Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
A view from Arif Durrani

Beastly Advertising Week Europe shows an industry in rude health

This year's Advertising Week Europe event really is the most preposterous mix of media talent and outrageous grandstanding I've ever seen.

Now in its third year, AWE promotes itself as a "hybrid of inspiring thought-leadership featuring the world’s best and brightest with engaging special events that galvanise targeted constituencies".

As its hefty 284-page programme proves, the four-day event is now officially a beast. More than 23,000 people are expected to attend 113 seminars and 70 workshops.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, mindful that his job is to create opportunities and growth in our capital city, is among those "delighted" to welcome the festival. And it isn’t every week that three holding company chiefs – Yannick Bolloré, Maurice Lévy and Sir Martin Sorrell – descend on a London stage.

Of course, the tech giants AOL, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Yahoo are represented. As are many of the traditional media players, with the likes of Bauer Media, Bloomberg, Clear Channel, Hearst and Time Inc ensuring the digital upstarts BuzzFeed and Mashable still have plenty of competition.

With the general election looming, there’s a live edition of The Agenda With Tom Bradby from ITV, the Telegraph’s political journalists will host a breakfast, while Krishnan Guru-Murthy will lead a Channel 4 political session.

'The risk is that we are witnessing the media eating itself - when the business turns into cabaret'

Elsewhere, things take a more surreal turn when ITV’s commercial leader Simon Daglish interviews The Who’s Roger Daltrey, while Jimmy Carr may have met his match when he shares a stage with Rory Sutherland. But who better to provide advice on how to develop "Brand You" than Katie Price and Kathleen Saxton – now there’s a combo.

For its tub-thumping advocates, of which there are many, AWE represents just how dynamic and innovative our industry has become. If you wanted evidence of an industry in rude health, here it is.

Overall, UK advertising has now recovered to pre-financial crash levels at £15 billion, but the market’s shape reflects the new normal, with the digital sector having more than doubled and print having almost halved. Much of AWE reflects the new landscape, and it’s no surprise that the two hardest-hit sectors, regional publishing and B2B press, barely feature.

The risk, of course, is that we are witnessing the media eating itself – when the business turns into cabaret. Phil Georgiadis, the UK chairman of Blue 449, summed up the scene for me perfectly this week: "Such a broad-ranging scope, justifying the critical role we can all play at the interface between media and the consumer; but, at the same time, reflecting our industry’s obsession with showing off and over-claiming."

So true but, for those in the media business, there really is only one place to be next week – at least for a session or three.