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Overheard at Advertising Week Europe and in The Drum & The Sun Arms...


By The Drum Reporters | Editorial team

March 23, 2018 | 9 min read

Advertising Week Europe isn’t all glitz and glamour you know? It’s also a hive of marketing industry gossip.

advertising week europe gossip

Nicola Mendelsohn’s talk with the Advertising Week Token B-List Celebrity, Nicole Scherzinger, went ahead as planned

The Drum’s moles were out in force this year on the ground and in our very own pub around the corner from the official proceedings – The Drum and Sun Arms – giving us plenty of access to the juicy stories that didn’t quite make the headlines.

Find out what went on behind the scenes below, from cheerleading mums to sweary panels and interesting karaoke choices...

Facebook’s woes, Google’s #SmugFace

Google execs were sighted almost visibly heaving sighs of relief when the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal broke a mere two days before Advertising Week Europe began. After last year’s revolt on the Alphabet firm (thanks to a similarly suspiciously-timed broadsheet investigation), the tech giant could be confident its fellow duopoly member would be taking the hits in 2018.

Publicly, Facebook was the epitome of the ‘Everything Is Fine’ meme: Nicola Mendelsohn’s talk with the Advertising Week Token B-List Celebrity, Nicole Scherzinger, went ahead as planned, with audience Q&As heavily vetted through Advertising Week’s system to prevent any awkward conversation about, well – you know – advertising. The Facebook exec then skipped off down Piccadilly to enjoy a lunch with Wacl and Grazia at Fortnum & Mason.

However her colleagues’ week was not so rosy. One Facebook exec had to rush out of The Drum and The Sun Arms mid-pint for an emergency trip to the office, as shit continued to hit the fan.

Google continued to capitalise on its ‘off-the-hook’ status by hosting a dinner in the semi-covered Borough Market on Wednesday night. But proving not even the data gods can predict the weather, the al fresco dining situation called for blankets and coats as the temperature struggled to reach double figures. That’s dedication to networking for you.

Mum’s the word

Those fridge magnets about mums being their offspring’s biggest fans certainly lived up to reality at this year’s Advertising Week Europe.

First up, one of The Drum’s eagle-eyed editors spotted Mendelsohn’s Mum running down Denman Street towards Picturehouse to catch her daughter’s one-on-one with Pussycat Doll and yogurt purveyor Nicole Scherzinger. Don’t cha wish your Mum was as supportive as that?

Then on Thursday when Snapchat’s Claire Valoti was interviewing ‘super Snapchatter’ Phillip Schofield on stage one, he revealed that Valoti’s Mum – a big fan of the Broom Cupboard star – was sitting in the front row. “I’m going to be careful what I say here,” he said, “you’re recording my every word down there…”

Bad manners

Advertising Week’s organisers were sure to have been popping the Ibuprofen as cancellations and tardy speakers plagued the event. It all started when Matt Hancock was forced to bail on his Monday interview with The Times’ Allister Heath due to “urgent cabinet business”.

Rumours swirled he was too scared to face an interrogation on Facebook/Cambridge Analytica before he’d had a chance to pop into Whitehall after the weekend. But his stand-in, digital minister Margot James, proved a dab hand at not answering the question, fobbing any talk of regulation onto the information commissioner. Give her a promotion, Theresa!

Sir John Hegarty showed up to his Tuesday session a piss-taking 15 minutes late, but the real irony came when it was announced his fellow knight of the realm, Sir Martin Sorrell, was stuck in New York and would have to be beamed into his interview via satellite link.

Conference veterans instantly recalled Dmexco 2016, when the WPP boss berated Twitter’s Jack Dorsey for doing just the same.

Out of tune

On Tuesday night The Drum and The Sun arms hosted its very own karaoke session, and we think there might just be an opportunity to start an industry superband with the talent on show.

You’ll never guess which media sales guru smashed Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance (ooh la la) or which programmatic crooner belted out Parklife without missing a beat, before taking the crowd on a magical mystery tour by moving on to Help by The Beatles.

Things got a little unruly as the evening drew to a close, with one PR stalwart offering his take on Coolio’s Gangsta's Paradise, and a version of Hanky Panky by one of The Drum’s very own.

For fuck’s sake

Which fabulously sweary session had organisers a little hot under the collar backstage? While the video was being edited (presumably for social) one PR flagged that the producer might be hard pushed to find a segment that didn’t contain any blue language.

Press room pressure

Picturehouse Central’s press room has reached almost legendary status as one of the most depressing of all time – dark, windowless, stuffy and always inexplicably smelly. However five years into the conference’s history, the latter mystery now appears to have been solved.

One Drum reporter witnessed Advertising Week’s PR team loudly tucking into copious amounts of hot food from Leon en masse from Monday to Thursday, while the surrounding press made do with the free mini packets of baked corn chips.

The satay chicken appeared to be a popular choice among the PRs. It certainly wasn’t with the journos.


Have you ever heard of Gorkana being used as a weapon of flattery? We hadn’t either until a PR told one of our reporters in The Drum and Sun Arms that he’d seen her picture on Gorkana but it “didn’t do her justice”. That’s a new one for sure, what’s next – Response Source speed dating?

Pick ’n’ mix fix

There’s not a day goes by when advertising efficiency cuts aren’t in the news, but some delegates were a little disappointed to find the trend had clearly spread to the ever popular Woolworth’s-esque pick ’n’ mix stall at Advertising Week Europe.

Sweets came pre-bagged this year, so attendees weren’t able to create their own selection – which we don’t think adheres to the pick’n’mix tradition. And come on, would anyone actually choose a foam banana over a fried egg?

You can catch up on all the coverage from Advertising Week Europe and The Drum and The Sun Arms here.

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