FOA 2019 – The Susie Innes’ Review

Posted in Events, tagged with Future of Advertising, UK events, on March 8, 2019

A great and informative afternoon spent at The Picturehouse (it really is a good building) learning about The Future of Advertising.

An afternoon of interesting speakers, lively panels, and a few insights. But was it really the future, or a guide to navigate the now, and maybe the day after tomorrow.

It kicked off with the charming and engaging Lyndsey Clay from Thinkbox. Lyndsey did an excellent job giving us stats and charts to prove what we are all want to believe, but have been told over and over not to. That TV is as popular now as it ever was, that families are bereft if you take it away, and how TV really is a convincing and persuasive a platform. Getting us all on side by an awesome clip from W1A where Siobhan (the ever hilarious Jessica Hynes) lets us and her harangued work colleagues know categorically that TV is dead, and it is all about UGC. Ultimately this made us just want to go home, break out the BBC1Player, and slump in our pyjamas in front of box sets eating ice cream out of a tub.
The point was elegantly made. But Lynsdey also had some lovely FACTS. My favourite is that 400 TVRs = 236million views. Take that YouTube. Up yours smiley face.
She also pointed out that we (advertising moguls) are a bit behind on learning how to maximise the potential of all the lovely new platforms ripe for our content, but as ever, we will get there.

Next Dominic Mills interviewed Ed Howorth from Oliver.
Listening to an eloquent chap like Ed, t we may think this is it. The future will all be about be bunging a herd of agency folk a rail card, and dropping them in wholesale to sit on the laps of Clients in Slough.
This does sound practical, and the advantages are clear. Easier, less formal communication, time saving, and trust building. Never mind the cost benefits. But it will not appeal to everyone.

Now, this is something that I am lately banging on about, not this model exactly, but the fact that there are now so very many new ways of working. There is, in this exciting and challenging climate, room for everyone to have a go at anything. If they so choose. And we need to embrace this, encourage and respect it.
We have been spoiled for decades with our monitored rigid processes, our clean divides and set roles, and this now this is in flux.
Oliver may not be for you, but it is for someone. Cheers to them for making a number of clients feel safe and valued.
I enjoyed the final question. Should it be called “In house” or “On site”? This is proof enough that we are bogged down with perceptions, headings and form. Time to be free people!

And then Oliver Feldwick (too many Olivers) on Fixing the Distraction Economy. Comparing current online climate with the Gold Rush. This all made a lot of sense, and it was nice to hear clearly what I guess we all think we know but have never examined. A neat and detailed summary of “its all too much’ “I don’t want to be sold a tent just because I bought a tent” (throwback to a previous future of advertising). We are in danger on devaluing attention.

Time for a panel all about what our Future Boss would look like.
(For an Agency Creative)
Now these guys make good panel, witty and real and a bit (coolly) passionate. Advertising folk on the Goggle Box couch.
We were exposed to a bit of good-natured snarkiness about clients, which I feel needs to stop, funny though it can be.
It was refreshing to not hark back to the old days of when advertising was fun, but there is a general concern about the corporate culture, lack of diversity, fear of characters. (Foreshadowing to Rory S, the solution seems to be to hire a lot of people at once, thus guaranteeing a mixed bunch. Love that). It is not as clear-cut as it would seem, big companies are not necessarily nastier and blander than boutique agencies, and it is all about the PEOPLE.
I think the consensus was to get the people and the environment right, and you can work anywhere. Whatever the size, shape, concept, and business model.
But as we were cautioned
“Don’t join an agency that has a Head of Culture or a Head of Fun, as clearly as a company they have neither”. I would add, it is a bit telling when there is a Head of Diversity, but I guess needs must.

Break for lunch. Lots of chat. Hugs, kisses on both cheeks. Cup of coffee and we are back.

Steve gives us a quick run through of Nexus’s overall victory in the IDEAS and off we go.
Another panel. Young and Hungry. This one is about nurturing Talent. Morgan put up a couple of good quotes, but these were slammed a bit, in a positive manner. There were some good wise words and encouragement.
It was cheering to hear the phrase Wild Card. A perennial when looking at directors.
Georgi shard some fantastic advise she had been given – do your Treatments as you want to do them. Don’t try and mould to get in what you think the client wants. You may lose jobs, but it will work for you in the long run.
Also telling was her spin on what people ask for from a showreel:
“Have you shot a horse? Yes? Have you shot a horse at night?”
We must all work on how to get the best use of Talent, and keep everyone happy and on board. This sounds like compromise, but hopefully is more about collaboration and open-ness.
There was also a nice, possibly controversial, nod to how Awards festishise the Creative, which is not necessarily in the Clients Interest.

Kevin Young from the Mill gave us a whistle-stop tour of current and emerging technology. He shared some pretty great and impressive stuff. I was glad to see A.I. taking a turn, but, foreshadowing again, Rory rather kyboshed that. It was encouraging to see Gaming taking a turn for the not evil, and that evil Machine Learning can also be applied for good, or the good of the theme park visitor. Through Disney’s Invisible Magic.

And then Rory Sutherland. Always a joy. I want to bottle up everything he says. Even the stuff I don’t agree with. But especially the stuff I do. Thanks to Rory’s effervescent and energetic delivery, I can’t even vaguely do him justice here. But this is fine as he has a book coming out you can read.
But the gist was that Unpredictability is essential for Survival. That there is credibility in things that cost (money/pain/talent), and some mind-blowing thoughts on Perception.
And in conclusion, he shared the base fact that creative solutions are always presented to rational people for approval. But it never goes the other way round.
He gave us warm and tumultuous wit, resonating with our very advertising souls.

I was expecting a couple of unexpected moments of fist bumping, the odd speaker who would make steam come out of my ears, a barrage of new and possibly laughable tech, a bit of showing off, a gentle sell and a mild feeling of trepidation. I got some of this, but not as viscerally as maybe I had in past afternoons. But then again, I am a Veteran of the Future.