If Martians went to Montreux

I have become something of professional conference attender over the last few years – my how I love a lanyard – but this was my first time at the international Festival of Media at Montreux. It is rare for me to be rubbing shoulders with the international media hand-luggage-only-1st-6-rows-fast-track-exec-lounge brigade.

The Media Festival is actually a brilliant meeting of international media movers and shakers.  It’s in a stunning location and one of the things they do well is allow plenty of time for the aforementioned shoulder rubbing.  Each break is at least 45 minutes long so in spite of the numbers there’s lots of opportunity to meet, chat and ask people about their BA exec club card colour.

However, it did strike me that if you were a Martian or even just a stranger to the world of media and suddenly found yourself in the midst of it for 3 days, based on the scheduling of the conference, the themes chosen for each session and the people represented on stage, you might well have been left with the following impressions:

∙         There is this phenomenon that everyone is very preoccupied with and that is “digital”.  It is very hard to work out what this “digital” is as everyone uses the word differently but it seems to mean stuff to do with the internet and it’s causing a lot of excitement and anxiety.

∙         There are 3 groups of people who seem to be most significant in this industry (based on how much time they spend on stage) and they are: clients, heads of media agencies and “digital” entrepreneurs.

∙         Very few of them are women.

∙         Clients seem to be worried about transparency and arbitrage/trading desks. Agencies say they shouldn’t be worried. “Digital” entrepreneurs don’t seem to care either way.

∙         According to the “digital” entrepreneurs “digital” is going to kill lots of things. Well, maybe it hasn’t killed many things yet.  But, apparently it’s going to and the digital entrepreneurs think this is a “good” thing.

∙         There seems to be some sort of biscuit problem.  Cookies are being deleted more and more which seems (confusingly) to be leading to cookie proliferation. And apparently the danger is that this might make “digital” a bit rubbish so something needs to be done.

If you were a very astute Martian you might have picked up on a few other themes such as the ones below, but you’d have had to be listening very carefully as they weren’t on stage for long :

∙         Salman Amin, CMO of Pepsico said that the next big thing to happen in media is something called television.

∙         Television apparently is all about great content and great storytelling and this is what real people care about.

∙         Alain Damond of Initiative said that television has never been in as strong position as it is today.

∙         UM shared their wave research which showed that no matter how many additional electronic devices there are in the home, TV viewing remains the same.

∙         Nigel Burton of Colgate-Palmolive said it was important not to react to the latest thing as though it was the only thing.

Wouldn’t it be good if intergalactic, hand-luggage-only-1st-6-rows-fast-track-exec-lounge Martians at next year’s Festival of Media were to go home with a slightly more balanced view of the media industry we all work in?

  • Charlie Crowe

    Hi Lindsay,
    Overall, I think TV was well represented on the Festival of Media Plenary Stage – as you rightly say, one of the world’s largest advertisers focussed solely on the medium [did you see Marc Shroeder speak…? He is CEO of RTL Digital and sits on the Board of Europe’s largest TV Company]. Our challenge is always to find a balance. The Festival of Media is about the whole mix – we are a broad church! We want global clients and agency leaders to gain insights about print… online video… mobile… ROI capabilities… ambient… networks…  and, of course, “traditional” TV, which still dominates global ad share, if not the conversation.
    When we build each Festival of Media we invite every major TV company in the world to create a “Showcase Session” [this is an integral part of the ‘editorial’ of the Event, there are 6 to 10 25-minute sessions in the breaks] and we are always disappointed as to how many companies with a TV-heritage decline our offer. The demand is always from TV’s online competitors! They have a sexier story to tell… and I haven’t met a global media agency CEO who is winning a client pitch with the message “spend more on television”. Maybe there needs to be a “Global Thinkbox” who we could work with??? Can the Festival help to pull this together? Our door is open to ensure TV doesn’t lose out in the conversation with the global leadership.
    Best wishes
    Charlie Crowe, CEO, C Squared / Founder, Festival of Media
    PS. I invite you to attend our Festival of Media Latin America on September 24th in Miami. In this region they have LAMAC – a very effective body that represents all cable TV to advertisers across LatAm. With their input, and that of companmies like Televisa and Globo, there is more likelihood that we’ll pass your martian test with more ease!

  • Lindsey Clay

    Hi Charlie,

    We like to think we are a bit global – that’s why I flew to Montreux!

    Thanks for your detailed response. Apologies up front for my even more detailed response to your response…

    I’m afraid I can’t agree with you that TV was well represented relative to its size and significance. I think your phrase “and, of course, “traditional” TV which still dominates global ad share, if not the conversation” sums up the issue for me.

    One of the many reasons for TV’s success is that it is anything but traditional. It is expanding in all sorts of ways (often via the internet) into new times and places, new platforms, new advertising opportunities and ways of amplifying other media. There are plenty of new and innovative ways of using TV to inspire a conference audience.

    Does not the fact that it dominates global ad share suggest that it should have a little more focus for a medium which is so vibrant?

    And TV does not just dominate global ad share, it is also proven time and again by a multitude of independent sources to be the most effective advertising medium both on its own and in combination with other media. Deloitte, in its annual global study refer to it as the “super medium”. I would have thought this might earn it a bit more stage time.

    But there wasn’t the slightest chance of TV dominating the conversation at Montreux because of the way the programme was set up. That Salman Amin chose TV as his topic was down to him. The only significant slot given over to a broadcaster was the Marc Schroeder one that you mention (I do know RTL; they are one of our Associate members) and the session appeared deliberately set up to downplay the significance of TV – notwithstanding the fact that I’m ‘primed’ to look out for that sort of thing. Marc’s theme was “TV everywhere” and the expanding possibilities of TV but its message was undermined as he was forced to do his session as a ten minute pitch to the client. And what was he pitching against? A Yahoo TV companion app and a company which facilitates the production of UGC content for TV advertising. How are these in competition with each other when the latter two are dependent for their success on the strength of the TV medium? The client was sensible enough to say that, in real life, he would take all the calls. But, in being forced to pick a winner, what was communicated to the audience was that TV as a medium was less interesting and significant than an app used by a tiny percentage of its audience to complement some of their viewing.

    In answer to your point about TV companies declining to take up your offer of the showcase sessions. I appreciate that there is an opportunity to “buy” a showcase session and that this might be of commercial benefit, particularly to emerging online companies with a new product whose awareness needs raising. But the showcase sessions each reach about 10% of the main audience so it is in no way a comparable alternative to fair representation on the plenary stage.

    Finally, I hope I communicated in my blog that I am a big fan of the Festival of Media and I think you have an unenviable job in trying to create a balanced schedule that satisfies everyone. We’d be delighted to help suggest some themes and content to make next year’s Festival of Media even better for Martians and media professionals alike.