LONDON (AdAge.com) -- U.K. marketers gathered at the annual Incorporated Society of British Advertisers conference this week tried to cheer themselves with the idea that marketing innovation can help lead the world out of the economic crisis.
The event, which took place at the glorious setting of Lord's Cricket Ground in London, was 80% sold out, a figure that the organizers were happy with given the gloomy economic environment.
Justin Billingsley, the U.K. brand marketing director of telecom Orange, did his best to keep the mood positive with an upbeat pitch on how to stop worrying and try to find the upside of the recession.
He said, "Scarcity fuels creativity. Already I'm seeing better stuff brought to us by our suppliers. There's less money to spend so the better work is chasing that money."
Mr. Billingsley also claimed that the recession heightens the role of marketing in the upper leadership ranks of a company. "I find myself in the boardroom a lot more often lately," he claimed.
He said that iconic brands play a greater role in our lives at times like these. "People lose faith in governments but there isn't a net loss of faith. They put it into other relationships and that includes brands. People remember if a brand finds a way to make them smile, entertain them or just do something interesting. When smiles are scarce, their value increases."
For Orange, the main issue is that people say they want to spend less but they don't want to change their lifestyle, a conflict that creates stress. "How can we be a solution to the stress?" Mr Billingsley asked. "This is a period of a different hierarchy of needs."
Ed Richards, CEO of government regulator Ofcom, stressed earlier in the day that there "is no hiding from the economic situation." Stephen Carter, the minister for communications, technology and broadcasting, described the current crisis as "sending a gale through the media landscape."
Moray MacLennan, chairman of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and worldwide CEO of M&C Saatchi, did his best to galvanize the marketers present -- including delegations from Honda, Sony, GlaxoSmithKline, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Kellogg, Johnson & Johnson and Mars -- into maintaining their budgets.
He said, "Marketing can lead us out of the recession. It doesn't just create demand, it can change the mood."