Where was the work at Advertising Week Europe?
A view from Chris Pearce

Where was the work at Advertising Week Europe?

Advertising Week Europe should also embrace how brilliant commercial creativity can give clients the edge, asks TMW Unlimited's CEO.

As the Advertising Week Europe circus leaves town for another year (and possibly the years that London will continue to host it are limited if its founder Matt Scheckner is to be believed), it’s time to reflect on what we’ve learned.

The big news of the week was Google’s Matt Brittin issuing an apology for the inappropriate and offensive content that some advertisers have found themselves attached to on the platform. While some say that the apology had to be squeezed out of him, and it seemed a bit half-hearted, at least Brittin turned up to face the music. Let’s see if the action he promises delivers on what advertisers and agencies need. 

But what was missing was something that its organisers would also do well to borrow from the annual shindig to the French Riviera – where on earth was the work? 

Elsewhere we learned about paid-for social media strategies, millennials (of course), leadership, in-house agencies and virtual reality. This is just a selection of some of the multiple, and occasionally seemingly random, sessions that were available on the itinerary, which was almost as packed as the Picturehouse itself (the queues to get into some sessions were worthy of the Cannes International Festival of Creativity).

But what was missing was something that its organisers would also do well to borrow from the annual shindig to the French Riviera – where on earth was the work? While it was at times good to wallow in Advertising Week Europe’s deep bath of technological platforms, Artificial Intelligence, as well as hear from some pretty good speakers (and celebrities) on challenges that we face, such as Brexit, what was noticeably missing was the advertising. This means that the event has something of a misnomer.

Advertising Week Europe has grown like Topsy in the five years since its launch and its sessions and venue have improved noticeably beyond the programmatic souk it resembled in its initial iterations. However, with only the barest nod to creativity (and an absence of many parts of the creative community), it doesn’t really wholly represent the advertising world. Rather it is a celebratory festival for media buyers and media owners, with creativity put at the very fringes.

Obviously ad agencies have our own chance to celebrate the best of European and global creativity at both Eurobest and Cannes itself, in a couple of months time. But wouldn’t it be great if Advertising Week Europe also embraced, even if in a minor way, how brilliant commercial creativity can give clients the edge – I’d argue that this is at least as important, if not more so, than making sure that media strategies are aligned in bridging the consumer journey from TV to digital.

As well as sating curious creative minds, and encouraging more of the creative community to attend, it would help establish Advertising Week Europe as the powerful creative pan-European hub that this country could need in the post-Brexit era – and not just be an annual circus.

Chris Pearce is the chief executive of TMW Unlimited