For obvious reasons a sense of restraint and contemplation hung
over initial proceedings at the 2001 Marketing Forum.
The tragedy in the US led to 70 marketers deciding not to attend, and a
large number of the remaining 900 delegates quite rightly had other
things on their mind.
On the whole, however, enthusiasm seemed to grow throughout the three
days and the seminars, meeting areas, bars and dancefloors were packed
Of course, further signs of restraint were in evidence because of the
economic situation, but the focus of this year's Forum, which carried
the strapline "Challenging conventional thinking", was on being
enthusiastic despite the prevailing climate, and on developing
challenging ideas to combat a possible downturn.
The opening address was from Dianne Thompson, the chief executive of
Camelot. She was an apposite choice - after all, Camelot and its 800
employees were staring over the precipice last year when the People's
Lottery almost walked away with the second seven-year National Lottery
Thompson's address seemed to provide an early sense of the essence of
this year's event - a belief that businesses need to work harder on
injecting emotional capital into both their brands and their operations,
while not ignoring the bottom line.
She talked about her task of instilling "lost energy to a company that
became battle scarred and totally risk averse".
She discussed the need to change Camelot's culture to make it a "fun,
more inclusive, edgier company to work in". A starting point is to work
from the inside out with four new watchwords for staff: "passion",
"creativity", "empowerment" and "partnership".
Thompson quoted the unlikely trio of Isaac Asimov, Martina Navratilova
and Michael Douglas to back her general points to the conference that
there should be an increase in the number of marketers in the boardroom
and that getting closer to customers should be the new mantra. Her best
moment was her comment on public perceptions of Camelot.
"It's sad that the general public know the Camelot brand at all,"
Thompson says. "For me it should be something like Kingfisher, where it
is understood by the City, but has no public recognition."
The meetings side of the Forum held few surprises for agencies. There
were the usual comments that there were too many junior clients and
no-shows, but those realistic about their fortunes seemed to get higher
than usual levels of initial interest from clients.
Advertising agencies that exhibited included Fallon, St Luke's,
Publicis, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R and M&C Saatchi. The media
contingent included Zenith, CIA, Michaelides & Bednash and BLM.
By the time of the 2000 Forum, the dotcom bubble had burst. This year
there was a clear focus on making online and interactive activity work
on the bottom line.
There were good presentations from Maurice Kelly at EasyEverything, the
agency client team of Jason George from Victoria Real and Dan Brooke of
Channel 4. In the "Content is king" seminar, Brooke was bullish about
future advertising share for television.
"We come back to the conclusion that TV is still king of media, and
where advertisers put most of their money. The evidence is that the
internet is not taking audience to any huge amount," he said.
Brooke predictably focused on Channel 4 success stories such as Big
Brother in demonstrating how TV can work with digital properties to
create a commercial success. He also revealed that, for the first time,
the broadcaster is developing a programme to meet with advertisers
directly for discussions of cross-platform and other opportunities. A
sign of continued media-owner frustration with agencies.
Further entertainment was provided by the BMP DDB chairman Chris
Powell's rant (or "grumble" as he played it down), which argued for more
emotion in advertising. Powell's contention is that advertising needs to
introduce a "language and structure to talk about emotions". He cited
examples such as Orange, Vodafone, Lynx and Sure, which, despite an
emotional message, reverted to factual, rational arguments to do the
"There are still plenty of people who see the role of TV advertising as
conveying information to the public," he argued. "But the audience is
not involved in absorbing this."
Powell's central message was to push for less involvement from agency
chiefs and clients in the briefing process. "We must let creative genius
do its bit," he said. "We must describe the task and then we should
probably get out of the way. We leave too little room for the
All good in theory, but most of the delegates were at seminars that
preached the cold, rationality of bottom line and hard working
advertising. Andrew Marsden, the category director of Britvic, said
after the conference that "frippery" was absent from the agenda. Given
events of recent weeks and the current economic situation, this is
However, the sight of George Michael impersonator Robert Lamberti
sunbathing in full costume following his last-night performance provided
the occasion with some levity.
Chris Powell, the chairman of BMP DDB, urged marketers to be
- Advertising is living a lie that its role is to convey information to
- Viewers do not fully absorb these facts when in front of TV
advertising because their minds are not focused, and product details
will not register.
- Advertising needs to develop a "language and structure to talk about
- There is too much discussion of "the size of the logo and product
claims" in advertising.
- There needs to be a debate on the briefing process to allow "creative
genius to do its bit".
CONTENT IS KING
Jason George, the creative director of Victoria Real, and Dan Brooke,
the deputy managing director of E4 and FilmFour, said content is
- The future is interactive TV and wireless, rather than pure
- Iceland and Big Brother show that fulfilment and integration with back
room systems is vital.
- "TV is still king of media ... the internet is not taking audience in
any huge amount."
- A recent series of BMW ads, only available on the internet, generated
16 million visits to the site showing that content is still vitally
- The advice to all delegates is that the best way to experience
interactive is to play around with digital TV at home.