Influencers, consultancies and the recruitment crisis: The key topics of conversation at Cannes Lions

Cannes Lions 2018: Marketers turned out in force to advertising’s biggest annual event. But away from the usual talk of purpose and creativity, some big issues such as the recruitment crisis, how advertising responds to the #MeToo movement and cleaning up the influencer marketing space were discussed.

The consultancies come to town

Technology is having a disruptive impact on marketing and nowhere is this clearer than in the arrival of the management consultancies. The likes of Accenture, PwC and Deloitte had a small showing at Cannes Lions in 2017, but they made their presence felt in 2018 not only by renting cabanas and yachts but by becoming a key topic of conversation.

There is no doubt consultants spot an opportunity to challenge the place of the agency holding groups. Speak to agencies and they will say they see no threat because consultants aren’t turning up in pitches; but that misses the point entirely. The consultants are getting in much earlier in the process with the aim of driving transformation by helping brands link up data and insights with advertising and media, and drive real business results.

As Keith Weed, Unilever’s marketing boss puts it: “New competitors can only come in to a market if there is a market gap. Of course they can acquire companies, but [the consultancies] aren’t just acquiring companies.”

It is that understanding of wider business transformation and how marketing fits in that consultancies see as a gap to exploit. And while we’re unlikely to see them going up against the major creative agencies, that focus means they can challenge on the roles of data and digital, where brands should in-house, and in media.

That is a reflection of the wider changes in the marketing industry. Digital has made it easier for brands to buy media themselves, while CMOs are increasingly in charge of tech budgets bigger than the CTO and tasked with developing an end-to-end customer experience. That means more players now want to have the ear of the CMO – whether that’s agencies, big digital players or consultancies. And that is a challenge to the hegemony of the agency holding groups.

As Dana Anderson, chief transformation officer at MediaLink, puts it: “From an agency standpoint you’re getting kind of crowded out by the amount of people who want to be players and whose business model is very different from yours.”

What that means is that in the future marketing chiefs are likely to look to more places for help. But that doesn’t mean agencies won’t be included, they will just have to find their place. L’Oréal’s chief digital officer Lubomira Rochet says: “Everyone has a place. To be credible [the brand] has to be at the centre but we will receive help from many people – startups, consultancies – because they are investing more and more in digital transformation, and our agencies are also at the heart.”

Tackling the recruitment crisis

Just as data and digital are changing the roles of agencies, so too are they changing marketers’ roles. More than ever, those in the industry need to understand data, technology and how marketing is driving business outcomes, yet Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar says finding this talent is proving difficult.

“To find the talent that understands all of these things and still wants to come and join a company which is considered to be traditional, relatively speaking, that’s the thing which we are still battling,” he explains.

One of the issues, he explains, is the “archaic” curriculum being taught at many universities. He believes marketing courses are not keeping up with the changing nature of the marketing industry. And so Mastercard is working with a number of institutions to update the curriculum, while Rajamannar invites lecturers to shadow him so they can better understand the evolution of the role and the industry.

Our industry has changed so much that the success of the company will be predicated on the quality of people we hire.

Antonio Lucio, HP

Antonio Lucio, HP’s CMO, says the issue “keeps him up at night” too and that it is changing the profile of the people he brings into the marketing function to include more engineers, more data analysts, and more mobile experts.

“It has changed the profile [of marketers] but it has also placed a burden in terms of the capabilities we need to develop internally for our more experienced, high-profile leaders,” he says. “Today, I spend about 40% of my time dealing with people, the development and capability of data issues. Our industry has changed so much that the success of the company will be predicated on the quality of people we hire.”

READ MORE: Unilever’s Keith Weed on why FMCG is like a ‘heat-seeking missile’

While L’Oréal is also hiring people from different backgrounds, or 2,000 “experts” as Rochet calls them, it has also upskilled almost 20,000 of its staff. The aim is that the company no longer sees a difference between a “digital expert and a digital marketer”, and the business is starting to see that goal take shape.

“We are starting to see cross-functional moves – people coming from digital backgrounds and going on to be general manager of a country, and people being traditional marketers starting to have digital positions. That speaks volumes.”

The #MeToo effect

The first Cannes to take place since the birth of the #MeToo movement saw gender equality and the portrayal of women in advertising become an even hotter topic of conversation.

Mars’s chief marketing and customer officer Andrew Clarke credited #MeToo with putting a “healthy dose of petrol” on the flames and igniting an even greater focus across the industry on diversity and inclusion. And Procter & Gamble chief brand officer Marc Pritchard explained how all the work around the Association of National Advertisers’ #SeeHer project proves the old adage ‘sex sells’ is an outdated concept in 2018.

He pointed to an ANA analysis of 40,000 adverts, of which 20% portrayed women inaccurately either through stereotyping, objectification or diminished character.

“I don’t think sex sells. I think it might be just the opposite, because these are negative and inaccurate portrayals,” he explained.

“There’s a business case for equality. If you just take the pay gap, women are paid 20% less than men for exactly the same job, it’s outrageous. If we close that gap McKinsey estimates that will add $28tn to the world economy, that’s purchasing power. That’s good for growth. Advertising that is more gender equal has a 10% increase in trust rating and a 26% increase in sales growth.”

During Cannes, P&G outlined its aspiration to achieve 100% accurate and positive portrayals of women in advertising and media, supported by equal representation of women and men in the creative supply chain.

Other brands at Cannes chose to share the results of their Gender Equality Measure (GEM), a scoring system devised by the ANA that rates ads or entertainment on how prominently they depict women.

Entertainment conglomerate AT&T revealed that it’s advertising had an average score of 106, six points over the 100 needed to ensure the positive portrayal of women.

Chief brand officer Fiona Carter explained that AT&T’s highest GEM scoring adverts were the best performing, leading to a 17% increase in brand recall, a 12% lift in brand consideration and an 8% rise in brand reputation.

The L’Oréal USA team uses its GEM scores in its negotiations with networks and media partners. The company has also invited a #SeeHer team in to help its marketers and agencies better understand the GEM scores and what is required for creative to score well.

“We’re ROI obsessed and we’re using these scores to build into our measurement, to make sure that when we look at ROI we also look at it from a creative standpoint and how is that impacting our sales,” Nadine McHugh, senior vice-president of omni media and creative solutions at L’Oréal, added.

READ MORE: How Glamour, Just Eat and Shell are tackling the gender gap

Influencers under the microscope

The influencer sector was put under the microscope by Unilever with a global push for greater transparency to combat fraud, improve brands’ ability to measure ROI and track authentic engagement.

CMO Keith Weed said that going forward Unilever would not work with influencers who buy followers, stated that its brands would never buy followers and that it would prioritise partners who increase transparency and help eradicate bad practices throughout the whole ecosystem.

Despite seeing a lot of value in the content influencers produce, Weed was clear that once trust is compromised the whole system will start to crumble.

“The market gets undermined if people don’t trust the amount of followers someone has,” he explained.

“If you’re engaging with someone’s recommendation because you think ‘they’ve got X many followers, so they know what they’re talking about’, but those followers have been bought, or even worse are bots, that’s deceiving.”

During Cannes the Unilever CMO convened a group, including the World Federation of Advertisers and Instagram, to discuss how to drive increased trust, transparency and integrity in the influencer market.

Instagram head of business Jim Squires underlined his company’s commitment to having a “people first” ecosystem that applies to influencers or, as Instagram calls them, “creators”.

“Creators want support to make a living doing what they do best and then marketers are seeing the value of those creators,” explained Squires.

“We’re focused first on the people side, so what we’ve done is enable everybody to tag content because we want transparency for people for whatever money is changing hands and that when the creator tags the content the marketer gets insights about how many people viewed that and how they are interacting with the best content.”

For Diageo CMO Syl Saller, the emphasis is on using big-name influencers, such as David Beckham for Haig Club whiskey or Sean Diddy Combes in the US with vodka brand Ciroc, selectively but seriously.

“It’s not just an influencer relationship. Diddy creates marketing, he is responsible for the marketing of that brand. He makes a lot of the really critical choices in terms of the comms that the consumer might see. Of course we have the final say, but we are really using his knowledge,” she explained.

Saller also highlighted the value of working with influencers who are powerful in their own space, such as mixologists around the world whose passion for creating new drinks actually shapes consumers’ tastes.

She argued that forming a “natural symbiotic relationship”, which is transparent to the consumer, is the direction of travel for influencer marketing.

Read all  of Marketing Week’s Cannes Lions 2018 coverage, sponsored by MiQ, here.  

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