June 20th, 2011
03:39 PM GMT
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Cannes, France (CNN) – It sounds harsh but it’s a truth, at least for one industry. I would tell you the name of the industry but that’s where it gets tricky.

I am at the Cannes Lions Festival which used to be an advertising conference for agency head honchos. They would meet, swap ideas and party through the night. Now it’s a "Festival of Creativity" where head honchos from all sorts of different businesses meet, swap ideas and party through the night.

One industry bigwig told me that advertising is dead. We’ve heard that before, but it now feels like we are past the shock of the news, had the funeral and are ready to move on. But this year’s conference seems to be asking: "Move on to what?"

The (Ad) agencies don’t feel like they are selling anymore. They are building long-lasting, deep relationships with "people." They don’t even talk about "customers" anymore. "Customer" is patronising and in the brave new world of "Creativity" everyone is on a level playing field – they are in a relationship, a platonic one of course but a deep, meaningful relationship.

There are brands who have achieved the holy grail of building long-lasting, deep relationships with "people," and they are the celebrity brands. That’s why a Jonas Brother, will.i.am and Pharrell Williams are all here and the centre of attention. These are pop stars who have customers/fans/people so loyal they do not feel like they are buying anything. They have bought into the brand, but aren’t buying it.

One of the main talking points at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity is working out how, as a commercial business, you manage to build up a following so loyal that your followers forget they are what used to be called a customer. I am using my own words now but hopefully it helps get the message across.

Do you think you could ever have the passion for an everyday product, though, that you did as a teenager for your favorite pop star?



soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. dobes

    Apple.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:50 am |
  2. redwallet

    ditto that

    June 21, 2011 at 6:22 am |
  3. Scott

    Fender.
    Saturn (Now Defunct)
    My neighborhood mechanic.
    Sam Ash Music.
    What lures me in is price. What captures my heart is feeling the heart that was put into the product. What makes me loyal is quality.

    June 21, 2011 at 6:36 am |
  4. John

    Actually, if people read the above article, they might assume that advertising is in need of improvement, and that's good when the need for educated and appropriate (and employed, perhaps) admen and women decide to market a product towards popularity in today's lower-than-average wage environment.
    I mean, really, who is the market? I'd have to say people who purchase the basics like packaged food and toilet paper. But that's hardly glamorous.
    I'd forecast that once the immediacy of the gloomy economy evaporates and people find more satisfying jobs, and leave home again, the market will increase and people will once again purchase "fad" types and sorts of new products and increase their inventory of the basics again, and also travel and even party more.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  5. Mac

    I love adverts, good ones are like art to me. I hate brand zombies.
    Create a good quality product and offer it at a fair price.
    Then try to convince me I need it.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  6. James

    I agree about Advertising being dead, now its all about a company's relationship with clients, quality and branding. Gone are the days were you can brainwash people with multiple ads and they'd coming flocking to you. People just don't have that kind of money anymore, people want value for what they buy and good service, its about loyalty and maintaining that.

    June 21, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  7. Stevie

    Advertising is dead? Good riddance.

    June 21, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  8. boys from men

    this crisis is affecting advertising exactly because it was instrumental in getting us here. Sure, deregulation was the keystone but we know, deep down, that our habits have to change. Suddenly, it's cool to shop at kmart. "Less is more" is in! Consumers have stopped looking at billboards and are going back to basics to survive. it's only a question of time before the ad people realign their batteries and make 'eye contact' again.

    June 21, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  9. Mary

    good to the last drop

    June 21, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  10. Precieux

    Well the world is huge so we will see. what's next

    June 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  11. Mark

    The article states the new truth of advertising. Companies no longer sell products, they sell Brands. The idea is no longer to convince consumers that their product is better than another, or has particular features, but to sell an image or lifestyle that can be associated with the brand.
    A recent Nike ad only shows a bunch of people doing extreme sports with no close ups of clothing or shoes. The ad becomes a music video for an "extreme" lifestyle, which then has a Nike logo and the "just do it" slogan slapped on the end. There is no selling of product. Advertising has become more about "Look how cool we are... and you can be too."

    June 21, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  12. rynot

    "cheap fabric and dim lighting, that's how you move product." -morty seinfeld

    June 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  13. nomorebiggovernment

    Advertising is like sales. No person wants to be called a sales rep. Companies dont want to deal with a sales rep. They dont want to be sold something. So companies call them business development managers, directors of strategic alliances, partner success managers. Anything but sales. Advertising is the same way. No one wants to be advertised to....but you can try to creat a long lasting relatiionship where the by product is I purchase your product or service. Or I try to make the relationship have a time limit or so something of deep $ value like a Groupon or a scout mob coupon, anything but call it what it really is...advertising. But everyone knows what it really is....its just not politically correct, unless you label it to sugar coat it.

    June 21, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  14. Phil

    No, advertising is not dead. That's like saying "sales doesn't exist." Sure, the way sales were conducted in the 1950s maybe, but things change. In the early to mid twentieth century marketing (which includes advertising) focused primarily on jingles, catchy phrases and rolling-out new products to outperform competitors; however, we've moved into an era of brand equity and education-based marketing where producers focus on a narrow range of products and attempt to market them to a broad audience through information. Instead of the double-mint jingle we have pop-songs and information. We've seen a shift in the executives. Many have backgrounds in psychology, sociology & anthropology with a deep understanding of human nature. The "advertising is dead" malarky became popular when the internet became big; but we still have ads. And will continue to do so.

    June 21, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  15. matt

    Sounds like to me, PR has replaced advertising.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  16. BB

    "One of the main talking points at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity is working out how, as a commercial business, you manage to build up a following so loyal that your followers forget they are what used to be called a customer."

    No kidding? Wow, could these advertising bigwigs be any less insightful? It's no wonder their advertising strategies are so worthless.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  17. 1-betterlife

    Great brands still succeed in bad economies. Look at the iPad/2. The major metro-area businesses in the market I live have been sold out of the 32G and 64G wireless versions since they were released. When they get their 11am shipment sporadically throughout the week, they are sold out by 5pm that same evening.There are other business with this popularity, too, but you can't deny that Apple has got a great formula.
    What I see, as a marketer for an everyday product, is that business owners are so absorbed with short term sales numbers, they focus on (and demand) an offer of discount or price, rather than product benefit or coolness factor. As long as the business organization is screaming price at people, people are going to judge you on price alone. Price alone does not build a relationship.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  18. Jeff

    "Do you think you could ever have the passion for an everyday product, though, that you did as a teenager for your favorite pop star?"

    No, I have never had that type of passion for a product. I am much older now and not so easy to be pursuaded to part with my money. Oh, sure it can be done, but the products I like and desire are not your avaerage consumerable.

    I also disagree that advertising is dead, I just think advertising hasn't found it's "new" place yet as the markets are still floundering. On line advertising will increase and if countries like the US ever get their act together and work to get more people on line, advertising will kick in again. It's just a matter of time.

    June 21, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  19. Bob

    For something that's supposedly dead, advertising sure is noisy.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  20. Nick

    On my daily comb though the worlds news i came across this article.

    It sounds like a nice idea, but i have a sneaking suspicion it's only a new buzz phrase for agencies to sell themselves to clients...
    like Integrated was the new digital and 360 now means everything. I think David Ogilvy would roll over in his grave if he read this.

    Business's are still selling products/services and the person buying is still a consumer, so no matter how warm, fuzzy, loyal, fanatical or even Alzheimer's ridden they feel about a purchase, the dynamic won't change until business's operate for free.

    Anyway thats my '50cent' worth. :P

    June 22, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  21. JL

    BS. Why do people pay six grand for a rolex or twenty bucks for Absolut vodka if not advertising? Why do signed bands always get more sales than indie bands? Why does Toyota sell more Priuses than Honda sells Insights except that one buys more ads than the other? Hell, why do people even buy Nikes at all, when they're made in the exact same sweatshop by the exact same Chinese children with the exact same artificial petrochemical materials and shipped in on the exact same container ship, then sold on the exact same rack as the wal-mart knock-offs?

    June 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  22. Elise

    Brands are media outlets now, and minimalistic consumerism is in vogue.

    June 23, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  23. small business

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    May 11, 2013 at 2:27 am |

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