Six things I learned at Campaign’s 2020 Breakfast Briefing

Zone’s marketing manager, Ricky Wallace, joined advertising and marketing professionals from across the land as they gathered at the Curzon Theatre in Soho today for Campaign’s Breakfast Briefing: ‘The Year Ahead 2020: Change and Grow.’

As we embark on a new decade, many brands and agencies have attempted to predict the future, so I was really intrigued to hear from the industry leaders on the panel on what they think the year has in store. Here’s what I learned:

1. Confidence, pride and love of the industry are integral to its growth

In Claire Beale’s opening address, she reiterated her global editor-in-chief’s notes in the latest edition of Campaign — advertisers shouldn’t be embarrassed of the work they do, they should take pride in it.

Let’s face it: our job is to sell things. Yet Beale told of a recent conversation with a brand marketer who said that in pitches, agencies would focus only on how ethical and sustainable they were and seemed ashamed to mention their ability to sell stuff.

Agencies need to have the confidence to showcase their strengths in growing market share and driving profits, as well as having a positive impact on the world around them. As Beale added: “These social values should be a given in any business.”

2. Good businesses do good business

This is the mantra Karen Boswell, chief experience officer from VMLY&R, lives by, and echoes Claire’s view that profit and purpose should go hand-in-hand. Consumers buy into brands they believe in, therefore brands need to re-engineer themselves to meet consumer demands. It needs to be authentic though — consumers are savvy and won’t support brands who appear to get behind a purpose for the sake it.

Nils Leonard, chief creative officer at Uncommon Creative Studio, passionately stated how every company should have a view on the world and their impact on it, a view supported by Leo Burnett’s chief creative officer, Chaka Sobhani, who said we should be “conscious and conscientious” of what more we can do to make a difference.

3. Marketers should be more obsessed with over-50s

Douglas McCabe, chief executive of Enders Analysis, gave a whistlestop tour of the consumer trends of the last decade to predict what we can expect in the years ahead. The nation is getting older, and now more than half of consumer spend comes from over-50s. Yet as marketers, we are obsessed with the youth market, which has less spending power and is the least trusting of advertising and marketing messages. The industry needs to wise up to changing consumer needs and provide quality content to a more diverse audience.

4. Are public service broadcasters safe?

Campaign’s global head of media, Gideon Spanier, interviewed Tory MP Damian Collins, a former chairman of the Commons culture committee, on the political outlook for creative industries. One of the major questions was about what the future for public service broadcasters such as the BBC looked like. Collins said (a tad unconvincingly) that the government believed in the BBC and placed its future firmly in the hands of the public — do consumers want to pay a licence fee for content that they can get from numerous other sources?

He didn’t seem convinced that the BBC’s current commercial revenue model is enough to pay for rising production costs and with the government threatening to stop licence fee evasion being a crime, the BBC we know and love could look very different in the future.

On the theme of regulating harmful content online, Collins said: “Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom of reach” and agreed that online publishers like Facebook and YouTube need to take greater responsibility for content. He raised the possibility of a new regulator ending the era of the “free pass” larger platforms have enjoyed when it comes to safeguarding the interests of their consumers.

5. Building good brands is more important than ever

Toby Horry, brand and content director at TUI UK, discussed how a marketer’s job is to put meaning behind the brand. As the landscape becomes ever more competitive, this meaning gives brands unique advantage, especially when decision making in a saturated market often comes down to cost.

As Starling Bank’s chief growth officer, Rachael Pollard understands what it means to create a new brand in a competitive market. Having received its banking licence in 2016, Starling has ambitious plans for 2020 to move into the mainstream. She discussed how brand building is about making human connections and while many brands are now more purpose-led, it should be within their fibre and not just an advertising affectation. At Starling, for example, which was founded by a woman, their mission to champion women in technology — and fight for gender equality as a whole — is intrinsically built into their DNA.

6. The biggest threat to creativity is the lack of diversity

The morning closed with a panel discussion focused on talent in the creative industries. Kate Rowlinson, CEO of MediaCom UK, shared how she’d like her business to become a “whole-brained” company. It’s a concept borne out of WPP’s Institute for Real Growth, which aims to unlock the power of data with insights and combining technology with creativity. She’s also introduced a “back to the shop floor” initiative for senior members of staff.

Sam Tomlinson, partner at PwC, believes that diversity isn’t just a moral imperative but a business one too. He’s keen to see a change in recruitment processes to hire the right people for the job rather than the “right talkers”, using the example that finding the right data scientist isn’t always possible through interviews and assessments alone.

No panel on diversity is worth its salt without Ali Hanan, CEO and founder of Creative Equals, which aims to shake up the diversity imbalance in the creative industry. The stats she reels off are astounding. Over 90% of board-level executives are men; only 16% of creative directors are women; BAME employees make up 5.5% of senior leadership in the creative sector. In 2020 and beyond, it is essential that the industry addresses this imbalance to stay relevant and prosper.

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