Move over Cannes, here comes New York.
For the 10th year in row now, Advertising Week in New York City has been climbing its way up the ladder. What started out as a small unit of New York agencies has continued to outgrow itself, year after year. But then again, this should come as no surprise given that legends like Bob Greenberg from RGA has been putting his sholder to the wheel. The 10th, latest and biggest edition ever was held from 23rd to 27th September. According to the organizers, they have reached their limit, and you can’t deny they have a point: 200 seminars, spread out over 6 stages in 4 days’ time is pretty impressive. Still, you never get the feeling it’s a mass event. In Cannes, it always seems like the advertising world takes over the Cote d’Azur for a whole week. In New York on the other hand, you get overwhelmed by the city that never sleeps.
This year, I took the decision to exchange my 13th Cannes for the unknown. A decision I did not regret for a second. Don’t get me wrong, The Cannes Lions Festival is fantastic: it’s the creativity summit or, as CEO Phil Thomas describes it perfectly, a celebration of the industry. Its raison d’être is to praise the work and the people behind it during a retrospective festive.
Advertising Week, however, does the opposite: there are no awards, no red carpet events and no fireworks. In return for a ticket, you get 200 seminars and panel discussions that look into the future. Down to earth, practical and speakers without hangovers.
There’s also a big advantage to being in New York: CEOs and worldwide CDs from the largest and most prestigious agencies stop by and talk at Advertising Week. After all, it’s just a cab drive away form their office. The same goes for companies that like to appeal to the imagination, like Google. The standards are higher and when Twitter does an innovative launch, together with Advertising Week, you know it has become a central part inside and outside the advertising world.
The biggest draw cards this year were Data, Mobile and Company Culture. Once again, the biggest lesson is that Europe still has a lot to learn. Big data is the topic of the year, but if you want to be a part of the relevant discussions, don’t go looking in Europe. According to RGA, the dust has already settled after the big data storm. And the future is all about giving data back to the consumer. Relevance has never been so important. There have never been this many opportunities to handle big data as with mobile, which was, by the way, the most interesting topic of the week. You notice that the distinction between smartphone, tablet and computer doesn’t really exist anymore. We talk about ‘screens’ and content that adapts itself to the size and location of the screen. As it should be. Striking detail: every speaker, from the 25-year-old tech guy to the 65-year-old CEO, everyone is up-to-date with the mobile reality of the world we are living and communicating in today.
Which brings us to the third pillar of Advertising Week: Company Culture. Creativity in every layer of the company or advertiser is indispensible in these times of change. The most successful cases are a result of extensive cooperation between an advertising agency and an advertiser. It is the key roll of a creative director to think ahead in the creative process. Although it is everyone’s roll to be a part of each and every step in the creative process, even at times when you are not strictly working on the project. Try to compare it with a game of basketball: at one time or another, the ball will come to you and at that exact moment, you have to be able to know what to do with it.
These are fun times for practicing our profession: everything is possible but less and less needs or has to be done. Because if there’s one thing that is key, it is relevance. (With that thought, you could ask yourself whether it’s really relevant to spend €2500 for a ticket to Cannes when you only pay €300 for a ticket to Advertising Week. Just saying…)