Brands: tap in to the power, or be tapped out – leader from The Drum’s latest print issue

Katie McQuater is magazine editor at The Drum. As well as editing the monthly print edition of the magazine, she writes features for the publication and contributes opinion pieces in her leader column. She tweets @KatieMcQuater.

Perhaps it was a rosé-induced hangover that prompted a mood of existential self-reflection as the dust settled over La Croisette.

The perceived power of Cannes Lions, unarguably the biggest event of the creative calendar globally, was once again put under the spotlight as Publicis Groupe announced it would be pausing spend next year and WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell branded the event “too bold and too brash”.

We explore the future of creativity and awards schemes in The Drum’s latest issue, but what’s for sure is that if Cannes is a microcosm of the advertising industry in general, things are certainly changing – but perhaps not fast enough.

This month’s striking cover (above) points to a major missed opportunity for advertisers: a generation of affluent, socially connected, fashion-forward and highly engaged consumers. They are powerful. They also happen to be Muslims. And guess what? Brands aren’t representing them well enough.

Though some, such as Nike, have made positive strides in the area, our feature on ‘Generation M’ highlights the complexities of marketing to an audience for whom faith and modernity go hand-in-hand.

It’s yet another indication of the industry’s general lack of diversity in its outlook, a topic tackled by Refinery29’s Hallie Johnston elsewhere in the magazine. Referencing recent research by the millennial publisher alongside National Geographic and IPG on intersectionality and gender, Johnston says the data presents two challenges for marketers: how to acknowledge the importance of differing identities without perpetuating stereotypes, and how to “take action to become allies to women of color and women of other less privileged groups by paying more than just lip service.”

The vessels advertising can use to deliver these messages have changed dramatically. In the latest instalment of our regular Anatomy of an Ad feature, we look at the story behind one of the most lauded pieces of work from Cannes this year, which was made of bronze. New York’s Fearless Girl statue, conceived and executed by McCann, represents the blurred lines between advertising and art, and reminds us of the power of symbolism – while it doesn’t offer a magic bolt solution to the lack of women in leadership positions, it has a ripple effect of inspiration, as Tali Gumbiner, one half of the creative duo behind the idea, tells us.

“I think in making something tangible, we were able to make a symbol and that symbolism is ubiquitous and can be translated – it can go viral without a huge digital activation,” she says. “We started with something tactile that was drenched in meaning and then allowed the fruits of social media to carry it in a way that a digital campaign would.”

Sometimes advertising inspires people, and sometimes that’s enough. People whose voices maybe aren’t being heard. They don’t want to be preached to, they want you to understand.

It’s something BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti touches upon in his recent interview with our media columnist Ian Burrell. Discussing BuzzFeed’s hugely successful approach to building audiences, he says: “We tend to be like your friend who helps you navigate through the world, as opposed to an authority who tells you what to think.”

While power used to be held in the hands of the advertisers, it is shifting. From brands to consumers. From publishers to readers. From leaders to talent. If you don’t listen, collaborate and engage, they’ll walk out on you.

Perhaps it’s not Cannes we should be so worried about.

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Katie McQuater

As magazine editor at The Drum, I edit the monthly print edition of the magazine as well as commissioning and writing features for the publication.

Send feature pitches to katie.mcquater@thedrum.com

All by Katie