Of frustration under palmtrees

Frustration as a mechanism of survival for the advertising industry

Advertising is an industry plagued by frustration. We always joke that account directors are frustrated strategists while strategic planners are frustrated creatives and creatives are frustrated artists. Basically, everyone tries to do someone else’s job.

Such frustration has gone even further in the last few years. After trying to do one another’s jobs inside their industry, advertisers and marketers are now exploring new businesses outside of it.

For instance, I’ve been attending the 63rd Cannes Festival of Creativity for a few days now and this year it feels different. From fashion to coding, from philanthropy to contemporary art, from music to filmmaking, it seems like every advertising exec aspires to do anything but advertising.

Some will see it as conceit or even hubris (“these marketers really think they can do whatever they want”). Other will laugh at the irony of such a situation: after all, advertising is all about creating need and frustration… But there is more to this than whim or bloated egos. In fact, in the advertising industry, frustration is no less than a survival mechanism.

In the advertising industry, frustration is no less than a survival mechanism.

Media, advertising and marketing professionals now live under constant threats such as the rise of digital monster-companies, atomization of touchpoints and of course massive consumer distrust. They’re told all day long that the “good ol’ times” of marketing are behind them and that they will eventually lose their [meaningless] job if they don’t transform it.

This feeling of urgency is accentuated by the fact that these professionals are deeply confident in their ability to build great and more concrete things. The real beauty of the advertising industry is that they are few businesses that young and open-minded, where so many different characters, cultures and minds mingle. These are people with countless know-hows, willing to use all of them. These are people with huge hopes and ambitions. These are people who feel a dire need to join forces to bring something else to the world — art, ideas, products, you name it — and save themselves in the process. I won’t deny advertisers and marketers are often infatuated with themselves but the truth is they are the most beautifully frustrated crowd one can get. And Frustration is precisely what will drive them to reinvent whole industries from inside out.

I won’t deny advertisers and marketers are often infatuated with themselves but the truth is they are the most beautifully frustrated crowd one can get.

Back to Cannes Lions. Keynote sessions in the Palais des Festival are punctuated by 15-minute breaks during which they blast music in auditoriums. On Monday, you could hear all day a massively cheesy and uplifting song by the EDM act Alesso. The song is called “(We could be) Heroes”.