What We Saw and Heard in Venice

Reporter's Notebook from C Squared's Festival of Media

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VENICE, Italy (AdAge.com) -- The first ever Venice Festival of Media from C Squared Communications took place earlier this week. The two-day conference drew 420 media specialists who were there to explore media innovation and creativity and listen to marketing executives from the likes of Coca Cola, Unilever and Procter & Gamble. Ad Age reporter Emma Hall was in Italy, and summed up the highs and lows for us.
Photo: AP

Media executives got their own festival this week in Venice. One CEO said less suit-wearing could help the event lighten up and maybe rival Cannes.

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Buzzword of the Festival: "Frenemies." MindShare boss Dominic Proctor was the first to throw out this phrase. Agree or disagree, he created a talking point about client/agency/media owner relationships.

Most Uncomfortable Moment: Mr. Proctor (again) began his presentation with the words "I've worked for Martin Sorrell for 20 years. In the light of the recent court case, I feel uncomfortable in a room full of Italians. Please be gentle with me." Marco Tinelli, one of Mr. Sorrell's foes in court, was in the audience

Most Over-exposed Example of Creative Media: Doritos. At times it seemed as though the Super Bowl success story was the only convincingly innovative and effective case study that the media industry could come up with.

Things We Learned: Esther Lee has no less than five iPods. She is a self-confessed "newness seeker" -- a pattern of consumer behaviour that she agrees makes her own job as chief creative officer of Coca Cola very difficult.

Telling It Like It Is: Malcolm Hunter, head of strategy at Carat Global Management: "I've heard a lot of talk about engagement over the last two days, and a lot of talk about the consumer as a target. You don't engage a target, it's something you shoot at."

Advice for Future Delegates: Stay on the Lido. Venice is divided in to the Lido and Venice proper. The festival takes place on the Lido. If you stay in Venice, you see a lot of gondolas and tourists, but you'll waste half your time waiting for and traveling in water taxis.

Advice for Future Speakers: Leave out the hard sell. Too many agency and media bosses presented little more than a sales pitch and a showreel. If it was Cannes, there would have been booing. As one delegate said, "They might as well have put up billings and rankings charts."

Not-So Grand Finale 1: Billed as "FMCG giants in the ring," the festival's Procter & Gamble vs. Unilever final session packed out the Palazzo del Cinema. But the two heavyweight media directors from the packaged goods giants, Bernhard Glock and Alan Rutherford, pulled their punches and totally failed to live up to the hype. Rumour has it that corporate lawyers warned Mr. Glock against saying anything interesting.

Not-So Grand Finale 2: The gala dinner was set up to be a great party -- beautiful setting, delicious food and drink, and an inviting dance floor -- but too many people stayed away. There were a lot of empty spaces, and many party-goers resorted to moving tables in search of warmth and company.
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