Staff Reporters
Jun 22, 2016

CMOs are too lazy and comfortable: The Economist at Cannes

The first in a series of Economist-hosted panels at Cannes discussed risk-averse CMOs.

An Economist-hosted panel session on 20 June featured Atilla Cansun, CMO, Merck Consumer Health, Jorn Socquet, vice-president, marketing, Anheuser-Busch and Neil George, vice-president, Emerging Markets at Beiersdorf.

“As CMOs, we don't take enough risks. We are sometimes too comfortable in our jobs and avoid the hard conversations with our bosses,” said Socquet, with Cansun adding that taking no risk is a risk in itself.

All panellists agreed that creativity these days can come from anywhere, whether internally at the most junior level or else from external sources including agencies, suppliers and customers. The overriding consideration, according to Socquet, is that marketers must be open to all ideas, and keep the ego out of the room.

When it comes to the agency relationship, consolidation is on the cards with Cansun disclosing that Merck had reduced its agency roster from 50 to five in the space of a few years to improve the quality of ideas and processes. To avoid any agency-client mistrust, particularly when it comes to spending client money, ‘100 percent transparency’ is critical according to Socquet.

Further, as advancing technology breaks down of marketing silos, George sees PR as likely to converge into one stream with other marketing disciplines in the future. And whilst PR may contribute to the creative process, in order for it to retain a place at the table on its own terms it must get ‘more scientific’ in order to demonstrate ownership for consumer outcomes, believes Socquet, citing the recent Budweiser Superbowl campaign that generated four billion impressions, of which he could only validate 10 percent.

“Whenever I ask ‘how did this help us sell more beer?’ to a PR agency, they struggle to answer,” said Socquet. “PR needs to get more scientific and show us what they're doing for our business.”

For Cansun, in an ever more connected world, a key driver for better consumer engagement is to keep ideas simple and to engage both the left side of the brain focusing on product performance and the right side that is capable of forming an emotional connection to the brand. This and humour can offer consumers everywhere with a genuine reason to connect with and celebrate the brand.

"We must be globally aware and connected,” said Cansun. “Conversations don't just happen one on one in market. They happen between 7 billion people. Consumers are much smarter than they used to be, and they're looking for a higher emotional purpose."

“All parts of the industry are under pressure and with disruption everywhere PR you are next,” said Paul Rossi, President, The Economist Group media businesses. “Clients are still not bold enough. My advice is do more, listen to your agency but remember the consumer knows the best.”

Key insights:

  • When it comes to risk taking, CMOs are lazy and too comfortable in their jobs
  • Creativity can come from anyone and anywhere – including suppliers and consumers
  • PR look out - you need to get more scientific or you will be next to go
  • Statistics can be impressive but do they sell a bottle of beer?
  • Great ideas must connect emotionally

Content for this piece was provided by The Economist

More Cannes 2016 coverage


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