Ad Week US: Notes from Sarah Speake

Advertising Week US has just taken place in New York – gathering together marketing and communications leaders from across the world.

ITV’s Director of Commercial Marketing & Research, Sarah Speake, was there to bring back the low-down on the key themes, speakers, and learnings from the star-studded event.

Sarah says: “The main themes of the week were: storytelling; big data versus big creativity; programmatic versus human; marketing to Millennials; the diversity challenges; and the ability to deliver love, emotion, humour and engagement.”

She picked out three key sessions from the week: Sir Martin Sorrell’s ‘Winning’ debate, Sheryl Sandberg’s “Rethinking Marketing to Women”, and “Clash of the Titans – When Big Data met Big Creativity”.

On the first day, WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell led a conversation on ‘Winning’ - speaking to a panel of senior media and marketing figures about the competitive landscape that each of them operates within.

Lisa Utzschneider, vice president, Global Advertising Sales, Amazon Media Group, stressed that Amazon don’t think about competition with Google at all. “We focus on the customer,” she said. “Agencies need to explore customers’ product journeys to experience it for themselves.”

Jim Lanzone, president and CEO of CBS Interactive, said data-driven advertising was not comparable with brand advertising, and businesses need to adapt to many programmes. “The death of live TV is over-exaggerated,” he said. “We’re becoming agnostic about where people watch TV.”

And Sir Martin revealed WPP’s focus: “New markets / new media / new data - all backed by brilliant people!”

Following this debate came Sheryl Sandberg with Getty Images, on “Rethinking Marketing to Women”. Women hold the majority of household spending power, yet often feel brands don’t understand them.

Sandberg, COO of Facebook, author of Lean In and leader of the campaign, pointed out that only three per cent of creative directors in the USA are women.

However, Joanna Coles, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan, said things were changing: “We are reflecting a life back – resonating with readers and brands. We don’t airbrush at Cosmo. Whilst I might airbrush out a cold sore, everyone wants to present their best self. Airbrushing, unrealistic body images lend to objectifying of women.”

The third key session was “Clash of the Titans”, hosted by Claire Beale, global editor of Campaign, and featuring Tham Khai Meng, worldwide chief creative officer at Ogilvy & Mather; Sir John Hegarty, co-founder of BBH, and Chuck Porter, chairman and co-founder of Crispin Porter & Bogusky.

Khai said there was the implication that data was bad and unimaginative, but there was ‘nothing new or threatening about data’. “Sometimes data is orchestra; big data gives big insights to drive creative platforms,” he said, giving the example of the insight that drove the Dove campaign, that only 4% women feel beautiful, the insight that drove the Dove Real Beauty campaign.

However Chuck argued that big data can drown you in marketing messages. “In any new medium, a great story is the killer app,” he said. “Celebrity, participation and unexpectedness drive spikes in YouTube. Big data can’t drive unexpectedness – that’s why agencies exist!”

And Sir John said: “It’s all about Insights NOT data - there’s a difference between consumer knowledge and consumer understanding. Human beings are not a collection of algorithms!

“Creativity will always be the most powerful tool we ever use.”

Words from Sarah Speake adapted by Jenny Cornish