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Cannes Lions 2019: Advertising, badvertising and what the future holds for the industry

On Day 5 of Cannes Lions Festival 2019, Marisa Thalberg of Taco Bell, Julia Goldin of Lego and Marc Pritchard of P&G discuss the challenges prevailing in the advertising eco system. They define the ideal ecosystem as transparent, clean and a mix of technology and creativity. They talk about the responsibility of brands and platforms in deciding the future of advertising

The future of advertising seems smeared with badvertising and the power of audiences regulating it. Amid all these challenges lies the real challenge for brands: how to weave creativity and technology for the right medium so that customers do not block it and at the same time find it relevant. With the changing eco system of advertising, a few brands are also contemplating on its very existence and a few others are finding the disruption exciting.  

On Day 5 of Cannes Lions Festival 2019, a panel that included Marisa Thalberg, Global Chief Brand Officer at Taco Bell; Julia Goldin, Global CMO at Lego, and P&G’s Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard, discussed the future of advertising in reference to how its eco system is rapidly changing. They talked about the power that platforms and brand purpose play and how regulations in the ad environment are changing its direct relationship with the audiences.

The panel started off with Pritchard arguing that advertising will not exist in the future with the regulations and due to the lack of interest of people. He quoted that seven out of 10 people say ads are annoying, 40% of women think ads don't accurately represent them because of stereotyping objectification, or diminish character. Traditional television advertising reach is declining, digital ads are still growing and at the same time ad blocking is growing, and over-the-top streaming with no ads is exponentially increasing.

He suggested it is necessary to merge the ad world with other creative worlds to reinvent advertising and in the future brands will attempt to become more entertaining and be part of stories that will bring what they do to life in an organic way. Pritchard defined the ideal ecosystem as a creative world that is clean and transparent. “We need to reimagine creativity to reinvent advertising. We need to take the ad world and merge it with other creative worlds, like the world of film, music, journalism, technology, to reinvent advertising, and engage people in a way that's useful, entertaining, interesting. And to the point where they literally look forward to the next engagement on the brand,” he said.

Echoing the challenge in the advertising world, Goldin predicted that in the coming time, customers will have a lot more control over what content they engage with and which brands they engage with. “It sets the bar very high for marketers. What's ultimately going to be super important is the holistic experience, holistic engagement for customers, which channel is going to go on and it's going to depend on what the ideas are,” she added.

She said that with emerging new data tools, such conversations are not difficult to carry on in boardrooms. “Data is so powerful if used in the right way. We need to understand how to use the data, to be able to see the value of all these different activities and not to be so afraid to make changes,” she added.

Thalberg, who called the future challenges as opportunities, said brands’ presence on the right medium and good storytelling should be enhanced, and blamed badvertising for the audiences’ reluctance to watch them. 

She added, “The fact that advertising has been disrupted is what's made it both incredibly exciting and complicated. Brands can now own audiences. A lot of advertising is bad and junk is there. We all have an imperative to really do our best to think about how good storytelling looks like in every medium.”

The panel discussed various platforms and mediums’ share of responsibility since they have a direct relationship with consumers. Goldin and Pritchard said brands need to take more responsibility while working with platforms, both individually as brands, but also collectively as an industry. Goldin said when brands work with platforms separately, that isn’t to the advantage of the consumer or brands to end up with a lot of repetitive messaging out there.

“This needs to be changed in how we work with platforms and the level of responsibility that platforms need to take to ensure that the digital environment is safe, both for adults, especially for kids,” she added.

Thalberg spoke how Taco Bell has a business of scale and mass, it is unthinkable for the brand to not partner with the largest mass platforms, including digital. Calling these platforms flawed but at the same time amazing sources of connection with customer, she said brands need to think about what a good partnership looks like.

Apart from this, brands continuously talk about being purposeful for building their connection with audiences. Has purpose gone too far for brands in advertising?

Addressing brand purpose, and how brands can be a source for good, Goldin argued that purpose isn’t just about interesting ads that have a point of view but includes issues such as sustainability and digital safety. Building on the same, Pritchard said businesses and brands have a great effect on culture and sustainability, so brands have a responsibility to act in a way that is good for the economy.

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