Cannes 2013

Mindshare's Antony Young on Cannes: Smart Brands Find Ways to Plan Campaigns Less

Reflecting Events in Real Time and Adapting to Consumer Response

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The music business was arguably the first industry to be totally disrupted by the internet. It's had to re-invent itself to be more lean, more relevant, more creative and more savvy about marketing. And at one of the most interesting sessions I saw last week during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, I began to think other kinds of marketers could learn a lot from the music industry's eventual response.

Interscope Records doesn't over-plan its campaigns, said Jennifer Frommer, a senior VP of branded content and culture at the label, whose artists include Gwen Stefani and Eminem. Listening to the social signals and reaction on the street very much steers its next steps. Unlike most major marketers in other categories, which demand and exert total control over new product rollouts, Interscope almost always "leaks" a song or video -- and tries to adapt its plans based on the response. The label had three goes at marketing Robin Thicke, for example, each time making adjustments, before "officially" launching "Blurred Lines."

When Interscope was promoting the soundtrack to "The Great Gatsby," Fergie and Q-Tip's "A Little Party Never Killed Nobody" started getting pick-up. That helped the label convince Samsung to co-promote it, shoot a full musical video within a week and release it as a single. The mantra, according to Ms. Frommer: "Listen, adapt, adjust and shift."

I saw some evidence at Cannes that many brands are already following similar paths. During the red carpet lead-in to this year's Oscars, for example, Pantene had an artist on hand to sketch pictures of stars' hairstyles, originating and posting content in real time on how to replicate the stars' look with Pantene products.

One Cannes panel described Miller Lite's work with Brad Keselowski, the Nascar driver who added more than 100,000 new followers on Twitter by tweeting photos from inside his car during a delay in the 2012 Daytona 500. Nascar had responded to his Daytona stunt by banning smartphones from race cars, so Miller Lite let him dictate tweets during this year's race.

But marketers' new approach is broader than a social media stunt; we are starting to see more sustainable programs that contribute to hard sales. Our team in the U.K. picked up a Gold Media Lion for Kleenex work using Google data on searches for "flu and cold remedies" to help understand where to shift TV and radio media budgets. These efforts were rewarded with 40% uplift in sales. Getty Images' campaign by R/GA also capitalized on searches, evaluating the images people were looking for and inserting relevant images into ads.

Twitter Chief Media Scientist Deb Roy, meanwhile, used Cannes to pitch its new product allowing brands to target promoted tweets toward people who tweet about particular shows -- and therefore probably saw brands' commercials there.

In many ways the industry is shifting toward planning campaigns less. Coca-Cola Global Content Director David Campbell said in one Cannes workshop that that execution should shape strategy in real time. And as a planner -- okay, a former planner -- I'm excited how this emphasis on response and speed is challenging conventional norms of planning. We all need to be more fluid. How you respond could well be more important than what you plan.

Antony Young is CEO of Mindshare North America, a WPP strategy and media investment agency, and author of "Brand Media Strategy," a Palgrave MacMillan and Advertising Age publication offering strategies on communications planning in the Google and Facebook era.
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