June 29th, 2011

Ad Festival Highlights Shift in Industry

The Wall Street Journal

The increasing convergence of advertising, entertainment and technology was a key theme last week at the 58th Cannes Lions festival, the annual global adfest set in the blazing sunshine of the Côte d’Azur.

The gathering of everyone that matters in the advertising industry has always been about rewarding the best creative ad campaigns, but as the Internet and new technologies—from Web-connected mobile phones to social networking—drastically change the way brands advertise, so the festival has also moved with the times.

Once a place where creative directors celebrated their awards over Champagne and cocktails, it has become the venue where the world’s largest ad holding companies like WPP PLC and Publicis Groupe SA meet with Web giants like Google Inc. and Facebook, and then hob-knob with major advertisers such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Unilever PLC.

This year, traditional media owners and content makers joined the throng on the famous Croisette promenade here, as Time Warner Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes, DreamWorks Animation SKG. Inc. boss Jeffrey Katzenberg and James Murdoch, News Corp.’s deputy chief operating officer and in charge of European and Asian operations, took to the stage at the Festival Palace.

News Corp. owns Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of the Wall Street Journal.

Reflecting the shifts in the industry, the event has been rebranded a “festival of creativity.”

“What is happening here is we are redefining the way all of us work together,” said Carolyn Everson, vice president global marketing solutions at Facebook.

“We love the notion of partnering with entertainment and content providers and have them think about how to make content social from the start,” she said.

“We used to be agents. Then we weren’t sure what we were, as people were terrified by the digital disruption. Now, I believe we are publishers,” said Miles Young, CEO of WPP-owned ad agency Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, as tech firms, entertainment companies, designers, copy writers and ad executives increasingly work hand-in-hand to grab consumers’ attention in new ways.

Ogilvy, like many other agencies, now produces more of its own content that goes beyond a 30-second TV spot or online video posted on Facebook. The agency is hiring more film makers and journalists to make documentaries, features and blogs to better engage consumers with a brand message.

It’s a marked change from the depths of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, when advertisers cut spending and investment in content wasn’t on the agenda. Now, ad markets are booming again.

“In the old days, we tried to squeeze these costs as much as we could. Now we are considerably increasing spending” on content, particularly in the last year, said Andy Fennell, chief marketing officer of drinks giant Diageo PLC.

“People have a lower attention span,” which calls for higher-quality content, he said.

Last year, Diageo launched a reality-TV series on Viacom Inc.-owned Black Entertainment Television in which its Smirnoff vodka brand played a key role. It also started a pan-African TV gameshow about football pitched at drinkers of Guinness stout. The show was produced in partnership with Endemol, which made its name with the Big Brother reality-TV franchise.

Hollywood’s entertainment giants and other media owners are set to play a growing role, executives said. “They need us and we need them,” said Michael Roth, CEO of New York-headquartered ad holding firm Interpublic Group of Cos.

“Advertisers have got to make cleverer ads, you have to learn from the creative industry,” Time Warner’s Mr. Bewkes told an audience.

Still, amid increasing concerns over privacy and the threat of being bombarded with ads, the question is, how far can it go?

Tham Khai Meng, Ogilvy’s chief creative officer, said blogs and documentaries are just the beginning. In the future, he said, one could even imagine a Broadway musical with a brand message. “The idea is to get inside the consumer defences. Brands can quickly be destroyed through social networks these days, so you need to sugarcoat the message.”

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304569504576405783351370582.html

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