It's a somber day in London, where the city's Mayor Sadiq Khan is dealing with the aftermath of yesterday's terror attack and had to cancel his eagerly-awaited talk at Advertising Week Europe today.
Earlier in the morning, the event's organizers – who today conducted bag searches of delegates for the first time -- had still expected him to appear. But later Advertising Week's executive director, Matt Scheckner, encountered in a hallway at the venue at about noon, said Mr. Khan had been called into a British government cabinet meeting. Mr. Scheckner said Mr. Khan's theme, in a Q&A session with a London newspaper editor, was going to be that London is open for business. (Actually, that usually is Mr. Khan's favorite topic, particularly post-Brexit).
In his introduction to Advertising Week Europe's 2017 program distributed at the venue, Mr. Khan, who was elected mayor last year and is the first Muslim to hold that post, wrote, "London is one of the most diverse cities on the planet. This event is a chance for the best international creative minds and global brands to talk about the future of this industry … I hope you make the most of your time in London and all that our city has to offer."
In an interview with Ad Age earlier this month, Mr. Scheckner said "Sadiq embodies a lot of values consistent with our values, like being inclusive and open for business. Juxtapose those with our president's [values], and they are more important than ever before."
(The U.S. response to Wednesday's attack included a widely-condemned tweet from President Donald Trump's son Donald Jr. criticizing Mr. Kahn. Mr. Trump took out of context Mr. Khan's belief that large global cities must be prepared for terrorist attacks and tweeted "You have to be kidding me?!: Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan." Mr. Khan told CNN: "I'm not going to respond to a tweet from Donald Trump Jr., I've been doing more important things over the past 24 hours.").
Elsewhere at the Advertising Week venue at Picturehouse Central, located scarcely a mile from yesterday's attack, The Guardian conducted a session about advertising funding terrorism (read about that here) and a panel debated the impact of Brexit on creative talent. The longest line in a week of long lines to enter popular sessions was for former Vice-President Al Gore, who spoke this morning and showed part of his documentary "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power."
Yahoo was there to help, recruiting a group of about 18 young people with Yahoo T-shirts and signs who could be booked online to stand in line for delegates who wanted to avoid long waits, especially if they were attending consecutive sessions and wouldn't have time to queue up for the next one. One delegate booked Yahoo to stand in line for him for seven different sessions, a Yahoo line person said.
At the panel about the impact of the U.K.'s exit from Europe on creative talent, Chris Hirst, U.K. chairman and European CEO of Havas, talked about giving evidence in front of a government committee about the skills the ad industry is most concerned about losing. He said those skills are hard to quantify in a way that makes sense to politicians.
"Business will continue to be able to bring in high-level talent, like star designers," he said. "My concern is a lot of breakthrough talent comes in the gap between someone you've never heard of and the famous. Those are the ones who won't be able to get in and they're the foundation of our creative culture."
Nigel Carrington, vice-chancellor of the University of the Arts London, said 49% of his school's students come from outside the U.K. Students are classified as immigrants, he explained, and that means that when the U.K. government talks about reducing immigrants, an easy way to do that is to cut the number of international students.
Since the U.K.'s departure from Europe is inevitable now, panelists agreed that the best thing is to try to find ways to limit the damage, such as lobbying for students not to be classified as immigrants any more.
Kate Mosse, author and director of The National Theatre, said "However you feel about the way [Brexit] is being handled—and that mostly ranges from distressed to appalled—the only thing to do is look forward and try to make it better than it would be."
Contributing: Emma Hall