Cannes of Worms

Every year at this time, the world’s marketing leaders descend on the French Riviera for all-you-can-drink rosé, yacht parties and beach concerts.

And, oh yeah, to celebrate creativity.

In a somewhat surprising turn of events, this year’s festival seems to have added a new item to the agenda: existential debates. In response to the many challenges of the past year (the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica debacle, ad fraud, GDPR fallout, brand safety issues etc.), marketing execs are, well, pausing and reflecting—wondering aloud about what needs to change and where the industry needs to go next. What conclusions are they coming to? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect along with them.

  • This year’s Cannes headline-grabber is Unilever CMO Keith Weed, who kicked the festival off by announcing a commitment to stop working with influencers who buy followers.
  • This tweet captures the spirit of his position quite succinctly.

  • Weed is right to be concerned. Plenty of research proves that influencer marketing is rife with fraud.
  • If you’re still not convinced, Marketing Week’s Mark Ritson recently put the influencer ecosystem to the test by paying to promote a photo of his own, er, posterior.

  • Of course, influencer marketing is just the tip of the iceberg. Weed’s broader message is about encouraging brands to focus their energy, power and resources on rebuilding consumer trust through “responsible platforms, responsible content and responsible digital infrastructure”.
  • And Weed’s not alone. 25 of the industry’s top CMO’s have formally banded together to tackle some of the critical issues facing the industry. Council chair Mark Pritchard believes marketers have gotten too excited about technology and relinquished too much control.
  • The question now is: will existential questioning and bold calls for change translate into action? For the sake our industry, we hope so. Because the threat is real. Trust is declining and the credibility of our profession is on the line. If you need a personal mantra as you gear up to fight the good fight yourself, consider these wise words from man-of-the-festival Weed: “a brand without trust is just a product.”.
Issue #47
Jun 24, 2018

Further Reading