Advertising Week: What have we learned?

As the dust settles on Advertising Week, creativity versus data emerges as a dominant theme

With Advertising Week done and dusted, and attendees leaving the bright light chaos of Times Square to the tourists, what have been the major themes to emerge from the event? (Clue: This year, we’re not calling it the ‘Year of the Mobile’).

Big data vs. big idea

Perhaps the most dominant theme of the week was the tension between data and creativity. With the event’s schedule bulging with talks and panels on data marketing and programmatic, there was plenty of discussion about creativity in equal measure.
On Monday, Campaign global editor-in-chief Claire Beale hosted a panel on this subject, "Clash of the Titans," featuring three of the industry’s creative heavyweights: Tham Khai Meng, worldwide chief creative officer at Ogilvy & Mather; Sir John Hegarty, co-founder of BBH; and Chuck Porter, chairman and co-founder of Crispin Porter & Bogusky, giving their views on data.

The merging of mathematics and art creates agency magic, said Yannick Bolloré, global chairman and chief executive of Havas. He said that the merging of these disciplines enables fresh thinking.

In an interview with Campaign US, David Droga, founder of Droga5, said as long as there isn't bias to one of the other, data can shed light on the creative process. "I love the friction between the two," he said.

Storytelling, don’t knock it

Storytelling has become of the industry’s favorite buzzwords in recent years, but the term shows no signs of being retired anytime soon. Keith Reinhard, co-founder of Omnicom and chairman emeritus of DDB Worldwide said "telling a story that endures" rather than a "one-off stunt" will be part of the future of advertising. Despite a period of "digital distraction", brands must tell stories to differentiate and endear customers to them.

The art of great storytelling comes from "time and talent", but technology and data do not help in anyway, argued Marc Juris, president of WE tv. Speaking on the same panel, Beth Hoppe, programming chief for PBS said finding stories and content consumers will love, comes down trusting your gut instinct.

Overcoming fear

In what has become a risk-adverse business climate, there was plenty of fighting talk at Advertising Week about the need for agencies and clients to take risks. Overcoming fear enables people to become truly creative.

With a nod to the Silicon Valley, and Facebook’s "fail fast", Miles Nadal, chairman and chief executive of MDC Partners, said risk, within organizations should be rewarded. "If you aren't failing, you aren't trying."

While there was plenty of talk from about the need to push their clients to be fearless, Mondelez International's Bonin Bough and Dana Anderson discussed how marketers at large organizations can do this. Bough said that organizations have to ask how they can "break themselves" in order to emulate the fast growth of startups. Anderson, who was recently promoted to SVP and chief marketing officer at Mondelez International, said "Fearless is the only right way because of the times we are in."

Delivering a speech on bravery on a panel hosted by Droga, Coleen DeCourcey, global co-ECD at Wieden +Kennedy, partially stripped down while on stage. She did this to be vulnerable, because "creativity requires vulnerability, which requires strength."

She said that digital is "incredibly scary" to her, and it is not going to save the industry. "The connection to creativity is all we have.

She said that being vulnerable to the new, will mean "you will always find a way."

Women in advertising

The way women are portrayed in advertising, as well as the need for more women in creative leadership roles, were the subjects of discussion during Advertising Week.  Moderating a panel on Monday Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandburg, said that the industry must celebrate work that actively breaks down gender stereotypes of women, such as BBDO Philipine’s work for Pantene.

Andrew Robertson, president and worldwide CEO at BBDO Worldwide, said we are on the verge of change, and that change will stick because we are starting to see that this kind of advertising works. "It creates a stronger relationship with women, which in turns sells more stuff," he said.  

Sandburg also highlighted that just three percent of women are creatives, saying there is real "stagnation at the top".

In order for women to be successful creative leaders, however, they must learn the art of persuasion, and become "less womanly" and more "leaderly" said Charlotte Beers, former chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.

Founder of MakeLoveNotPorn and former chairman of BBH New York Cindy Gallop used her speech on the bravery panel to give a powerful speech about the need for more gender and racial diversity. She said bravery in the industry is when you see a "sea of white male faces" in the boardroom and want to change that.


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