News broke that the WIFI went down on launch night and people with tickets couldn’t get in. So come Tuesday morning we were a little nervous as we made our way to the train. After a sardine ride in the underground and an hour queuing we finally got in.

Day one for me was all about the climate of the advertising industry. There were two talks: 

  • “State of the advertising nation” with Maurice Levy CEO Publicis Groupe
  • “Will everything we know about advertising soon be irrelevant” with Maurice again (busy chap), Gary Briggs (CMO Facebook) and Tom Davis (Forbes).

I’m going to manage your expectations right now, what was discussed you will have probably heard before. However, when it comes from a CEO of Publicis Groupe and the CMO of Facebook then it’s reassuring that those debates you’re having are the right ones. There was also a lot of shirking from all parties during the discussions especially when it came to the duopoly of Google and Facebook and how agencies are dealing with the current climate. Everyone was keeping their cards very close to their chest.

Maurice talked about the importance of targeted communication in the digital era and had a little dig about how unhelpful Facebooks algorithms are, which didn’t go unnoticed in the crowd. However there was an appreciation from the advertising and media industry that Facebook and Google have really challenged industries to reinvent themselves, from media, to agencies and content publishers. To paraphrase the speakers; we all now need to move fast and adapt at pace.

Talent was discussed as a problem particular for agencies who need to hire people that harness two things; an understanding of technology and a passion for creativity.

The challenge agencies face today is students are growing up seeing start-up as the new glamour industry and agencies now have to work out what their appeal is to attract and retain. Maurice touched on Publicis’s activity within the tech industry outlining how they’ve invested over €10 million in “acceleration labs” and digital start-ups, discussing one that came from an Israel developer, who is creating a piece of software for a Healthcare provider that detects early forms of skin cancer.

Then came the chat on ad blocking. “Ad blocking has been a wakeup call to the advertising industry” stated Maurice. Maurice welcomed ad blocking and challenged both brands and agencies to create communications that have a real benefit to the consumer rather than the current intrusive nature by which they’re being repeatedly served in same type executions across all channels.  

Facebook’s Gary Brigg (ex Google and Pepsi) finished up by talking about how the fundamentals of marketing are now more prevalent than ever and we should remain calm in knowing that they will probably ring true for years to come. I sighed with some relief and moved on to watch a very lame interview with Luis Figo and Ronaldinho promoting some football app who both looked as if they had a very heavy night previously.

Day two is all about the fallout from the election and virtual reality. There’s a joke in that sentence somewhere.

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