Ian Millner: co-founder and chief executive of Iris
Ian Millner: co-founder and chief executive of Iris
A view from Ian Millner

The consumer/brand relationship is at a crossroads

Ian Millner responds to Pritchard's "mic drop" moment at US IAB.

If there was the perfect adland moment to use the term "mic drop", this was it. Campaign referred to Mark Pritchard’s keynote to the US IAB meeting as a rallying cry for more transparency.

I imagine a number of clients are thinking the same thing – and don’t necessarily have the same platform to air it, since the ANA report put a spotlight on the issue.

The whole speech resonated with me but there was something in particular that stuck out. The term "craft or crap".

The consumer/brand relationship is at a crossroads. On one level, advertising is facing its toughest test yet. One in five Brits are using ad blocking software. 89% of advertising is considered "wallpaper". The opportunity for more crap is huge.

On another level, people are letting brands into their lives like never before. They are making them an ever more visible part of their lifestyles. They are endorsing them and promoting them like never before. They are actively involving themselves in the brand’s world. Get the craft spot on – and you’re in….

We are living in a world where marketing, innovation, culture, content, CRM, channel, platform are all becoming increasingly jumbled. Clients are looking for leadership and expertise, and rightly wondering if the old school system of buying more TV ads is still the right option.

What works? How do I evaluate? How do I stand out? Those who would have in the past spent 90% budget on TV and 10% on "other stuff" are now finding that the split needs to be much more balanced. And the "other stuff" feels more fragmented, less about communication, more about participation and definitely, as Pritchard points out, more technology driven.

And of course that leads to the mucky question that needs asking, and it’s one I’ve asked before - are media agencies and channels working together to stop the process of evolution in our industry?

It can’t be ignored that people are responding much better to experiences that feel less like advertising and more like culture, which feel like they come from their world, not a brand’s world.

Often the best examples of this come without a penny of media spend. Yes, figuring out how to define "success" on platforms that have been around for months, not years is a collective challenge but one that agencies and clients should work on together.

The trust thing works on both sides. It makes for the best collaborations. It makes for the most interesting work. It makes for the most enjoyable (and effective) partnerships. And while I’m cheering P&G’s decision to go over every media contract to ensure they are following a new, open method of working, I hope this is more than an exercise for procurement to get a better deal – which will do little more than push these behaviours underground.

It’s not enough to think about how you spend on media and what you spend on creative. It’s about the kind of work you do in the first place.

Being honest with ourselves – as a client/agency team – about what makes our work, work. It’s got to be about making and rewarding work that is genuinely valuable and visible in people’s real lives. After all – we’re supposed to be in it together.

Ian Millner is co-founder and chief executive of Iris.