential on our destiny and getting the revenue out of clients for
    what they are prepared to pay for, when non contracted suppliers give so much
    expertise free in the melee to be heard and noticed.