Desperately seeking inspiration: the annual pilgrimage to Cannes

After the last award was handed out, the last inspiring words uttered, the last connections made and the final party wound down, the sun finally set on an intense week for the marketing world. As this was my second year running to attend, it got me thinking about how the event has become a great beacon of inspiration for an ever-changing marketing world.  A pilgrimage of sorts for marketers yearning to reignite that love for what they do, get inspired from the world class list of speakers and meet some of the most forward thinkers in our industry.

Heading back home, here’s what stood out for me:

Don’t interrupt, entertain!

In an ad bloackable and skippable world, there is a new expectation for brands to constantly entertain. We have come a long way from pushing messages to people just because they have no choice but to hear what we want to tell them. The power has completely shifted and it’s time for us marketers to focus our efforts in making sure that entertainment is at the core of every brand. Every brand must find its platform and think, act and behave like an entertainment brand, producing work that makes people react. Makes them feel something. And ultimately makes them want to associate with your brand and share with their network.

It’s a quality game, not a quantity game

To us marketers the digital world has given us a whole new array of platforms and tools to better reach our potential business audiences and engage with them in ways we had never seen before. We as an industry have taken this as an invitation to include ourselves into conversations that we were never truly invited to, creating the overused buzzword: “real time marketing” and pushing a quantity game versus a quality game. There are too many brands that are aimlessly wanting to produce more, forgetting the power of an actionable insight that holds their “big idea” campaign together. Every single case that was shortlisted into the Cannes Lions had one thing in common; they were rooted in an insights that transcended platforms and connected the brand to their business potential target seamlessly and in an entertaining manner.

If you can’t beat the big 2, adapt to them

Ever since Facebook and Google began their invasion of the media and marketing world, it started a love/hate relationship with agencies and brands. At the rate that things have been progressing, the big 2 have already started capturing the lion’s share of marketing budgets; which is expected as that’s where people are these days. The forecast is for them to get even stronger and more dominant over the next couple of years as they diversify their offering and analytics. Now this mainly impacts agencies, as both companies offer brands a self-serve system cutting out the middle men, which has put pressure on the big marketing conglomerates’ profitability. To be better prepared for the future the only way to survive is to accept this new status quo and adapt agency offering around what the big 2 are capable of delivering as opposed to fending them off.

AI, the next step change in humanity

It took a little over a decade for us to see how the development of the smartphone changed our lives forever. We are now witnessing the same with artificial intelligence. As the technology develops, we are seeing many companies invest in AI as it becomes smarter, faster and easier for people to use. Whether be it IBM’s Watson, Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana they have all become so powerful that they currently have learning capabilities and are able to perform redundant tasks in seconds that used to take people several hours and days. In the coming 10 years this will highly impact the jobs that people do and how they live their lives running errands, ordering food, playing music and even driving their cars. The next step would be to see how brands interact with AI, when it’s them calling the shots on what products to recommend and purchase.

Partnership, not client/agency relationship

Procter & Gamble’s Chief Brand Officer had the stand out talk for me. He came out on stage with nothing more than wanting the industry to get its act together and get back to getting great work done. The client/agency relationship has gone through so much strain and blame over the past couple of years as agencies continued to get their hands around the complexities of the changing landscape. One thing he made clear is that the client/agency relationship must transform into a partnership and that note alone is refreshing to hear from one of the world’s most active advertisers. Agencies must restructure their teams to become an extension of their clients’ marketing functions and aim for the same business objectives.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity is the best place for any marketer to fall in love with the industry once again. Especially when the entire focus of the event in recent history is all about getting great work done around powerful insights, leveraging analytics and technology, to drive business growth for brands.


About Author

Fadi Maktabi

With over 10 years of experience in media and marketing, Fadi Maktabi has developed a skillset for driving clients’ businesses forward with integrated marketing and communications planning. After graduating from the American University of Beirut in 2006, Fadi joined OMD UAE to work on the PepsiCo account and quickly excelled at growing the business. In 2009, Fadi moved to OMD Cairo to lead the account for North Africa. Throughout his tenure in the business, Fadi developed the account from a primarily offline one to the integrated approach that is used to manage its communications planning today. In 2012, Fadi returned to OMD’s MENA headquarters to manage the PepsiCo business for the entire region, overseeing 14 markets and 19 brands in the portfolio. Over the years, Fadi has strived to bridge the gap between offline and online media, while ensuring that brand strategies are kept at the heart of every marketing initiative. Today, he extends this skillset and experience in every single market to provide strategic outlooks for all client portfolios at OMD MENA.

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