Wavemaker Calls to Reclaim Positivity Back Towards Agencies During AdWeek Europe Panel

Yesterday, Wavemaker hosted a panel session entitled ‘Don’t fear the future, make it’ on the main Impact Makers stage at AdWeek Europe.

Host and Moderator Anna Hickey, Chief Operating Officer, Wavemaker UK kicked off the session, outlining the context of advertising’s powerful contribution to the economy.

“We are in a thriving, critical industry that positively impacts the economy, and yet the public agenda around advertising remains pretty negative.” Outlining possible reasons for this, she focused the session on highlighting that “we’re not in a state of perpetual decline but it’s our responsibility, all of us, to call out great stuff and promote a more positive agenda around the industry.”

Joining Anna on the panel included Ed Hughes, Chief Marketing Officer at Purplebricks; Paul Hibbs, Director of Advertising & Media at Nationwide; and Neil Godber, Head of Planning at Wunderman Thompson and last year’s chair of judges at the IPA Effectiveness Awards.

Panellists were in unanimous agreement that the negativity towards agencies was “unfair”

“From my perspective, we couldn’t do our job today half as well without our agency partners, which provide a great deal of value” – started Paul Hibbs, responsible for the hugely powerful Nationwide #togetheragainsthate campaign that was the collaborative effort between the building society, Wavemaker and Channel4 and went on to win Marketing Week’s ‘Campaign of the Year’ at the end of 2018.

However, Neil Godber suggested that perhaps the proclaimed negativity could in fact, be seen as a positive catalyst for change in some cases “It has forced creative agencies to be more reflective and analytical”.

Anna went on to pose the question whether the advertising industry is doing enough to show a positive impact on society:

“No. Advertising and creativity is just broadly seen as trying to sell something people don’t need” began Neil,

“However, the flipside is that all the power of creativity can apply for a lot of good for brands having social purpose.”

In response to a question on whether it’s an agency’s responsibility to “challenge a client to be right” Ed Hughes of Purplebricks went on to say that he looks to agency partners to “keep us honest and keep us brave – that is a fundamental value that comes from working with a good agency.” He finished by paying testament to his working relationship with Wavemaker “when agencies get it right, they do a phenomenal job.”

Anna concluded the panel by asking each member the “one thing” they’d ask of the industry going forwards:

“Encourage us to take risks, and the onus is on you (agencies) to get as close to the decision-makers as possible. If you do that, then the perception of the industry will take care of itself”- Ed began,

“All of us need to adopt a more pluralist view on how advertising and communications work” continued Neil, with Paul simply stating, “Less focus on the new and shiny, and more on the next big thing in marketing – the customer.”

Anna left the audience with her own three takeaways from the session, calling for a greater sense of responsibility from both brands and agencies but also a renewed sense of pride in the impact that agencies can have on their clients’ businesses and in turn, society:

1. We need to be louder and prouder of the real impact agencies are proven to have on their clients’ businesses, their own people, and the wider industry.

2. Let change be a permanent positive state of being – it’s about continuous improvement

3. It’s all of our responsibility to push the industry forward and make our own future.

Watch the stream of the panel session here. 

With a mission to ‘make the future’, Wavemaker – formed by the merger of MEC and Maxus in January 2018, was created for the specific purpose of reinventing the media agency – delivering next-generation solutions for client challenges.