Festival of Marketing 2015

Published on November 26, 2015

This year’s Festival of Marketing, held over two days in Tobacco Dock, East London, boasted over 200 speakers across 12 stages.

The presentations, panels and keynote speakers offered insight on everything from how to create compelling experiences to how the role of the marketer is undergoing a transformation at the hands of digital. Run by industry influencers, Marketing Week, Econsultancy, Design Week and Creative Review, the Festival was brimming with disruptive thinking, innovative ideas and fresh and agile ways of working.

Lord Sugar: Marketing and Me

The Festival opened with a bang, with an entertainingly frank talk led by Lord Alan Sugar, business magnate, peer of the realm and host of UK’s version of ‘The Apprentice’. As brusque and to the point as ever, he expressed his distaste for the John Lewis Christmas advert (“what product are they advertising?”).

He talked about giving marketers budget to “piss up the wall” and chalked Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone down to entrepreneurial genius, “not some marketing tosser’s”, which inspired someone to print some ‘proud to be a marketing tosser’ T-shirts the following day. At the end, he was asked to offer us one piece of advice, but he seemed confused by who the audience was – “are they marketers?”

Perhaps the takeaway was, ‘know your audience’…

The Tech Off

There were, in fact, 3,000 other marketers (perhaps unsurprisingly) at the Festival of Marketing. As the first day progressed, I attended talks on subjects ranging from ‘Social Networking for B2B Brands’ to the ‘Tech Off: Battle for the Future’. This was a talk ran by TechDept in which the competitors (Colin Lewis, bmi, David Bailey, BBC, Scott Morrison, The Boom!) were given five minutes to pitch the technological innovation they use to deal with digital disruption. The audience donned foam fingers and cheered to decide the winner, measured by an incredibly accurate cardboard cheer-o-meter.

The victor was ceremoniously presented with an 80s style wrestling belt as their prize by two (glamorous?) assistants.

Marketing in outer space

The first day drew to a close with what ended up being the highlight of the event for me – a talk on the Headline Stage from Colonel Chris Hadfield. Not only was the content incredible, but he was one of the most engaging speakers I saw at the Festival. His career as an astronaut spanned 21 years, and included three spaceflights and a cool 2,600 orbits of Earth. Through the use of social media, he has aimed to make outer space accessible to the rest of the world – check out his outer space music video:

Monica Lewinsky: Patient Zero

The festival was brought to a close with a rather sobering take on branding from Monica Lewinsky. She was arguably the first person to experience online shaming on a global scale, and is now urging brands to work with consumers to create a more ethical internet. “The marketers in this room can play a big role in making sure that this current culture of shaming and its link with ad dollars ends.”

By clicking on links, we increase the numbers that translate to ad sales so, in effect, we are exerting editorial control by giving our vote to content and perpetuating the publishing of the same content in the future. In Lewinsky’s eyes, by clicking you make a moral choice: “with every click we’re entering the colosseum”.

Key takeaways

Monica Lewinsky’s account of how her personal brand careered out of her control with the advent of digital media threw marketing into a whole new light – which is exactly what the Festival of Marketing set out to do. There was such a diverse range of speakers and attendees that there were innumerable takeaways from the event, but the merits of personalization, the potential data offers and the race to drive the speed of innovation permeated the discourse of the event.

Here’s a list of key quotes from some of the event’s speakers:

  • “Companies are no longer competing against each other, they’re competing against speed” – Jeremy Waite, Salesforce
  • “We need to de-risk innovation. Make it feel like part of the business… and create a coalition of the willing” – Scott Harrison, The Boom!
  • “We should not be starting new businesses to make money. You should start a business to create something that really makes a difference by creating a great service or great product. Then the money will come” and, “If you’re in control, you’re not going fast enough” – Anthony Thompson, Atom Bank
  • “When using data, we need to use it to understand people, not just track them” – Dean Taylor, Virgin Active
  • “Technology provides the opportunity, but creativity brings the value” – Tori Chilcott, Scoota
  • “We’ve confused persuasion and promotion. It’s harder to create a big persuasive idea than it is to promote it” – Sir John Hegarty, BBH