It’s not surprising that marketers want to talk about President Trump and what a “post-truth” world means for advertisers this year—marketers have been scrambling since the election last November—but what are the other discussions that ruled over Advertising Week in New York? Aside from the digital trends we already covered (measurement, transparency, Snapchat, AI and data) it’s clear that diversity, authenticity, truth and digital disruption are still where many marketers are focused.
Here’s what brand marketers were chatting about at Advertising Week:
1. Trump and a post-truth world
“I think it’s harder to be a brand or marketer in the U.S. today than almost any other market because we are living with a divider in chief who has created a completely and profoundly different atmosphere,” said Ben Boyd, president of practices and sectors at Edelman, during a panel discussion about brands in a post-trust world.
Golin’s president of global corporate communications Scott Farrell, at a panel about America’s brand influence under Trump, urged brands to be more decisive: “You need to take a stand these days. Millennials want companies to take a stand. A measured risk needs to be taken, and whichever way you want to go, you can’t sit in the middle anymore.”
Brands have certain roles in society and recognizing what messages are authentic for your brand is key. At least, that’s a message many brand marketers echoed during Advertising Week.
“The role and responsibility for a company has changed,” said chairman and former CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz during a panel. “Not every business decision should be an economic one. There’s a great need to elevate the national discourse. And given the last 6-7 months of this administration, being indifferent is as bad as the vitriol.”
There has to be a “balance between profit and conscience,” explained Schultz. Since Starbucks is not franchised—stores are company owned—”our purpose and mission is to build shareholder value but not to make money,” said Schultz. “We have to perform, but we are a financially diverse performance company. People—customers—come to expect us to be engaged in issues most companies don’t get involved with.”
Actress and businesswoman Sarah Jessica Parker also argued for authenticity. “Try not to actually focus on results,” said Parker during a panel with Instagram and Glossier. “If you’re backing into a result you’re not making a thing that is most authentically yourself. If you’re looking at content and trying to figure out what they want, well, what do you have to offer them that is uniquely yours? A lot of people are trying to mimic things that they see experience success and we don’t need that.”
“You need to be principle based and values based,” said Kathleen Hall, corporate vp, brand, advertising and research at Microsoft, during a panel on the most authentic brands. “When you become inauthentic you try to make a statement but it’s not true to who you are and what you are about, so you’re obviously trying to capitalize on the situation. You can’t really borrow from social capital. You have to deposit into it.”
3. Diversity and numbers
“Diversity is as much a business imperative as it is a values issue,” HP CMO Antonio Lucio told Adweek during an interview about the brand’s diversity initiatives, which it highlighted during Advertising Week. “We also believe that the only way that we are going to transform our business and the only way that the agencies are going to transform is through a comprehensive platform for change. That means clients need to transform, agencies need to transform and production houses need to transform and these three things need to move at the same time.”
J. Walter Thompson in New York and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media also released new findings during Advertising Week about the representation of women in ads.
4. Digital disruption
Tiffany & Co.’s vp of North American marketing, Catherine Lacaze, explained during a candid discussion that the brand sees digital disruptors, like Warby Parker, as competitors and that it watches them very closely.
“When we look at competitors,” Lacaze said, “most … are offering customization.”
That’s something Tiffany & Co. has long done. “[But] we rested on our laurels too long and people forgot,” Lacaze said. Now the brand is looking to make sure consumers know that Tiffany’s “can engrave, embroider, etch or emboss anything you buy from us. It makes us rethink how we communicate with the next generation.”
Still, the company can’t crib all Warby Parker’s business model. (The eyewear company is significantly cheaper than most and allows consumers to pick out five pairs of glasses they like online and it will send those home for people to try on.) “We can’t send five diamonds to people and make sure we get the same diamonds back as we sent and give one to somebody else,” she said. “It doesn’t translate.”
Instead it has to be strategic in the ways it borrows from digital disruption brands like Warby Parker.