Campaign Live: Why media cannot afford to stand still

The Media Lions will showcase the wide remits of agencies today but the industry must not rest on its laurels. Four industry chiefs talk to Arif Durrani

By Arif Durrani

Emery: ‘Too often we behave like politicians making extravagant promises’

Emery: ‘Too often we behave like politicians making extravagant promises’

This year’s contenders for the Cannes Media Lions promise to reflect the expansive remits of today’s media practitioners. As the place where the message meets the consumer, media, by its very nature, will always represent the fame and money side of the business.

But, as this year’s chair of the Media Lions judges, Nick Emery, has been at pains to highlight in the run-up to the extravaganza on the French Riviera, the media business is also the place where ideas should meet accountability. Stunts are not enough. He has urged the judges to look beyond the glitz and glamour to reward the connection of data, insight and execution that makes media so compelling. Great ideas should work at scale. 

The rise of the Maths Men does not necessitate the decline of the Mad Men – and nor should it. The Cannes Lions are a celebration of creativity in technology, content and invention – and the Media Lions straddle all three like no other category. We speak to Emery and ask three other industry leaders to identify three salient trends in media.

Nick Emery, global chief executive, Mindshare Worldwide; chair, Media Lions 2015

We have a collective schizophrenia. On one hand, media is limitless, every­thing begins and ends in media and brand reputations go up and down on the barometer of Google, Facebook and Twitter. On the other, pricing has to be rock bottom and media agencies are seen as suppliers of a commodity with the increasing pressure to act as principal and to assume the risk of fluctuating prices years in advance. 

If you explain this to friends who work outside our industry, they think you are nuts. Can clients really say: "Bring me something new, make it a breakthrough, make it drive sales but, above all, make it cheap…"?

This week, we can take a breath. We can celebrate the risk-takers who do their jobs with conviction and who want to work together for the joy of building something new. We work in this business because we want to create things, not produce endless spreadsheets and pricing grids – important though they are.

Cannes is a rare opportunity for us all to come together and, perhaps this week, we can begin to reset and create a new approach to collaboration.

For media agencies, this means believing in ideas and competing on invention, not price. Pursuing performance-based, measurable outcomes rooted in data science and not cheap gross rating points. It means behaving with honour and honesty. It means under-promising and over-delivering. Too often we behave like insane politicians making ever more extravagant promises to try to win over a sceptical electorate, rather than believing in the power of our ideas and our talent.

For media owners, this means collaboration, not waging war with competing and confusing walled gardens. The digital superpowers need to stop their cold war and realise that getting it right for advertisers might just be the key to getting it right for society. Apple, Facebook and Google are defined by successful competition. Their opportunity is to know when competition stops and where collaboration for the greater good begins. The first step is working together towards a common currency. This has been our bedrock for generations and, without it, nobody wins. Take a lead, come together this week and agree a standard.

For clients, this means trust – having faith that your agencies are there to serve you and create the distinction you deserve. There is a reason why Nike always gets great work. Nike leads by example, it is all about the work and nothing gets in the way.

I hope that the Media Lions winners this week celebrate the bold ideas that work, not one-off stunts. Great ideas should work at scale, not be limited to one-off copy tests or novelties designed to win awards. The Media Lions are about ideas rooted in media, created, planned and executed by media people wanting to break conventions. They are about the rigour of media combined with off-the-wall invention and effective delivery.

This week, we should remember why we started in this business – it’s the work, stupid.

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