Advertising Week Europe set up in London like a heaving, pop-up clubhouse for advertising’s elite, flanked by the kids who want to be them.
And, just like a clubhouse, it had its popular members – the heavyweights in advertising, media and technology, as well as celebrities including Idris Elba, James Corden, Zane Lowe, Victoria Pendleton and even Joey Essex (if you don’t have a clue who that is, you were clearly not one of the kids).
Such was the hype that we dared to wonder whether the event – currently a fairly British affair with the odd French or Dutch visitor – could grow to rival the status of its Gallic cousin in Cannes. But, in our online vote, the consensus was no – with a decisive 71 per cent of you saying "no way".
Nevertheless, there was plenty for London to shout about: from impressive speakers such as Jean-François Decaux, who said he welcomed the Omnicom and Publicis Groupe merger, to David Droga, who discussed how bravery can mean sacrificing your own survival.
Campaign’s live blog, LIVE@AdvertisingWeek, captured the spirit of the event and found that many of the best stories were actually unfolding offstage – Justin King revealed his favourite Sainsbury’s ad, News UK held some wine-tasting and agencies partied at two of the capital’s royal palaces.
THE BIG ONES
Sorrell on how to take on Google
He said: "You could argue that Google is the most powerful company in the world; it certainly makes the most revenue. It has the five things it is good at: search, display, video, social and mobile. Its future is about intelligent search.
"Ten years ago, people were saying Google would put us out of business. We’re still here. It doesn’t mean we don’t have our challenges, but we’re still here."
Sorrell and Robert Thomson, the News Corp chief executive, quizzed each other in an animated session. Thomson said that brands had to be more inventive with native advertising, stating: "Mimicking editorial is not great."
Sorrell said of the growth of brand-funded content: "I think it’s symptomatic of our industry. We have become one of the biggest creators of content in the last few years. We’re not originating technology, we’re applying it."
During the session, Sorrell also stressed the importance of transparency in media, adding that WPP’s digital media trading platform, Xaxis, was transparent because it revealed the price charged for programmatic ads, while Google was "opaque" because it doesn’t reveal how its prized search algorithm works.
Bolloré claims big isn’t better
Bolloré also responded to the ongoing speculation over whether Havas is under pressure to grow in size (it will be just a tenth of the size of the proposed Publicis Omnicom Group). The Frenchman insisted Havas was "big enough and, at the same time, not too big to adapt".
When asked if there was a possibility that Havas could merge with the media owner Vivendi, which is chaired by his father, Bolloré replied that his group had "all the means to grow in a standalone strategy" but added that he could not comment on behalf of another business.
He stressed: "I don’t want to say that the [Omnicom/Publicis Groupe] merger will be a catastrophe.
But I think that, if we take the right decisions and if we stay at the forefront and one step ahead of innovation and we work really hard to please our clients and provide them with great insights, I’m sure we have a lot of opportunities for Havas to drive growth."
Droga and Hegarty talk bravery
Droga said: "For me, bravery is putting your beliefs ahead of self-preservation because self-preservation – for yourself, your career, the agency – clouds everything. Do what you think is right, not what is expected."
Hegarty argued that it is never the agencies that are brave: "A great quote of my partner Nigel [Bogle] is: ‘Agencies don’t make great decisions, they make recommendations.’ So when we talk about agencies being brave – actually, we’re not brave, it’s our clients who are brave."
He added that he had spent "an awful lot of my career trying to persuade clients to buy brave work and I’ve mostly failed". He also preferred the word "excitement" over "brave" or "risky" when selling a creative concept as it gets a better reception.
Henry said ethical behaviour in business was brave and picked out Unilever’s commitment to improving its environmental impact as "the bravest thing happening in advertising today".
(This article first appeared on CampaignLive.co.uk)