Adland Swarms on London at Advertising Week Europe and D&AD
The dazed pavement-blocking tourists of London’s Piccadilly Circus found their ambling and generally obstructive vacation style dramatically shaken up this week. Like a pot of sticky jam, the arrival of Advertising Week Europe at the Picturehouse Central has attracted a swarm of creatives, PRs, journalists, strategists, marketers and contrarian Formula 1 bosses. They have lanyards and they don’t have time to wait for three-generation families to look up from their ‘Guide à Londres’ and move out the goddamn way. The energy is palpable as adlanders dart between office and venue, trying to get a seat in the juiciest talks whilst getting their day jobs done. With the D&AD festival and judging taking place in the latter half of the week, it definitely feels like the global ad industry is in town.
Ad Week is only on its third day and already it’s hit the headlines in the national newspapers. Executive director Matt Scheckner has Bernie Ecclestone and his, uh, idiosyncratic views about Vladimir Putin to thank for that. Dear reader, we were there. The interview between Sir Martin Sorrell and the F1 CEO triggered more sharp intakes of breath than a high pollen count at an asthma convention. In the arms race of controversial and tenuously relevant celebrities at ad festivals, Bernie Ecclestone may have taken Kanye West’s crown. (Who, I can’t help but wonder, has deep enough pockets and big enough cojones to bring Trump on stage?). To make things more awkward – and a detail that may have been lost amid the scandal – Sir Martin was gently trying to get Bernie to talk about the suffering F1 brand and why marketers should consider becoming sponsors. The theme of the day, though, was kamikaze self-sabotage; having taken down Europe, all immigrants ever and women drivers, Bernie turned the guns on F1.
Aside from the celeb names drawing in the bigger crowds and, let’s face it, generating more scandalised gossip – boxer David Hayes, Eddie the Eagle director Dexter Fletcher, Dynamo – there’s also been some useful industry-related insight. Channel 4’s Chief Marketing and Communications officer Dan Brooke called out adland for its appalling track record of representation of disability in ads. Ad blocking companies and media agencies went head-to-head, duking it out over the industry’s new bête-noire. And in between the soul-sapping buzzwords and the tech-heads, there were still a few gems for those that remember that little word ‘creativity’. In particular, Rihanna Pratchett, the writer on the recent Tomb Raider games and titles like Mirror's Edge and Heavenly Sword, had some genuinely useful pieces of advice about interactive storytelling.
Over in East London, D&AD is about to kick off its festival and a cursory glance of the schedule reveals a slightly different tone from the more bombastic Advertising Week. Designer Paul Smith, street artist Ben Eine, interactive director Vincent Morisset, comedian Adam Buxton – hurrah, I think I’ve found the creativity!
All in all, it’s been an energising week in London. But the question of the upcoming Brexit referendum (the UK is set to vote on whether to leave the European Union in June – during Cannes, no less) has been a recurring theme during the week. This week London has (perhaps temporarily) taken New York’s place as the centre of the advertising universe – but you can’t help wonder what impact the impending vote will have on that buzz… I guess we’ll find out next year.