Cannes Lions’ CMO Growth Council Will Confront the Industry’s Pressing Issues

Asking questions that might not have answers yet

At this year's Cannes Lions, the CMO Growth Council will meet for the first time to address trends and issues within the industry. Cannes

To get 20 of the busiest, most important marketers in the world to gather and put their minds together to predict and guide the future of marketing, you know something must be up.

This year’s Cannes Lions will see a unique event: the formation of a CMO Growth Council at which a score of the biggest names in the global industry will unite to thrash out an agenda of the most pressing issues confronting us. Based on an initiative of the ANA and chaired by Marc Pritchard of P&G, the group is being chosen to be representative of all parts of our sector, all shades of the industry and all colors of opinion.

At present, the intention is that most of the agenda set at this unprecedented meeting will be made public. Indeed, part of the value of convening the council at Cannes Lions is that the collective brains of the industry will be onsite to contribute to its deliberations. But there may be some sensitive areas where the agenda will remain confidential, allowing the greatest possible candor and imagination to be applied to the challenges of this fast-changing age.

In many ways, the timing could not be better. The scrutiny of business models in every part of the marketing value chain has been intense in recent months and will inform everything we discuss at Cannes Lions as a whole. The council’s agenda will be shaped by those same trends. The questions we have all been asking in the wake of issues arising from fake impacts, data/privacy issues and the new normals of media buying will surely be central to the purpose of this new body.

What is the purpose of media buying in a programmatic era? Can brands trust intermediaries, be they platforms or agencies, to treat their marketing priorities with the necessary attention and care? Is there an art left in marketing, or is it just a science now? What direction will the art have to take to revive brand growth, which everyone agrees has stalled?

The scrutiny of business models in every part of the marketing value chain has been intense in recent months and will inform everything we discuss at Cannes Lions as a whole.

What direction will the science have to take to restore trust, which is in short supply both from the brand perspective and that of the consumer? Will the commoditization of advertising continue at the same pace or will the end of the current era of technology present us with opportunities as yet unknown to change the very nature of our industry?

Even the single issue of programmatic is enough to occupy the minds of the council for the duration of an entire Cannes Lions Festival. We recognize increasingly the ups and downs of a new way of bringing messages to audiences, but not all markets have drawn the same lessons from this family of technologies and not all sectors have the same approach to solving its problems. A global approach and a local approach are both clearly needed.

Many people would say that the greatest threat to the future of marketing is the question of trust. Social media platforms have offered a truly novel way of reaching people with marketing messages, but each level of novelty in responding to that opportunity seems to bring its own downside. The lack of transparency from these platforms and the recent revelations of how cavalier some companies have been with personal data have given us all pause about our own relationship with the digital world. And so we have to grapple with the realization that our customers and their customers are having precisely the same thoughts.

Have marketers and platform owners put novelty and clever tricks ahead of the principles of good marketing: a strong message delivered in the right place in an appropriate way to the right audience? Can we even answer this question now?

Of course, the need for and the existence of a council of the strongest minds in marketing, reflecting the diversity of the world it serves, goes far beyond Cannes Lions. The work of this body will continue into the future, and we hope and expect it to be just the first time you hear about it. In the future, nobody expects the pace of change to decelerate, but perhaps the solidity of a new institution such as the CMO Growth Council is just what we need at this momentous time to set our bearings for what comes next.

Jose Papa is managing director of Cannes Lions.