Cannes in Cairns. How far does the marketing pendulum need to swing and is the middle enough?

June 6, 2023

Ok, we admit it. We went up to Cannes in Cairns for the sun, the beers and the networking. Silly you might say in these uncertain and tumultuous, blah, blah, blah times.

However, perhaps that was one of the best things about Cannes in Cairns. (Well done B&T by the way, it was a great few days).

Let’s be honest, ANZ is a small market, with a lot of brands and agencies. Which probably makes us more competitive than most.

However, we do all have the same challenges ahead.

Whether it’s better representing the Australian population (our industry clearly isn't based on attendees).

Growing brands in the long term, while hitting the numbers now.

Preparing for the impending data privacy changes and AI apocalypse.

Better agency and client relationships.

Or thinking deeply about how advertising dollars fund media platforms that fuel hate and cause depression.

At the end of the day, we’ve got to be in it together to push it forward.

Simply getting away, sharing war stories and enjoying some time with people that are essentially in the same boat was well worth it.

That said, and rather than a session by session account, we were struck by something much more important than crying into spilt ‘XXXX’.

Does it really matter whether you champion brand over performance, creativity over data or broadcast over programmatic (yes, we’re still divided on this stuff) when the global economy is so volatile the latter of each will probably flourish?

Admittedly, Martin Sorrell made a great case for what he sells. But in desperate macro economic times, efficiency is the status quo. As is focusing on results now rather than in the future. The promise of technology, which is normally underwhelming, seems to be the silver bullet that will save the day.

In a more grounded and honest keynote of the week, Mark Ritson called for the marketing pendulum to swing back to the middle. Be strategic before you’re tactical. You can be differentiated and distinctive. You can do brand and performance. You can be sophisticated about mass marketing. You can also target people at two speeds, now and in the future. But be clearer about who they are. The Ehrenberg Bass Institute are more like consultants than scientists. Common sense stuff, but is it enough, and does the pendulum need to swing in another direction?

The most moving were the back-to-back speeches by Stan Grant and Pinterest’s Erin Elofson. Both struck a nerve for different but related reasons.

Erin showed a causal relationship between social media and mental health in young people. Something I think we all know, but don’t like to admit.  

Stan Grant, unable to make it in person due to death threats to him and his family, gave an utterly heart wrenching account of the last few weeks. Clearly digital media and the 24/7 news cycle is doing more to fuel hatred and division than it is to bring us together.

So, it raises the question.

Even if our industry wanted to get the marketing pendulum back to the middle. Will the economic forces not only stop that from happening, but inadvertently plough money into the very same platforms, publishers and technology that make money by promoting negative attention to drive advertising spend? These things feel intertwined?

Are there many CEOs willing to use advertising spend to force the hand of certain media publishers and platforms to adopt policies that are good for everyone, in an economic climate that makes that decision hard?

The next six months will be interesting irrespective of where you swing your pendulum. But it’s worth remembering, where you swing it can have some unintended consequences. Let’s stay hopeful.

Words by Carl Moggridge.