Ad Week must hear from the money and the magic
A view from Claire Beale

Ad Week must hear from the money and the magic

Two big preoccupations this week: first, the Nielsen billings tally for last year and our accompanying School Reports; second, the Advertising Week Europe roadshow that’s been rumbling through town for the past few days.

The two are of course related. The first deals with the structure of our industry and the trajectory of its key players; the latter is focused on how we’d like to be seen, what line we’d like our collective trajectory to take.

If there’s one general takeout from the School Reports, it’s that we’re in reasonable shape, considering where we’ve been over the past few years. I think there are many more agencies that will now be looking back with relief, and forward with confidence, than otherwise.

Meanwhile, down at Ad Week, everyone’s buttoned and braced and jazz-handing, showcasing the stuff they hope is going to make them look like they know what they’re doing – though what’s not said, or shown, and who doesn’t turn up, is as telling as all the wisdom dispensed from the stage.

So what was there to learn from all this grandstanding?

Of course, there’s been a lot of clever words rehearsed this week; though, with so many sessions and competition for seats, there was no guarantee you’d be in the right place to hear it live. More space seems the order for next year, which at least suggests there’s a growing appetite for us to sit down to talk about what we do.

What’s not said, or shown, and who doesn’t turn up, is as telling as all the wisdom dispensed from the stage

But where were all the clients? There were some great chief marketing officers on the stage, but not enough in the audience. Given that pretty much everyone else at Ad Week exists to give clients the most effective, businessbuilding advice and solutions, there simply weren’t enough of them there. There’s nothing new in that – marketers (as an awful lot of sessions illustrated) have more complex, always-on, accountable jobs than ever before; spending even a few hours out of the office is a luxury.

Yet, without the clients, agencies are really just talking to themselves in a proverbial echo chamber, which is an outrageous luxury in itself.

On the other hand, so many sessions were simply irrelevant to the job in hand – interesting and entertaining, maybe, but hardly useful.

One final tip for session hosts next year: whenever I sat in on a session that had invited creatives up on the stage, he energy and engagement levels were dialled up and you were more likely to get something entertaining and useful. We definitely need to hear more at these events from the people who actually deliver the real magic.

After all, they are the point at which what we really do and how we’d like to be seen as an industry intersect most seductively.