Tinder, Toy Story and total stupidity – My first visit to Advertising Week Europe by Dan Carey

With the Adweek Europe festival being a bit like the advertising industry’s Glastonbury, I approached my first ever visit in the same way I’m sure many people will approach that hallowed field in Somerset this June; no not drunk and furious about Kanye West’s inability to play a guitar or wear tweed, but excited about what was about to happen and perplexed about how on earth I was going to see everything I wanted to.
It didn’t start well.  On Monday I had at least four sessions I was determined to attend.  However, after seeing Posterscope – the agency I work for – present an excellent and innovative DOOH pitch battle on Monday morning, the workload back at the ranch compelled me to return to my desk and declare to myself that the sooner programmatic buying came into the world of OOH the better – even if we only ever switched it on during AdWeek.
The ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’ pitch battle was my first taste of Adweek and despite my disappointment that Ant and Dec were nowhere to be seen, I must say seeing three top creative agencies in the form of VCCP, adam&eveDDB and M&C Saatchi deliver three unique ideas that were a mixture of the heroic, the humbling and the hilarious was a brilliant introduction for what was to come.  However the fact I missed the rest of the day left me hungry for more.
My next visit didn’t initially go to plan either.  Being a massive Disney/Pixar fan and having previously worked on their business, I turned up to the Disney Animation Studios Storytelling session on Wednesday full of childish excitement.  This excitement was somewhat quelled however when I was confronted by, and then turned away from, a queue that a festival toilet would have been proud of.
I blame myself really.  I turned up late and I guess I should have known there’d be a large queue as a talk from the guys behind the likes of Toy Story was always going to generate massive amounts of err Buzz….
(Yes that pun did just happen and no you can’t unsee it).
Not put off, I marched on to the local coffee shop and bought a grande frappe squiggly wiggly – a.k.a some mediocre drink I didn’t quite understand – in order to access the free Wi-Fi so I could stream it live.  Unfortunately the internet seemed to be suffering a mid afternoon drought and the stream had pretty much dried up, so I downed the rest of my mocha flocka choca blocka latte and returned back to the streets to get in the queue for Outdoor Plus’s ‘Exploring Outdoor Space’ session with the legend that is Brian Cox.
This time my luck was in.  After doing some rather unsubtle queue jumping (sorry, I blame the caffeine), I managed to squeeze into the room and over the next 45 minutes Brian (first name terms) delivered a talk about our solar system that was fascinating, thought provoking and absolutely inspiring.  If you get the chance to watch the session online then do it, you won’t be disappointed.
I guess the one question could be is what does a talk on the solar system have to do with advertising?  Well other than the fact I was once genuinely asked by a client if it was possible to do a projection on to the moon, probably not a lot.  However that thirst for knowledge, desire for exploration and passion for making new discoveries are three traits that I don’t think any industry, especially creative industries like advertising, could survive without.
After Brian Cox’s brilliant talk I then went on the best roll I’ve seen since Madonna did her backwards stage dive at the Brits, attending great session after great session after great session.  This included Marketing Weeks excellent panel discussion ‘Innovation: A Start Up Frame Of Mind’ where I heard one of my favourite quotes of the week as Huib van Bockel, ex Marketing Director of Red Bull declared that Brand Marketing was becoming like tinder, with people deciding almost instantly whether to engage with your brand or move on to the next one vying for your attention.
I couldn’t agree more.  As consumers become increasingly promiscuous and their brand loyalty continues to aggressively be tested by the flirtations of seemingly younger, sexier, more in your face competitors, it’s vital for brands to constantly evolve in order to survive.  Otherwise they run the risk of thinking they’ve found “the one”, only to discover five minutes later that their presumed life partner has actually just run off with some new brand they’ve flirted with on Facebook.
The excellent sessions just kept on coming after that and my final one I’m going to mention was around creativity and titled ‘Redefining Bravery’.  I think as a starting point I am going to say that I always feel uncomfortable about the term bravery when used in the context of advertising.  I totally accept that some work can be deemed as risk taking, but unless you’re using a rolled up press ad to fend off a terrorist attack, whilst catching a falling baby using a 48 sheet as a crash mat, linking advertising to bravery just makes me feel uneasy.
With that being said, this was still another interesting, original and consistently funny session.  A particular highlight was Ben Tollett, joint Executive Director of adam&eveDDB, who talked about the importance of being stupid in the creative process, advising how stupidity means you’ll take more risks, go with your instincts before your logical brain takes over and makes you far less afraid to fail.  It was an interesting spin on an area that I find particularly fascinating and personally I think he’s right, but then maybe that’s because I’m a bit stupid myself.  As for being brave, well I did once outrun a mugger because his far too baggy trousers fell down, but I’m not sure that counts.
So there you have it, my first visit to the Adweek Europe Festival done and I have to say it was a brilliant experience and one that I would urge anyone to attend if they get the chance, especially those new to the industry.  In fact, it actually made me realize how lucky we all are to work in the industry we do and although I’ll be watching a lot of the bits I missed online, my one regret was that I didn’t get to see more of it live!  Oh and that pun about Buzz Lightyear I said earlier, I regret that too.
As for Kanye, well he was nowhere to be seen either, so let’s just say Adweek 1 Glastonbury 0 and leave it at that.
 Roll on 2016.