Reflections on Cannes 2023 – Marketing as a Force for Good
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Reflections on Cannes 2023 – Marketing as a Force for Good

Butler/Till had the privilege of attending the 2023 Cannes International Festival of Creativity in June. President & CEO, Kimberly Jones, Chief Marketing Officer, Amanda DeVito, and Chief Strategy Officer, Scott Ensign spoke on a total of seven panels on topics ranging from imposter syndrome and programmatic supply chain sustainability to privacy, regulation, and supporting women in marketing leadership. They attended dozens of sessions and held meetings with key partners, all in service of furthering Butler/Till’s purpose of creating connections and making a difference in the media and marketing space. We asked all three of them to share their main takeaways from this important industry event to share with you.

Q: If you had to highlight one theme that you think dominated the conversations at Cannes this year, what would it be and why?

Kimberly: I was inspired by the momentum I saw in promoting female leadership in the broader marketing industry. I had the privilege of speaking on two panels related to gender equality. The first was a conversation facilitated by Brand Innovators with truly inspirational women from Integral Ad Science, PacSun, Diageo, Ring Concierge, and Reddit. The other was with HUMAN, where we had the chance to have a very honest and enlightening discussion about how we can pursue gender equality by changing the way we structure expectations in the workplace. That conversation included strong female leadership from R3, HUMAN, Stealth Startup, Amazon Web Services, and Persist. Through these panels and other events and content, I left feeling that we really are at a tipping point for gender equality, which I know will unlock so much potential in our industry.

Amanda: I was inspired by the celebration of creativity and the way that creativity can be interpreted differently by everyone. For example, creativity can be in how you define innovation. It can be in the actual creative product itself. It can be about a media connection that has a social impact. And it can be about creating environments that encourage inclusivity. The energy and buzz at Cannes give us, as marketers, a sense of where consumers, customers, and patients are asking brands to go with their advertising efforts. This year, they are doubling down on continued transparency, true authentic connections, diversity and inclusion, ethics and responsibility, and purpose-driven marketing. I also took note of the conversation around welcoming tech and data into your strategies, especially if it is a tool used to create an incredibly engaging experience for the end user.

Scott: That’s a tough one, because there were many prominent themes this year, but the one that stood out most for me was sustainability. There’s a groundswell of recognition and energy around the fact that our industry needs to do more to mitigate our impact on the environment. I had the honor of participating in a panel discussion with HUMAN about sustainability in the programmatic supply chain and had a chance to talk with our partners at Scope3 about what we can all be doing to decrease the carbon footprint of the digital advertising space. I’m optimistic that the key people in our industry seem to be lined up to do the right things to address this problem. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be simple, but this is certainly an area where we can all work together to do better.

Q: What’s one thing you learned at Cannes this year that you see yourself immediately applying to the work you do for clients and/or as a leader at Butler/Till?

Kimberly: One thing that really struck me about the entirety of the Cannes experience was that Butler/Till has a lot to say in some of the most important conversations going on in our industry. The values that we have always held are now more relevant than ever, and I want our people to feel empowered to use their voice to make positive changes on topics like gender equality, sustainability, and transparency. I came back from Cannes inspired to model those values even more explicitly so all our employee-owners will understand that they have permission to do the same.

Amanda: I too felt Butler/Till’s core values ring prevalent in today’s conversations in our industry. Butler/Till, as a 100% employee-owned, woman-owned/led, B Corporation, has a lot to contribute to the key topics we saw at Cannes because we have lived in a purpose-driven culture throughout our 25-year history. We have seen continued validation that if we want our clients to thrive, we have to continue to challenge them, and in that, challenge ourselves. Our job goes beyond placing their media. We deeply understand our client’s goals and constraints in order to educate and inform them with data and insights, and ask thought provoking questions to encourage different viewpoints and approaches. We work to challenge our clients in tandem with managing risks and showing impact and ROI.

Scott: One of the main reasons that we invest in attendance at events like Cannes is the opportunity to hear from partners who are doing new and innovative things. We had the opportunity to meet with dozens of our key partners in the space of just a few days, and one thing that I will be acting on right away is the further exploration of privacy-forward audience targeting options. I was able to connect with innovators in the space like GumGum and ID5, who are addressing the very real issue of changing addressability options in the programmatic space with cookies finally going away (we think). As we continue to evolve and elevate our programmatic offering at Butler/Till, connections with industry leaders help us to innovate and explore future-proof solutions like advanced contextual targeting and cookieless identity resolutions.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to attend an event like this as a leader in the media and marketing agency space?

Kimberly: Things are moving so fast in our world. At Butler/Till, we always believe that our clients’ success is our success, and we can’t help our clients achieve the kind of transformational business impact they’re looking for if we are not keeping pace with the speed of change. The number of conversations we have had with some of the most innovative partners in the space over a few days is mind-boggling. It’s probably the most productive event we have attended in terms of setting up critical business conversations and relationships with clients and other partners.

Amanda: I once heard that leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. I truly believe that you can’t have one without the other. Attending events like Cannes exposes us to a broader understanding of global perspective, and of course–left us inspired. I have always appreciated how our advertising community plays a significant role in pushing positive and progressive initiatives. The creative influence to promote change and drive conversations through impactful campaigns, education, partnerships, and advocacy makes me proud to attend these events.

Scott: I think it’s critical for everyone in our industry to have a meaningful voice and seat at the table. I feel privileged to work for an independent, values-driven organization that is women-owned/led, employee-owned, and a certified B Corporation. Cannes is an opportunity to represent the needs of our clients and all our employee-owners in some of the most meaningful industry conversations that are happening. This is an important opportunity for all of us to be heard.

Q: Looking back on your entire experience at Cannes this year, what challenges do you see our industry facing, and how optimistic are you about the future?

Kimberly: There are some big challenges in how we continue to do the work of marketing. We heard conversations on everything from remote vs. in-office work to the impact of disruptive technology like generative AI. The work is changing fast, and it is incumbent on all leaders in our space to make sure we’re managing that change thoughtfully, compassionately, equitably, and effectively. That is a difficult balance to strike. However, anyone who has spent time with me knows that I am an eternal optimist. I always say that our people at Butler/Till can do anything, and I know that we will meet the challenges of our rapidly changing industry head on.

Amanda: The reality is that there are a lot of challenges facing our industry like digital transformation, ad fraud and viewability, continued lack of diversity and inclusion, ad blocking, privacy concerns, measurement and attribution, emerging tech, sustainability and ethics, budget constraints, and of course, earning customers’ attention in a fragmented ad world to forge authentic connections. Despite these challenges continuing to be discussed beyond the beaches of Cannes, I remain beyond optimistic for the future of our industry. Because with all these challenges and constraints comes innovation. We have seen that our industry is masterful at adapting, and we will continue to shape the business landscape and consumer culture, because that’s what we do.

Scott: Our industry continues to face massive and accelerated disruption. The way people think about and consume media has changed dramatically over the past five years, but the next five years will be even more volatile. Although it may seem counterintuitive, all of that makes me even more optimistic, because I think we have the chance to do just about everything not only differently, but better. There’s broad recognition that old models of buying, targeting, and measurement won’t work going forward, and I see a lot of energy and enthusiasm around creating new and integrated frameworks that work for brands, agencies, publishers, and consumers alike. In five years, I believe that our industry will be healthier, more effective, and more sustainable.

To learn more, connect with our experts today.

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