More of/Less of: Insights for the Six-Second World

By Omnicom Media Group InSites Archives
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Despite having spent a significant portion of my life as a Londoner, I have never been a fan of Dickens.  As a youth, I recall finding the language repetitive (an expected outcome when one is paid by the word) and turgid.  So, it is with no small degree of surprise that, as I listen to friends and colleagues discussing our industry these days, I hear his paradoxical prose echoing in my head:  "It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times.  It’s the age of wisdom, it’s the age of foolishness.  It’s the season of light, it’s the season of darkness.

We live in an age of extremes, and to prove it I’m going to go from quoting Dickens to quoting Vampire Weekend lead singer Ezra Koenig, who said, ”We live in such extreme times that I think we all have a responsibility to be aware of what’s happening and talk about it.”

So, let’s talk about it.  

Extreme times provoke extreme responses: paralysis or action, confusion or inspiration, fear or excitement.  For those of us who choose action, inspiration and excitement, this is indeed the best of times.  To me, it’s reminiscent of the 1990s when the modern media agency was first born in Europe.  Back then I wrote a book to help clients and colleagues chart a new course forward, but in a world in which the attention span expectancy has been reduced to six seconds, industry issues and challenges are better examined in a Dickensian shorthand: what we need more of, what we need less of.  Each month this space will explore the issues and events impacting our business through the “more of/less of” lens, alternating personal thoughts with opinions from others across our industry.

I’d like to begin the series with some thoughts about industry events, a topic which has become more contentious over than last couple of years.  We are just a few weeks away from the start of yet another season on the event circuit: a cycle that begins at Las Vegas with CES in January, peaks with Cannes in June, and culminates with New York’s Advertising Week in the fall, with countless festivals, conferences and summits in between and across the world.  In light of the ongoing conversations around the relevance and ROI of awards shows and other industry events, this is an area that seems in particular need of a more of/less of application.  Speaking as someone who was on stage at way too many events last year, I concur with the fundamental issues, but not with some of the kneejerk reactions.  Retreat is not the answer.  Instead, let’s build on the Cannes organization’s recently announced changes and consider how more of some things and less of others might enable reinvention across the spectrum of the annual events that bring our industry together.

More of --Globalists

Less of --Technicians

We need more big picture conversations around the broader contexts -- cultural, political and economic -- in which our clients and customers engage. We have an unprecedented ability to hone messages to what we know about a consumer based on his or her online activities, but we need to be equally aware of the real-world factors that impact perceptions and behaviors.

More of -- Business intelligence

Less of -- Buzz words

Customer journey.  Gamification.  Storytelling.  If you drank a shot each time you heard one of these words at any 2017 industry event you’d be drunk before that night’s ageing rocker’s concert.  Try doing the same for every conversation about the dynamics impacting specific business categories -- CPG, B2B, travel, retail, tech, finance, auto -- and you’ll die of thirst.

More of -- Focus

Less of --Redundancy 

Content owners at both the event and agency levels need to learn the difference.  Focus is not 37 different sessions talking about AI.  Rather, it is a broad spectrum of cross-agency, cross-category and cross-industry conversations around a macro issue that impacts the transactional ecosystem. 

More of -- Self-improvement

Less of --Self-congratulation

Overhaul the agendas to better balance rewarding and showcasing the best and brightest with providing more opportunities for the next generation to become better and brighter.

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