Shoreditch v Cannes - no contest; and Campaign woes

19 Jun 2017  |  Dominic Mills 
Shoreditch v Cannes - no contest; and Campaign woes

Dominic Mills explains the toll Brexit could take on London as a global advertising hub - and why rosé tastes better in Shoreditch. Plus: A new strapline for Campaign magazine.

In case you’ve been driven to shut yourself away in a cave for the last 12 days, this is Cannes week. The first part of this headline should be read both literally and metaphorically. The metaphorical bit as shorthand for Brexit; the literal bit comes later.

Seeing as this week is also the anniversary of the referendum, I’ll start with the Brexit metaphor.

I don’t think anyone, let alone the main protagonists, knows where Brexit is going. And hard, soft or hard in some areas and soft in others, I still believe the biggest issue for adland is talent - or if you were to frame it through the Brexit prism, immigration.

London is a global advertising hub, both for reasons of cultural geography and excellence. Centres of excellence are like magnets: they attract the best talent, whether that is in creative, planning, media, production, research, digital, whatever.

The best talent attracts the best talent, and so on. A lot of that talent is of non-UK origin - about 20 per cent in fact, according to an Advertising Association survey from last year. The AA will be updating the stats shortly with a second survey.

My own gut feel is that, in certain areas and amongst the younger cohorts, the figure is higher. Ad tech would be one example. I recently met two senior ad techies, one Ukrainian, one Romanian. One has tons of money and could easily relocate to New York; the other could go to Europe. One UK start-up entrepreneur told me a third of her staff was from the EU.

Ten days ago I hosted a panel at a digital agency where 90 per cent of the audience was under 30. I asked for a show of hands on whether they were from outside the UK (so non-PC!). About a third raised their hands.

None were in a hurry to leave, but if they had to most thought they could actually continue their employment but working remotely. This is one option, but it surely works only for a limited slice of staff.

It seems highly unlikely that Theresa May’s promise to keep immigration to 100,000 a year will stick. Some limits will be in place but even if it is watered down, adland - and it’s hard to disagree with the economic logic - would surely be behind industries like health, life sciences, care, hospitality and even agriculture in the queue for imported talent.

So what’s the answer? One is to keep fighting. Via the AA, the ad industry has a good case to make given the contribution advertising makes to GDP, and the overall status and importance - acknowledged by government - of the UK creative industries. The first fight is to grant those already here full rights.

The AA also suggests other options like the Australian-style points system or a FIFO (fly-in, fly-out) regime where non-UK citizens could make visa-free, short, business trips here for up to a week. This would certainly benefit those who could work remotely for the majority of their time.

Meanwhile, it seems to me, there should also be a focus should training and education, both at school - creative thinking classes, anyone? - and at university level. There are some degree level courses on offer, but not nearly enough.

None of this fills me with optimism, but one possible scenario makes me smile. It is this: unwittingly, and without ever intending it, the DUP softens the immigration approach and thus lends adland a hand.

But don’t tell Arlene Foster and the hard men of County Antrim. The thought would fill them with horror.

The Croisette? Pah. It’s Shoreditch for me

To all those who have carpet-bombed me with invitations to Cannes this week - ‘Cannes we talk?’ was one - the answer is ‘No’.

I shall be with the rest of the NFIs in Shoreditch.

My problem with Cannes is not so much the idea - what’s to dislike? - but its evolution into a cross between a tacky trade show - “come to our stand and get a goodie bag with a branded USB stick, woo hoo” and a speaker wank fest in which half the guests have no idea why they’re there.

The ad bit is becoming a sideshow.

At least three senior bureaucrats from the UN - including the deputy secretary-general - will be there. You’d think, as the world goes to hell in a handcart, they’d have better things to do. But then they are masters of the freebie. There’s also Steven Gerrard (WTF?), Dita von Teese (described as a burlesque icon), Halle Berry, Pussy Riot and the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

To justify this giant balloon of hot air, everything is framed through the lens of creativity. Thus Christine Lagadere, managing director of the IMF, is talking to Maurice Levy (you just can’t keep him down, can you?) on the subject of ‘Can Creativity Change the World?’.

I think we know the answer to that, but apparently she is using - their words, not mine - “creativity to fuel both progress and change across the globe”.

Hmm, I thought the IMF was the world’s monetary policeman, and when I hear financial people talk about creativity I think Bernie Madoff.

Instead, I shall be hosting a gig in Shoreditch courtesy of those nice people at Rezonence.

Together with speakers who actually know their stuff, plus an audience comprising real people, and then a giant vat of rosé, we’ll be having a load of fun.

And then Campaign went monthly

Those who know my past history as editor and then editorial director of Campaign won’t be surprised to know I have strong views on the title.

So when I heard it was going monthly, how did I feel?

Completely unsurprised. It’s been coming. Of late, it’s started dropping issues on the flimsiest of excuses - any bank holiday and, this week’s, I was told, “because everyone’s in Cannes”. You’d have to be blind to see that the weekly format was increasingly unviable financially and the print version accordingly emaciated.

But when the end comes, it comes with a whimper, not with a bang. There’s just two issues in July, and none in August before the relaunch in September.

Of course the staff will feel immensely deflated. It’s a status thing: a monthly feels second class compared to a weekly (they think). Some will worry about their jobs and I empathise. Announcing this just before Cannes will feel humiliating.

But in this day and age the status thing is a nonsense, as is some of the language in the official press release.

Instead of a load of defensive guff about “evolution” and “enhancement”, they should just have said: ‘Bigger. Better’.

One thing I find odd: the title is described as an “iconic media and marketing magazine”. Really? What happened to the advertising bit, the roots and the core of the title? It feels like a bit of history is being rewritten there.

If I have any requests for the new-look monthly, it’s these: one, go back to the original, classic, A3 format; find inspiration in the original design and style - it was bold, big and, given the inclination to bite the hand that feeds, ballsy.

On second thoughts, make that strapline. ‘Bigger. Better. Ballsy’.

P.S. I've just seen this statement from those nice people at the Media Briefing, who produce an excellent, thoughtful daily newsletter and a couple of good shows/conferences. They've been acquired by Haymarket. Sadly the newsletter is going into the bin, but Haymarket will take on the events, presumably to run under the Campaign banner.

There's two lessons to draw from this: one is that Haymarket is still prepared to invest in the Campaign brand; and two, the direction of travel is pretty clear - the future is more in events than it is in journalism.

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