Many Maxus employees were lucky enough to attend the plethora of sessions taking place at AdWeek. We were inspired by the speakers and looked towards our own ways of working to identify gaps and opportunities to improve. Our PACE ethos was never far from our minds with many of us identifying pace values during the talks such as staying focused, the importance of collaboration and relevancy.
The changing landscape was a recurring topic with speakers discussing how we adapt to the changes and the growing power of the consumer. Further to this, sessions focused on ‘back to basics’ – understanding who we are as an industry and what we do alongside understanding people, their needs and wants; and ideating with discretion accordingly. This leads onto thoughts that planning needs to be better (more ambitious) faster (less pedantic and nebulous) and stronger (more effective).
To learn more about Maxus’ insights into AdWeek please read the below summaries by the people who went to the sessions.
Nile Rodgers in Conversation with Spotify –Tony Dean
It was a privilege to attend this session and hear the disco legend talk through his life as a one man musical creative powerhouse. From humble beginnings being born under Queensboro Bridge to his 13 year old mother, through to international stardom and multi-platinum selling records – this fella has seen and done it all.
Although I’m pretty confident Maxus didn’t draw inspiration for our PACE values from Mr Rodgers, during the session, it became quickly apparent that he has demonstrated these behaviours throughout his life and by doing so has become one of the most successful and respected figures in musical history. Let me expand….
Passionate – It was clear from his grin when he picked up his guitar at the beginning of the session and started riffing out a snippet of ‘We are Family’ on his beloved ‘Hitmaker’ Fender Stratocaster that he has the same level of passion for his art form as a 62 year old man that he did playing in Luther Vandross backing band as a fresh faced twenty something. “I hate silence” - the only negative he could muster when asked about his likes/dislikes. This guy lives for music no doubt.
Agile – When Rodgers broke onto the scene with Chic in the 70s, disco was BIG in every way (flares, hair, lights) however the early 80s saw a disco backlash and Chic was no more. This could have been the end of his career however he picked himself up and massively leaned into change to forge a reputation as a producer extraordinaire during the 80s. David Bowie’s ‘Let’s dance’, Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ and Daft Punk’s monster hit ‘Get Lucky’ to name but a few of his works. Disco, funk, R&B, rock, pop and dance – there aren’t many more flexible in the business.
Collaborative – As aforementioned, his collaborations have shown how some of the most successful outcomes come from teamwork. Nile Rodgers trying to do ‘Like a Virgin’ – nope. Nile Rodgers for Madonna however and you have a 25 million selling worldwide hit. One of the things that really came across during his interview was that as long as he was making great work, he was happy – who with, what style or who gets the credit was irrelevant. Great work is great work.
Entrepreneurial – "All our songs start with the chorus - which is very non-traditional”. Chic knew that that they needed to do something different to stand out from the crowd when breaking through on US radio for the first time so Rodgers and co. took the gamble by landing a big chorus from the off and hoping the listener would be hooked from then on. It worked.
Rather than learn anything new as such, this session highlighted to me that whether you are disco legend or a media planner, the PACE values apply. If you stay focused, positive and excel in each behaviour you are in with a good chance of creating industry leading work, whether that be for the disco halls of 1970s New York or the clients of Maxus.
Digital Marketing Game Changers hosted by Amobee – Alex Smith
The discussion focused on technological growth and dominance in the media industry, with the panel debating the challenges and opportunities for emerging providers when taking on the behemoths Google and Facebook. To put this into context they set the scene explaining that currently 70-80% of all tech spend will end up going through either Google or Facebook this year, the silver lining however was that they identified the ones to watch in Rubicon, Oracle and Adobe amongst others.
The panel did however identify three risks with the new players taking on Google and Facebook:
1. The upfront investment involved in competing on the same scale
2. The risks involved in stitching together tech stacks
3. Client willingness to hand over 1st party data
They also talked about in this changing landscape how the user is becoming ever wiser to the fact that publishers are mining their usage data for commercial gain, and predict that this will begin to change the way publishers adapt their business models. It was mentioned that an ever increasing amount of publishers and tech vendors are beginning to flip the marketing model on its head, creating a value exchange for sharing data/ receiving ads.
Women in Media and Sports - What rules are left to be broken? – Rachel Cawley
This week I was lucky enough to attend Advertising Week Europe. The week is dedicated to showcasing the industry’s best and brightest thought leaders alongside well known figures from popular culture such as Nile Rodgers, Rio Ferdinand and Katie Price.
Clare talked about the importance of women backing one another and working together to improve the position of women within advertising and sport. Clare was joined by Poorna Bell, Global Lifestyle Editor of The Huffington Post UK, Tracey de Groose, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network, Ruth Holdaway, CEO of Women's Sports and Fitness Foundation and Casey Stoney, Captain of GB Football Olympic 2012. The panel debated the challenges women in media and sport face and what the two can learn from each other.
Watching Clare it was clear to understand why she is such a popular presenter, she captured her audience’s attention by talking passionately about women’s limitation within sport alongside her own experiences and her desire to create sport equality.
The session was inspired by the #thisgirlcan UK campaign featuring real women. The campaign gives women the confidence to exercise and believe it is okay to sweat and go beetroot red because the results are you feel better and look better! The panel discussed the advantages for brands to invest in women’s sport - they are currently very cheap to sponsor and give a unique brand message as male sport stars are overused by brands, and this can cause the legitimacy of the relationship between the brand and the sportsmen to be questioned.
The key learning from the session was that women in sport lack support. Firstly, the low pay of professional women athletes especially when compared to average male athlete’s wage. Casey Stoney has a part time job to support her football career. Secondly, young impressionable girls who are body conscious and ashamed to exercise in public, this can be changed by campaigns that celebrate the beauty of women and exercise. Thirdly, there needs to be a greater understanding of the many roles for women in sport from commentating, accounting, lawyers to advertising. In advertising we can help support these three key areas by providing the investment and information through brand sponsorship and awareness.
Music : Make or Break ? AdVolve – The Revolution of Music in Advertising – Stephanie Marks
Given how emotive music can be in advertising it was really interesting to understand the process that agencies and clients take when finding the right music for the right film. This was the main topic of conversation so Julz Baldwin actually had most to talk about – I didn’t even realise that creative agencies had specialists in this field. Her view is that 9 times out of 10 the music is left to the very last minute, it’s a bolt on and there’s often no budget left. Think about the John Lewis ads, how successful would they have been without a beautiful soundtrack to go with it? I would guess that the team at John Lewis know this and probably approach their process slightly differently. Budget is critical; it determines what you can afford – you want a hit from the charts, or a classic track, its hundreds of thousands of pounds, and therefore you need to plan for it. And the cardinal sin? When clients ask you to get something made cheaper ‘which just sounds a bit like Beyoncé….’ Music requires creativity too and clients need to realise its importance in the process of making great advertising.
What if you’re an artist, how can you benefit from this world? Clement Marfo who performed ‘Champion’ fell on his feet when his track was used around the Olympics, it became a bit of a theme for the Games and was used in hundreds of montages. He certainly found his fame this way and monetised his property further than just record sales, however this was more by opportunity than design.
Alex Joseph had a different experience, he worked with film makers where the sound is treated just as highly as the script or the set or the actors involved. His job sounded really interesting and thinking about sound and the difference it can make to a piece of footage was incredible – I think as a punter you take this for granted and don’t really realise what planning and debate has gone into this.
Miles Lewis was probably the least creative (sorry Miles), but he was able to add data to the argument; knowing how many times Shazam is used to identify tracks in modern culture and advertising and how much more important the sound is becoming as advertisers use Shazam as a mechanic to interact with consumers.
Was it a good session? I think it could have been better. Each of the people on the panel were experts in difference aspects of music and I don’t think we got to explore as much we would have liked about each of their areas of expertise – possibly as a result of the chair who could have been better prepared. It was a small venue with not many people there and when Clement Marfo performed his track at the end and asked for audience participation, I wasn’t the coolest in the crowd and it made me a little uncomfortable….
Print will still thrive in the new age of news – Alex Grieves
In the world of the always-on news cycle, citizen journalism and social media reign, does traditional print news still have a role? The short answer is ‘yes’. In a panel discussion around ‘the new age of news’, representatives from the Times, the Mirror and the Wall Street Journal discuss how news is taking new dynamic forms to better cater to fragmented and increasingly complex audiences. While social media is increasingly where stories ‘break’ and digital platforms are where commentators swiftly react to stories, it is still print where the news is carefully curated and reflected upon. To key audiences loyal, it is crucial for news organisations to understand how different channels engage their different audiences and how this evolves over the course of a day as well. A publisher, social and emerging platform strategy are all crucial for new organisations as they diversify when, where and how they disseminate stories each day.
Adland in 2020: Break down process, foster creativity, get things done – Alex Grieves
A few highlights from some of the best industry thinkers on what we need to remember to progress the ad industry:
1. Never forget our work at its core. It’s what we’re here to deliver on (Robert Senior, Saatchi & Saatchi)
2. Collaboration is key – it’s about being greater, together (Tracy De Groose, Dentsu)
3. Creativity is about survival, about destroying processes and egos and never letting the past be an excuse for not being better in the present (Nils Leonard, Grey London)
4. Planning needs to be better (more ambitious), faster (less pedantic and nebulous) and stronger (more effective) (Andy Nairn, Lucky Generals)
5. Embrace tension; out of it comes something really great (Ringan Ledwidge, Rattling Stick)
Invisible media – Alex Grieves
In his fascinating talk on ‘invisible media’ – media and technology that silently and seamlessly fits into our lives without any evidence of its existence – our very own Stuart Butler made important points about media in 2015 in beyond.
1. The Internet has brought us back to more ancient forms of storytelling: Rumours, gossip, watercooler murmurs – the Internet, and social media in particular, provides us with the modern platforms to continue some of the most traditional methods of communication.
2.Our obsession with new tech/channels has taken us farther away from the consumer: In our efforts to provide ‘high tech’ solutions, ‘media firsts’ or create something ‘innovative’, we often forget that we are trying to create better experiences for people than they had before. Human, not smart, tech will win.
3. Perhaps we move away from 'big ideas' to ways of behaving in diff contexts: In the age of fragmented experiences, agility is key. Brands’ ability to adapt to consumer contexts and deliver something interesting, meaningful and relevant will be more important than ‘big ideas’ that fail to flex with the people who are meant to buy into them.
In the era of hype around the latest technologies, Stuart’s points are on point as to how we remember to create better human experiences founded on timeless human truths – and how media can help us do this better.
Jimmy Carr and Rory Sutherland – Christina Sorensen
I saw the Rory Sutherland and Jimmy Carr talk hosted by Ogilvy. The talk was about the role of humour in advertising today. Jimmy’s perspective was that brands don’t utilise humour enough these days in the fear of offending people. He’s view was that advertisers should be less scared and worry less about the actual impact the ads have on people .One point I thought was very interesting is that it’s often middle to upper class people that get offended on behalf of the ‘lower’ classes subject to the joke – something Carr sees as very patronising behaviour.
One of their ideas was to utilise comedians more when writing advertising copy. Sutherland and Carr did however agree that there might be limitations to this as ads often needs to appeal to an international market, and that humour tends to vary a lot between nations.
Is Razor Fish Right? That Advertising is as effective as a part of Value Exchange – Erin Hughes
The discussion was based on using advertising as a way to entice consumers to unlock content. The bulk of the discussion focused on the positive and negative examples of how this should be conducted especially in a world where consumers so actively try to avoid averts by Skipping a pre Roll or clicking out of a pop up advert in an Mobile App.
Unlocking content through advertising was considered to be based upon the value exchange model, for example the consumer is rewarded for watching or engaging with an advert. For example, Scrabble offered free Wi-Fi was offered once the user solved the puzzle (which was considered a positive & creative way of using this)
Alex Hughson, Media Director @ MC & Saatchi mentioned that in order to make this successful for the advertiser- this needed to be thought out properly in order to achieve the marketing objectives. There also needs to be emphasis on the value element for the target consumer and a way to boost brand recognition and not something that will be a nuisance
Overall the discussion concluded with the importance of relevancy, value, and brand representation for the reward of unlocking content
From the newsroom to the boot room – Tobi Akinkugbe
The Daily Mail invited their sports writers to deliver a unique talk on how their insight helps to add an exclusive edge to the content that they produce. On stage was former Liverpool & Arsenal stalwarts Jamie Carragher & Martin Keown, they were joined by World cup winning Rugby coach, Sir Clive Woodward. I found the talk extremely intriguing, not just because I’m a massive football fan, I was also interested to see why the Daily Mail had invested in ex pro’s to write for them. Carragher, Keown & Woodward were able to share anecdotes of their individual experiences in sport with the Mail team.
Transition - Each of them spoke about the adaption that has to be made when making the transition - ‘you’re not just a football person, you’re a media person now’ so the thinking has to be a little bit different. Barriers from previously orchestrated rivalries were formed due to affiliations as players had been let down, allowing the Mail to benefit from collective hindsight that would never have been shared previously.
Challenges - Another interesting theme was to hear how difficult it was for them to be critical of ex colleagues. Keown, in particular, spoke of his affectionate relationship with Wenger ‘like father & son’ he described. He also mentioned that the respect he had for Wenger meant that he still called him ‘boss’. So whilst part of the job is too offer uncensored opinion on the game, a big factor is also trying not to burn bridges as these are used to gain deeper access into what happens behind the scenes.
Insight - The ex-pros turned sports writers are able to offer unrivalled insight into the game as they’ve actually experienced iconic moments in sporting history. For example, Koewn spoke about what it was like to be a part of the ‘invincibles’ and what ingredients made them such a special side, or Clive Woodward who could talk about how he steered a team to a world cup winning title – was interesting to hear that he had quite a few clash of personalities in the dressing room to manage. Carragher also re-lived moments of the memorable night in Istanbul where Liverpool recorded one of the most famous come backs in Champions league history – being able to share what exactly was said in the dressing room at half time to inspire such an incredible come back.