On the Eve of Cannes Lions, Let’s Abolish the Marketer vs. Consumer Trend

Find ways to be funny, gripping and cool along the content journey

We are the marketers and the advertisers. And despite all of our hard work, we have become the enemy.

David Shing Getty Images

If we put ourselves in the brains of consumers, it's easy to understand the resentment. We insert pre-roll before their beloved content and interrupt it with midroll. Sure, we have statistics and graphs and charts and decks to show ourselves why we do what we do and how effective it is. We have Cannes, an inspirational experience where I always encounter great ideas and greater minds. But at the end of journée, it is a gathering of "us" (marketers) talking about "them" (consumers).

Now is the time to bridge that gap. We stand on the precipice of enormous change in the industry, in the midst of a mobile, video and virtual reality revolution that's already changed the way consumers get to content and, more importantly, the way content gets to consumers. Those unwilling to change and open themselves to real innovation, wherever it may come from, will be left behind.

When no more borders can be drawn between mediums, and content can live in a dozen

places and be accessed in twice as many more ways, holding onto the maps of the past becomes a hindrance rather than a guide. Certainly we must change whatever dynamics have brought us into opposition with the consumer, and devise ways to work alongside them. We must see what they see, experience what they experience, and be able to converse and interact with them about all of it.

Being open means many things on an operational level. It means being open to providing

content on any device or screen, wherever consumers want it. It means being open to partnerships and alliances that you've never considered. But bigger than all of this, it means being open to openness, a concept I borrow from Buddhism. We spend so much time trying to fill this or that quota, find a workaround or loophole in the rules of the industry, or quibble over viewability and premium issues. The challenge is to not allow yourself to be confined by the current rules of the industry, because they are changing.

The challenge is to be a marketer as you are a consumer, and no longer market to consumers but find ways to be funny, gripping and cool as you accompany them on their journey. No more us vs. them.

We don't need to trick consumers into this either. We're already walking hand in hand with brands, without even realizing it. The curated feed of Facebook and Instagram is basically an informed and savvy digital friend, giving us suggestions:

"Have you seen this? You've got to watch this," it urges, and we click, watch, enjoy and even share further. We don't balk because it is branded content: We average Joes don't even know what branded content is. But we sure as hell know what good content is.

Can we do this? Can we be ready to offer good and relevant content and creative at the right time to the right people? It is a seemingly simple proposition. But it will be impossible to attain if our strategy is salvoes from a sinking island off the coast of consumer reality. 

Virtual reality is on the way and I think it provides a good parallel. The job of marketers is not to watch our headsetted viewers flailing in empty rooms while we take notes on what we think they're seeing, noting their vitals and pupil dilation. Our job is to throw on a headset right next to them, and explore together whatever new world they are seeing. And when the time is right, we'll be able to turn to them and say, "Hey, let's check this out."

Who is "us"? We happen to have marketing or advertising written on our business cards. Who is "them"? In reality, virtual or otherwise, they are us and we are them. Keep that in mind for Cannes, and let's start creating, working and acting outside of the old world of us vs. them.

David Shing (@shingy) is AOL's Digital Prophet.