Staff Reporters
Jun 27, 2016

Cannes Lions should have its own ‘Razzies’: Video

Awards for the world's worst marketing and creative work would drive up standards, says Airbnb's marketing chief

CANNES – Should next year’s Cannes Lions have its very own Razzies to showcase the worst of marketing ahead of the main event itself? 

That suggestion for the Festival of Creatvitiy to follow a similar path to the Oscars, made by Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall, drew rapturous applause during a panel at Cannes moderated by Alexandra Suich, technology editor at The Economist.

The fourth panel session of the Wake Up with The Economist series also featured Alison Lewis, CMO, Johnson & Johnson, John Rudaizky, global brand and external communications Lead (CMO), EY. 

“What would it be like if the week before Cannes we gave awards for the world's shittiest marketing,” asked Mildenhall. 

“I genuinely believe if there were awards for shitty creative we'd see better creative across the board and that way we’ll actually be able to reach millennials who are avoiding bad marketing on their mobiles,” he added. 

For John Rudaizky, the biggest roadblock to creativity is whether the CEO believes both in brand and accepts creativity. 

"How does business transform the world? What does purpose truly mean?” said Rudaizky, with wider business ownership a theme, which Alison Lewis took further. 

“Creativity takes great leaders who are willing to take risks and accept a degree of failure,” said Lewis. “Ideally it needs to be a case of ‘You take the risk, I'll take the blame’.” 

At Airbnb, Mildenhall explained that whilst that the three founders don’t all necessarily share his passion for marketing, they are all clear on their vision of how to propel Airbnb to become an ‘superbrand’ that defines the next generation of consumers, as iconic brands such as Coke and Apple have done in recent generations past. Community involvement, he argued, is key. 

“Creativity at Airbnb has to be incredibly surprising. We are at our best when we lean in to our community,” he said, adding that whilst Airbnb’s approach to media is traditional, notably television of late, it is the company’s approach to content and storytelling is disruptive. 

Adtech has ‘arrived’ 

Traditional media may be back in vogue for some but so too, is innovation with Mildenhall conceding that ad tech has now well and truly landed.

A current trial with Fox Networks in Australia is allowing Airbnb to deliver bespoke content by household, and for Mildenhall this means he is finally seeing ad tech as a potential viable marketing solution.

The same applies with messaging platforms such as WeChat messaging service in fast evolving markets such as China.

In a world where brands are starting to use new platforms that require tailored, cheaper and more cost effective content, the panel conversation inevitably turned to how agencies are rising up to meet these changing requirements. The response from the panel was not positive.

“For the first time in my career ad tech is looking good, but the content agencies need to step it up,” said Mildenhall, a blunt view seconded by Alison Lewis.

"The quality of content we need is not supported by the existing financials we have - so we need to be creative about how we deliver against that demand,” said Lewis. “Agencies need get on evolving their content mode and get on it fast.” 

Reinforcing the seriousness of this wake-up call, Mildenhall painted his view of the future whereby Airbnb will encourage and reward the Airbnb community to produce and share its own content to engage others in the wider community. The only impediment for this user generated content utopia for now is the technology to facilitate this degree of community engagement.

“We have to use tech rather than manpower to curate these solutions, but that tech doesn't exist yet, however when it does it will transform marketing for Airbnb,” said Mildenhall.

The ‘exponential’ production costs and limited penetration of virtual reality also means that we are not likely to see it become a scalable marketing anytime soon for Airbnb or Johnson & Johnson.

Diversity is about entry level access

Following recent media reports of racial bias with Airbnb hosts cancelling traveller’s trips, Mildenhall used his opening statement to observe that he felt like one of the few black non-celebrity faces at this year’s Cannes.

“We are dealing with a real challenge to Airbnb with racism, and when I look at the diversity problem in the industry I don't know who I might work with to address this,” said Mildenhall.

“It's really important we have gender diversity, ethnic diversity and religious diversity in our industry, but it's all about entry level access.” Mildenhall argued it is vital that the marketing discourse shows greater diversity, (a sentiment also expressed by Brad Jakeman of PepsiCo at the second Wake Up With The Economist session) and this can only happen if racial, gender, age and religious biases within our own industry are countered at every level.  

Key insights:

  • Countering racism – marketing needs to lead the way on ethnic diversity
  • Business leaders must share risk to build iconic super brands
  • Ad tech has landed (so have messaging platforms, sorry VR)
  • Content agencies: you have been warned
  • Cannes Raspberries 2017?

Content for this article was provided by The Economist

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