Advertising Week Briefing: The age of dissonance

Keep up to date with Digiday’s annual coverage of Advertising Week in New York. More from the series →

Advertising Week this year felt like a week of dissonance. Well, four days of dissonance.

Taking place alongside an explosive UN General Assembly that included the Climate Action Summit and a fiery performance by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, the announcement of a Presidential impeachment inquiry and, closer to home, big merger news with Vox and New York Media, it’s safe to say it had competition for attention. And ultimately, Advertising Week seems to have lost out.

The panels happened, the big names spoke, and there was some mild interest in a charming presentation by Burger King’s Fernando Machado and in Gary Vee doubling down on his “don’t get paid to do what your love” creed. But overall, by far the most interesting news was coming from outside Advertising Week’s movie theatre venue on NYC’s Upper West Side. It made for a pretty weird four days, said attendees, who felt that what was happening on stage wasn’t really reflective of the world outside. It’s hard to take marketing case studies, Shingy, and Gary Vee particularly seriously amidst impeachment proceedings and inconvenient reminders that we’re destroying the planet, perhaps.

Still, you made it. As Advertising Week kicks off its fourth and final day (thank goodness it doesn’t actually go for the whole week), below are some highlights from the week that was, as well as our awards for the best and worst of what we saw.

Frenemies no more
Wait, what’s happened to Martin Sorrell? The former WPP CEO and now S4 Capital head seems to have made quite an about-turn on Google and Facebook. Sorrell, who famously called the duopoly “frenemies” of the agency and advertising industry, said in a panel with new GM CMO Deborah Wahl that the big companies, including Facebook, Google and also Amazon, aren’t competitive threats to agencies. He said his view on this has changed since he left WPP, and claimed that Google or Amazon don’t want to do the “agency job.” He also said that the key is to work with the platforms, as his company has done. It’s an interesting turnaround: Increasingly, the narrative in the industry seems to be that the best way for ad agencies to make themselves indispensable is to act as experts that can help client navigate the platforms, especially Amazon. More partners, less enemy. — Shareen Pathak

Target + Disney
Target’s Roundel is now working with Disney Ad Sales with a new offering that will give brands who advertising on Disney TV channels data around how Target shoppers are buying. So for example, brands who are advertising on ESPN will then be able to see if their products were sold in a Target. Roundel, which has made a huge splash at Advertising Week with a giant sponsorship of the Speakers Lounge, made the announcement Wednesday. It’s an interesting attempt at trying to solve for the dreaded attribution problem, but of course, is pretty narrow in its scope. The interesting thing to watch for will be if more stores and media sellers start working together to close the loop. — Shareen Pathak

The Advertising Week Awards
Best giveaway: Complimentary massages by LiveRamp

Best non-committal answer on a panel: “DTC is a mindset.”

Best pivot: Panera is now a purpose company.

Most lofty brand goal: Bumble, with a stated goal of “ending misogyny.”

Most common complaint: The popcorn smell

Best/worst overheard pickup line: Crazy news about Comscore, huh?

Gold for attending most panels: OMD chief transformation officer Ben Winkler.

Most out-of-touch topical reference repeatedly invoked by attendees: Greta Thunberg. In one two-hour stretch, three different executives — from the experiential, VC and mobile loyalty software worlds — referenced the Swedish activist in regard to their own advertising or branding prowess.

Coming Up
9.15 a.m. Gwyneth Paltrow joins Harry Kargman for a fireside chat about breaking through the clutter.

10 a.m. GM CMO Ivan Pollard and Karmarama exec chairman Jon Wilkins on the Agency of the Future.

10.45 a.m.  WWE superstars Becky Lynch and Kogi Kingston on the Culture Builders stage.

11.45 a.m. PJ Tucker of the Houston Rockets and Will Welch, EIC of GQ on the Culture Builders stage

1.30 p.m. Politics as Pop Culture with a host of panelists from Fox News

3.15 p.m. Time’s Up discusses the gender pay gap

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