Data Advertising Mergers and Acquisitions

From the state of agencies to a media in flux: Five reflections on the Adforum Worldwide Summit

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By Steve Antoniewicz | director

October 23, 2015 | 5 min read

Earlier in October I visited New York for the annual Adforum Worldwide Summit. It's a chance to meet some of the most powerful players in the advertising industry and understand the trends in the market.

IPG at the Adforum Worldwide Summit

Over five days I saw 25 presentations from a mixture of global agency networks and independents large and small, many of which were pure play digital.

Here's five of many observations from my week.

Art, commerce and science

For as long as I can remember the natural tensions in the advertising industry were those between art and commerce. Nowadays science is also right in the mix. Craft, creativity and the power of ideas are still, as always, stock in trade, but today those have become less valuable in isolation. Now the science of data and delivery through technology seems of equal and sometimes greater import.

Big emotions, big effect

Advertising remains a powerful part of culture not because of new models, data or channels or technology but because of the ability of advertising creatives to produce work that connects on an emotional level. Some standout examples of the creative craft were shared with us over the course of the week including BBDO’s spot for Guinness, Mullen Lowe’s for Knorr and TBWA’s for Airbnb (below). Take a bow all.

Back to the future for media?

There were no media buying companies represented at this year's summit, apparently because they are all too busy pitching and, it seems, putting out fires. The debates on rebates, issues of transparency, programmatic buying, ad blocking etc all seem too be high on the agenda. Maybe this flux will signal the return of the full service agency, it seems like it's on the cards for more than a few.

Buy in, buy out?

Though the summit is focused on the advertising industry, digital media, comms and experiences were a big themes in nearly every presentation. In most cases the holding companies have built this capability through acquisition or by amalgamating existing agencies. Obviously neither route guarantees success. I did come to ponder whether perhaps in future whether some brave souls might buy back out...

Change always

For sure advertising and media must be among the most dynamic business sectors to be in at the moment and the only constant seems to be change. Three notable new movers at scale in the space seem worth watching closely:

Cheil – real ambition, a huge advantage now in its proximity to tech, great hires and the Tu Hon approach (look it up on YouTube).

You and Mr Jones – a new model network which will be built from the ground up, well funded, a brand tech approach, MO film early acquisition, some serious intent and acquisitions ahead.

I-crossing – a pure play digital agency with heritage and scale now operating inside a global publishing empire Hearst. Agency has brands. Publisher has audiences. Very compelling proposition.

The next Adforum Summit takes place in Berlin in April 2016.

Steve Antoniewicz is managing director at Recommended Agency Register

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