Cannes Lions, Day 1: Consumers don’t want your stupid ads

First Wake up with The Econmist panel featuring Diana O’Brien, Chief Marketing Officer at Deloitte, Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing Officer at Mastercard and Marc Mathieu, Chief Marketing Officer at Samsung Electronics America

Key insights:

  • The role of the CMO is changing, and so are the skillsets on their teams
  • People are not interested in traditional advertising, they want uninterrupted experiences, ‘storymaking’ not storytelling
  • Technology has democratized content creation — we are all empowered creators
  • Risk taking is necessary and failure can be valuable

The third Wake Up with The Economist series is again focusing on the role of the CMO when it comes to harnessing and championing creativity, and the changing role of the CMO, which is where today’s session began.

“No one has any control, and as a CMO when you step into the c-suite, the rest of the c-suite is very uncomfortable…what they aren’t appreciating is this idea that it is 24/7, you can’t just project an image anymore, you have to interact with the brand. Everything that’s happening around you is the brand”, said Diana O’Brien

Raja Rajamannar puts this loss of control down to a rejection of traditional advertising, or ‘storytelling’. Referencing ad blockers, Mr Rajamannar says it is clear through these actions what consumers are thinking, “I don’t want your stupid ads, I don’t want your stories, I wanted uninterrupted experience.” Instead, Mastercard is embracing ‘storymaking’ as a less intrusive and more authentic marketing strategy, “If you create experiences, consumers will then tell the story on your behalf”.

Speaking on technology, Rajamannar says it enables Mastercard to deliver these hyper-targeted, contextually appropriate experiences to consumers in a real-time, which in turn allows them to make their own stories. Marc Mathieu agrees the quality of modern technology, particularly smartphones, means that anyone can create a high-quality piece of content and be empowered as a creator. “The phone democratises the empowerment of everybody in this room” said Mr Mathieu, referencing recent Samsung collaborations with high profile YouTubers and other ‘creators’ as examples.

When asked how Samsung’s marketing strategy shifted as a result of the company’s phone problems last year, Mathieu responded, “We had to listen. You have to hear what they have to tell you, both the ones that like you and the ones that don’t like you”, he added, “Building that emotional relationship after what happened last year as well as rebuilding the trust and humanizing the brand was really the basis of our playbook”

Whilst technology and experiential marketing are providing new ways for brands to reach consumers, all panelists at today’s Wake up with The Economist agreed it is also changing the type of people CMOs require for their teams. “This is what keeps me awake at night” said Raja Rajamannar, “You have classical marketers and contemporary marketers and they are almost like from 2 different planets…you also want them to understand tech, and the business. We’re looking for general managers that understand it all and these people are not easy to find” For Diana O’Brien, Deloitte has 250,000 marketers, because it is necessary “to hardwire your purpose into who you are.”

Finishing on the conversation of risk, Diana O’Brien believes we must recognise, reward and acknowledge risk-taking, even if it means failure, as long as it results in valuable learnings. Marc Mathieu goes a step further to suggest it is necessary to create disruption, rather than avoid it, as the pace of competition means “it is too risky not to take risks”

“It is clear that the marketplace is changing, and consumers expectations are changing with it” said Paul Rossi, President, The Economist Group, “there is a consumer rebellion against advertising happening, and brands need to look forward like those on our panel today to embrace new thinking, and find ways to deliver their message in a timely and contextual fashion”