ADAPT TO SURVIVE, A LESSON FROM CANNES

David Madden

The Cannes Lions Festival is more than just a celebration of 'International Creativity' and pan-continental networking opportunity; it provides a perfect metaphor for how the advertising industry has had to evolve to meet the challenges of an ever-changing marketplace.

At the beginning of my professional career I worked for an international advertising agency in London.  The agency was a ‘full service’ house, providing clients with everything from the creative ideas, to the fully realised adverts – whether print or broadcast – and purchasing the advertising space.  I worked in an art department of 10 people, producing print adverts on draughtsman’s boards, learning a craft that had changed little in decades.

Now, full service houses are an anachronism and the work of 10 skilled draughtsmen can be carried out by one or two people working on a Mac.  In the department I worked in, one person saw that coming, bought himself an early Macintosh and learned the skills that enabled him to adapt to a changing world.  I was young and went on to university, but many of my former colleagues failed to change and found their skills increasingly sidelined and superfluous.

Not only has technology changed; the marketplace is unrecognisable.  The rise of the internet and expansion of terrestrial and satellite broadcasting has fragmented the marketplace in a way that could not have been imagined in the ‘golden age’ of advertising.  Consumers, conversant with new media in a way that simply didn’t exist 10 years ago, have become ever-more savvy and simply won’t settle for average.

I’ve had fascinating conversations this week with advertisers who have embraced a new way of working, no longer precious about keeping work ‘in-house’ but actively working with crowd-sourcing companies like ‘MoFilm’ to cast their creative nets wide and work with the best talent around the world.

20 years ago, Cannes was an almost exclusively advertising-focused event.  There are those in the sector who still begrudge the arrival of other creative industries at ‘their party’, and there are those, like some of the people I have been lucky enough to meet this week, who embrace it.  We can have no way of knowing how the market will change again in the next 20 years, but we can have a good idea of who will be around to capitalise upon it.

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