Actually, yes we Cannes
A view from Peter Mears

Actually, yes we Cannes

Forget the negative talk about agencies being on the back foot at Cannes Lions 2018. Peter Mears of Havas Group Media left feeling positive, pragmatic and focused on partnership.

Negativity is contagious. Once people start to talk down a market, stock tends to plummet as investors get the jitters. Negative thinking can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But positivity is infectious too, and leaving Cannes this year I think there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful so I’m looking on the bright-side and determined to spread the word that the end is not nigh.

The industry has had a pretty complex few years to say the least: talk of clients taking work in house, the apparent invasion of the management consultants, automation overload and the increasingly close relationship of clients to media owners directly.

It’s easy to feel that agencies have had their day and we should all pack up and go home.

But I see it differently. Spending a week in Cannes meeting clients and partners, seeing the work at the Palais and debating our collective business challenges - there’s so much to be excited about.

Each of us is driving change differently, for Havas, now within Vivendi we see a bright future for communications, content and data working ever closer for better results.

We’ve never worked in a more dynamic time.

Yes it’s challenging, yes there’s disruption, yes we have to do things differently. But this is a moment when media and marketing can literally change the world: how people interact is more powerful than ever, how social good can be spread so rapidly and how creatively all this change can be deployed should be inspiring far more than it’s depressing.

I’m proud of ideas like the Palau Pledge from our own network that was so highly recognised at this year’s festival, concepts like Project 84 and Trash Island all show that media can move people and organisations to act together.

So yes, I’m positive. But I’m also pragmatic. This dynamism DOES require us to change and do things and differently, and that requires a new way or working together.

Agencies have promised too much

Agencies have perhaps been guilty of over promising and clients of "hyper-expectation".

We cannot solve some of the new complexities over-night. We have to be realistic about that. And our tone with clients needs to reflect this – we can’t work magic, we don’t have all the answers.

If our client’s businesses are defined by this era of disruption, then I believe ours as agencies, will be defined as a new paradigm of collaboration: revenue streams that used to be core to us are now tasks we share with our clients, with technology partners and with media platforms.

A great deal of our value as agencies lies in navigation and communication. A new kind of dialogue with our clients which sets a tone of realistic optimism is what true partnership should feel like.

We’ve got to be pragmatic. Yes, it will be a new challenge each day. We have to reinvent the wheel so frequently and learn new skills, find new talent, tackle new disruption.

But isn’t that what makes it interesting?

Reinvention makes our working lives fun, dynamic and creative.

I’m not packing up just yet, I’m staying for the ride and my sense from Cannes is that a lot of you are with me…

Peter Mears is global chief executive of Havas Group Media