To add insult to industry, the industry has taken a second beating as it has struggled to reshape itself in the wake of the increasing importance of the Internet, social and mobile media. In fact, the theme of meetings of the regional and councils and the national board of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) held across the country over the past few weeks was "How Can We Accelerate Success in a Recovery Market?"
This week, the worldwide industry gathers on the French Riviera for the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. For more than 50 years, advertising executives, marketers and ad agency creative types have gathered for a week of workshops, seminars and networking the highlight of which is the conferring of Lion statuettes for the best international advertising work. This year, the festival is anticipating 8,000 participants, up 2,000 from last year and generally a more optimistic group as the worldwide economy seems to be improving.
The festival is the preeminent global festival and award competition for the advertising industry. Hundreds of agencies submit more than 24,000 entries, up 7 percent from last year. This year, judging by the workshops and speakers, the focus will be on mobile media, social networks and engagement strategies. Strong contenders for major awards include Pepsi for its Pepsi Refresh project, Gatorade's Replay and the Old Spice campaign.
The festival is a great microcosm of the industry itself. Agency networks jockey for position by submitting hundreds of award entries hoping for bragging rights for winning the most or the most prestigious awards. Top industry executives and creatives work tirelessly to be invited to be on panels or asked to speak or judge the awards. In past years the atmosphere has resembled Mardi Gras in New Orleans with some of the parties and reveling that go into the wee hours of the morning.
Chicago-based advertising agency Leo Burnett has drawn attention with its social media idea. David Perez, a creative recruiter for the company, will be engaged in a social experiment. He has launched a Twitter sight called David on Demand. While he is there his followers can Tweet giving him commands to do things and he has promised to do everything in his power to comply. While this may be a stunt it is symbolic of how the industry is attempting to embrace social media. The best social media ideas still require the rigor of a solid marketing strategy but the first step is to understand the mechanics of how to employ them.