wakeupAt Cannes Lions 2016 festival The Economist held a series of morning panel sessions, Wake Up with The Economist, featuring daily debate on the place of creativity in today’s world of business from chief marketing officers representing some of the world’s most prestigious brands.

Moderated by Daniel Franklin, Executive Editor at The Economist, and Alexandra Suich, Technology Editor at The Economist, the sessions delivered daily insight and occasional hard truths intending to inspire fellow marketers to think ahead. All those who couldn’t join the debates live can get the key insights by watching the videos:

Day one
When it comes to risk taking, CMOs are lazy. Jorn Socquet, Vice President, Marketing, Anheuser-Busch kicked-off with a peer reality check, saying: “As CMOs, we don't take enough risks. We are sometimes too comfortable in our jobs and avoid the hard conversations with our bosses” Atilla Cansun, CMO, Merck Consumer Health, even added that taking no risk is a risk in itself.

PR look out - you need to get more scientific or you will be next to go. A number of marketing disciplines are in the CMO’s crosshairs this year, not least PR, Jorn Socquet believes. Whilst PR may contribute to the creative process, it must get ‘more scientific’ in order to demonstrate ownership for consumer outcomes.

Day two
Industry must ‘cut the crap’. Marc Pritchard, Global Marketing and Brand Building Officer, P&G, pronounced that the industry’s biggest challenge was that it has got to just ‘cut the crap’ and elevate the craft. “Just because you ‘can’ doesn't mean you ‘should’,” he said Mr. Pritchard. And when it comes to modern day creative hurdles such as ad blocking, Brad Jakeman, President Global Beverage Group, PepsiCo passionately argued that the advertising industry has only itself to blame. “Ad blocking is something we all have created. The whole industry has been lazy and produced crap content for years. How can we be shocked that people want to block it? We have to change the way we create content and add value to people's lives in some way”, he said.

Agencies need to evolve. To address this challenge head on, PepsiCo now produces much of its preferred real time content in-house because traditional agencies won’t, or haven’t been able to, step up to the challenge. “I don't wake up every day wanting to disrupt the agency business. But I've been asking the industry for years to evolve their model and they haven't, so instead we've done it ourselves,” said Mr. Jakeman. “I still value our agencies, however the old adage that ‘you can have it fast, have it cheap, and have it good but not all three’ is no longer true. “I do want all three and I have done it myself.”

Day three
Marketers needs to get back respect from the business. According to Raja Rajamannar, CMO, MasterCard, marketers need to get back the respect from the business in order to do their jobs. “The biggest gap I see today is people outside marketing genuinely think marketing is fluffy and not driving business,” said Mr. Rajamannar. “The true value of marketing is unappreciated by the rest of the business. This is our own doing. We isolate ourselves in our ivory towers.”

Data is the new pixie dust - With conversation regularly focusing on the impact of technology, in particular data, a consistent plea from the marketers is that when it comes to the all-important consumer conversation, marketers must strive not to ditch the ‘art in favor of the formulaic science’. “We can’t simply take on board the data without reminding ourselves of the inspiration of why we are here. Data is latest magic pixie dust. Going back to fundamentals works every time”, said Ann Mukherjee, CMO, SC Johnson.

Day four
Countering racism. Jonathan Mildenhall, CMO, Airbnb, who returned to the panel for the second year running used his opening statement to remark 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. It's really important we have gender diversity, ethnic diversity and religious diversity in our industry, but it's all about entry level access,” he said.

Ad tech has landed and agencies need to step-up. On a more upbeat note Jonathan Mildenhall happily relayed that the long awaited promise of ad tech is now up and running for Airbnb at least, but this came with a warning: “For the first time in my career ad tech is looking good, but the content agencies need to step it up.” Alison Lewis, CMO, Johnson & Johnson seconded: "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. Agencies need get on with evolving their content mode and get on it fast.”

Cannes Razzies 2017? Jonathan Mildenhall drew rapturous applause for his suggestion that next year’s Cannes Lions should follow a similar path to the Oscars with its very own Razzies to showcase the worst of marketing prior to the main event itself. “What would it be like if the week before Cannes we gave awards for the world's shittiest marketing? 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 said.

Day five

Diversity: We don’t need quotas, we need a balanced slate. Nina Bibby, Consumer & Marketing Director (CMO) of O2 argued that all industries, including her own, would need greater diversity. “There's no doubt that this industry needs to be more diverse - the best creativity comes when you have diverse and competing views.” Unilever launched its ♯unstereotype campaign that day to advance portrayals of women and its CMO Keith Weed agreed that greater workforce diversity was vital to reflect the needs of the consumers they serve. “We don't believe in quotas, we believe in a balanced slate. This requires putting in the initial hard effort to get a diverse mix of people in the interview," he said.

Be more than the brand. Mr. Weed also implored all marketers to make an effort to understand the language of digital native millennials, and to engage them on the issues that matter most to them, such as sustainability. “Our sustainability team sits within marketing. We have real evidence that people are buying products based on sustainability grounds”, he concluded.

This year’s ‘Wake Up With The Economist’ has exceeded expectations in terms of capacity attendance and caliber of debate on the future of creativity,” said Paul Rossi, President, The Economist Group media businesses, “Each panel session offered insight aplenty and occasional hard truths, covering an array of topics and issues that the industry can’t ignore. The world is rapidly changing and brands are quickly adapting to the new world order. My challenge to agencies in particular is: are you?”

To read more about what these and other CMO panelists have said at ‘Wake Up With The Economist’ please visit http://ebrandconnect.economist.com or get additional content from the Digital News Agency.