Here’s what happened at 2018’s Festival of Marketing

A recap of the event from our man in London, Andrew Kelly.

Last week, marketers, brands and agencies all around the UK descended on Tobacco Dock in London’s East End for Marketing Week’s annual Festival of Marketing event. The juxtaposition between what was once an open-air Victorian shopping mall and the sessions and keynotes on emerging martech, adtech and the evolution of the industry is a fitting metaphor for many of the conversations and discourse at the two-day gathering. Among the speakers were Sir Martin Sorrell, Executive Chairman at S4 Capital, Facebook’s VP Northern Europe, Steve Hatch, and ITV’s chief executive, Dame Carolyn McCall. So, what took place? Quite a lot.

“Faster, better, cheaper.”

That’s what clients are willing to spend more money on, and where the advertising and marketing industry is going, at least according to Mr. Sorrell. This is driven by the tremendous pressure facing clients these days, citing in-housing, transparency and the nature of and how the work is being awarded. For his new venture, S4 Capital, he’s doubling down on three crucial areas — content, first-party data and digital media planning — warning that legacy companies and traditional media, like TV, are on the decline. Dame Carolyn McCall, chief executive of ITV, an integrated UK producer and broadcaster, doesn’t see it that way. She argues that the term “legacy” is “bandied around”. One of ITV’s pillars is investing in their direct-to-consumer platform, HUB, where quality and mass reach are delivered to customers in a brand-safe environment, where they can buy products, go to events, and consume content wherever and on any device. “We are really a digital business,” said McCall, adding that ITV is “growing about 40% a year”. Not too shabby.

The Agency Model is Changing.

Arguably, it always has been. On the one hand, you have traditional holding companies, who, according to Mr. Sorrell, are heading in the same direction toward becoming one firm. “They’re all making omelettes. They’re all breaking eggs,” he said. On the other hand, you have highly niche pockets of expertise acting more as consultants rather than as agencies. Much of the shift is happening within the context of highly knowledgeable experts designing bespoke solutions that lead to longer-lasting partnerships, creating “relationships that are much less confrontational,” so said our very own Terry Hunt of The Future Customer. He added that on the bell curve of marketing services, suppliers have been forced to serve the middle ground, “where many generalists are feeling the squeeze”. The key, offered Hunt, is for agencies is figure out how they can deliver high added value that leads to more work, more projects, more trust between supplier and client. Quality and value over thinly stretched capabilities.

CX: Customers don’t care that much.

Those are strong words from a customer experience professional. Sanjit Badhan, Founder of BasesysOne, said that customers really aren’t all that concerned about the customer experience at its core. “They’re just busy living their lives. It’s when customers hit an issue. That’s when it matters,” said Badhan. He’s not entirely wrong. After all, most good technology is about hygiene — you expect it to work. Putting the customer first and thinking of when in the customer journey you can alleviate pain points is fundamental to getting it right. For example, if you’re an insurance company, it might be when your customers make a claim. If you’re a retailer, it might be when they make a return. It’s those entry points into the experience that make the difference. Those are the ones that count. And perhaps most importantly, the customer experience isn’t just about technology. It’s also about culture. As marketers heading into 2019, we need to ask ourselves a key question: are we creating cultures where the customer is front and center? Because, as Badhan put it, “sometimes it’s not the technology that is failing the customer”.