Last week bd2 joined hundreds of marketers attending the Festival of Marketing at Tobacco Dock in East London, for two jam-packed days of content, marketing workshops and interactive sessions.

This was our fourth year at The Festival of Marketing which is so much more than just another conference or exhibition, our favourite event of the marketing calendar, it’s a complete marketing experience, in fact it’s been described as ‘the Glastonbury of marketing events’, but obviously less muddy. As the largest global event dedicated to brand marketers, the Festival reflects the very nature of marketing – blending inspiration and practical application.

With 12 stages covering everything from AI to customer experience, this year’s programme, once again delivered an impressive line-up of over 250 CMOs, industry experts and digital specialists at the top of their field, all sharing the secrets of their success.

Day one

The event opened on day one with the Mental Health Panel on World Mental Health Day, discussing the importance of destigmatising mental health in the workplace. Gabby Logan and Kem Cetinay, both shared their experiences of mental health in their lives. The points made by the panel, led by Doctor Pixie McKenna, were touching, compassionate and supportive, and were really felt by the audience, the perfect way to kick start the event.

The day was then packed with sessions covering brand values, content, trust, customer experience, social, creativity, innovation, digital, agile, data, relationships and B2B case studies to name just some of the key topics. The calibre of speakers coupled with the atmosphere and quality of the event in general really is first class and very enjoyable.

When Louis met FOM

To wrap things up on the first day, Louis Theroux took the Headline Stage by storm and gave his expert advice on how to ask difficult questions and walk away with some answers, turning your limitations into your advantages and planning whilst allowing for the unexpected. His final piece of advice on how to craft a story and convey the perfect narrative was to find a connection. Louis commented, "We are not so very different from one another. The more we get separated in society the more refreshing and redemptive it is when we find small connections."

After a day of back to back, thought-provoking sessions, it was time to enjoy some celebratory drinks at Marketing Week’s 40th Birthday party, held in Festival City. Marketing Week marked this important milestone with a bash that included some of their iconic front covers which encapsulate the role it has played as the voice of the marketing industry over the past four decades.


Day two

Day two kicked off with two Headline sessions, firstly Sir Martin Sorrell took on the themes of transformation and change in the digital era explaining the need for more agility, less bureaucracy and more responsiveness in agencies as the big players like Facebook, Amazon and Google continue to dominate the market. As the former boss of WPP, we were particularly interested in his comments relating to the relationship between client and agency, the effects of digital transformation and the need to be much more efficient. Sorrell also discussed professional aspirations and his new company S4 Capital, telling us how creativity will be “at the centre”.

Next to headline was Dame Carolyn McCall, the first female CEO of ITV who shared and inspired the Festival audience with her knowledge and insight around her experience of steering a brand like ITV through the disruption of subscriptions. The audience was left feeling confident about the continuing power of TV to engage with millions of people.

Day two also saw more topic-based sessions, notably a session by Spencer Waldron, Regional Director and Head of Story at Prezi Inc. His session ‘How to make content binge-worthy every time’, shared the findings of the 2018 State of Attention research. Thousands of UK business people were surveyed and over half said they are not seeking content, they are letting content find them. 42% of people said they are becoming more selective about what content they want and that it must add value. Waldron stressed the importance of quality over quantity and storytelling, telling stories about values, and making sure people are emotionally attached to get engagement early.

To close the Festival we saw Mark Ritson, Marketing Week columnist sit down with Steve Hatch, Vice Principle for Northern Europe at Facebook, and probably the most ill matched pair in marketing. They tackled privacy with discussions around Facebook's recent privacy breeches, machine learning, TV and a hot topic this year for Facebook – trust. It was a heated, entertaining but informative debate and a fantastic end to the two-day marketing marathon.

Key takeaways

With the Festival over for another year, we’ve had the best time, meeting new people and listening to experts in their fields. Our key takeaways from the two days would have to be creativity, content (emotions and connectivity) CX (Customer Experience), as well as agile marketing principles. Inspired by the content we’ve gathered at this year’s Festival of Marketing, we will be sharing details of our key takeaways from the two days of presentations and seminars over the coming weeks.