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Cannes 2018: Why I Want to Hear Less About ‘What’


INFLUENCER: Constantin Bjerke says conversations about advertising should start bottom up and Cannes 2018 is the place to do it

Cannes 2018: Why I Want to Hear Less About ‘What’
Last year, the comment that, “In 2019, 80% of the internet will be video content”, weighed heavily on advertiser’s minds. 2019 is not far away and as the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity draws closer, many are debating how content can really stand out in a tsunami of oncoming video content.

WARC and the AA reported that, in 2017, the 4.3% rise in UK ad spend was largely driven by internet (up 14.3% over the year). Within this, mobile formats ad spend rose 37.3%. Figures are set to rise again in 2018 and that statement about video is presenting an exciting prospect for companies who know how to make film that stands out from the crowd. 

Recently, Nils Leonard made an incredibly salient point when he opened his new agency, Uncommon, with former Grey partners Lucy Jameson and Natalie Graeme: “People wouldn’t care if three quarters of the world’s brands just disappeared, and they’re paying money to avoid what we spend our lives making. It’s too easy to skirt over the ‘skip ad’ button. ‘Skip ad’ is a warning shot. If people had a ‘skip brand’ button they’d be pressing it on 75% of the world’s brands. In this world, the best advertising doesn’t look like advertising, and the best brands don’t behave like they used to.”

I’m hoping that more of this conversation will continue at Cannes 2018. Frankly, video content is growing at an almighty rate, but our capacity to view it isn’t. People have the choice to be more selective than they’ve ever been when it comes to what they watch.

I don’t think anyone in this business is looking to create an ad that people are going to skip but the question on everyone’s lips is, how can we adapt in order for people to choose to watch ads? The industry goes back and forth between the values of digital and TV, omni channel and consolidated reach. The agency model is under debate, the awards model is being challenged and we’re all working out how to feed more value back to the end client. 

Over the past two years there has been a growing trend for magazines to open their own agencies and production companies specifically for brands. They have become experts in creating content that will reach and engage specific groups of people, communicating messages about things they are genuinely interested in. Take Condé Nast’s 23 Stories, The New York Times’ T Brand and Vice’s VIRTUE as an example. Each of these branded entertainment agencies and production companies are starting to work with brands in a much more targeted way. Why is it so effective? They focus more closely on the ‘who’ before they reach the ‘what’, when it comes to creating content.

Having built my own culture and lifestyle video magazine,, I’m a staunch believer that marketing and advertising needs to become editorially driven and audience first. We should be creating content that bridges the gap between what brands want to say and what people want to hear. What’s more, this opens the doors for more interesting creative.

If you are pushing a campaign with the aim of creating awareness on a large scale, then the main focus of said campaign is likely to be the ‘what’. Whilst a target audience has always been a key consideration in advertising, the problem is that, most of the time, the insight to please a mass audience often has to be generic - and many people will inevitably switch off from that. In order to really engage people, the ‘what’ should stem from the ‘who’.  

The advertising creation process should be journey driven. When it is process driven, you can end up in the situation where no one in the value chain is truly invested in the outcome. Coming from an editorial background, my opinion has always been that, to create an advert, we should start with the user - the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’:
1. Who do we want to talk to and convince? 
2. How do these people behave and when are they open and receptive to specific types of messaging? Is it on their morning commute? On a Sunday afternoon watching the football? At lunchtime?
3. Why would they want to communicate with us? - Do they want to eat food, get laid, be healthier, fitter, stronger? Do they want to feel certain emotions? Do they want to connect with specific cultures? 

Then last of all comes the ‘what’.
4. What do we produce that will speak to all of them? 

Ultimately, we are in the business of behavioural psychology. We’re supposedly all adapting to new trends, but how can we actually adapt to changing behaviours if the process is the same?  With many important topics to discuss at this year’s festival, I look forward to hearing what people have to say about content audiences really want to watch!

Constantin Bjerke is founder and CEO of culture and lifestyle video magazine, and branded entertainment agency and production company, Cult. 

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Cult, Fri, 15 Jun 2018 09:18:04 GMT