Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts Declares Death of Marketing, Future of Movements @ MIDEM
Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts Declares Death of Marketing, Future of Movements @ MIDEM

It wouldn't be a marketing festival in Cannes (home to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity) without at least one ad agency exec declaring the death of some common practice. At MIDEM's Visionary Monday, Saatchi & Saatchi worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts was that executive.

"Marketing is dead," he said in his opening keynote speech at Debussy Auditorium. "We have got a much higher calling now. Your role is not to market stuff at people, but to create a movement. You've got to create a movement and inspire people to join your movement, whether that's an artist or a venue…We've moved from interruption to interaction."

Saatchi and Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts declares the death of marketing at MIDEM (Photo: ©360 Medias/Image & Co)

Other terms Roberts is tired of? "Return on investment," or ROI ("something Guy Hands never understood," he joked), which he believes should be dubbed "return on involvement." He's also not too keen on "brands," preferring the term Lovemarks, a concept famously used to attract Saatchi clients like JC Penney and the subject of his 2004 book "Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands."

The future of advertising is a "VUCA world" to Roberts, in which the VUCA acronym can mean one of two things: Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous, or Vibrant Unreal Crazy and Astounding. "All the meetings are an exercise in futility. You just gotta give it a crack," he said.

One Saatchi client making music strategies work for its brand is T-Mobile, which Roberts said has seen a 52% increase in sales due to the use of music "in a very dramatic way." Similarly, Toyota has helped raise the profile of admittedly "boring" vehicles like the Sienna minivan through music-based campaigns like 2010 viral hit "Swagger Wagon." (Toyota sister brand Scion is also well-known for its music programs, though Roberts didn't mention the brand specifically).

"We're using music now in every way, shape or form. We're innovating, working with startups, having writers write, having artists approach us, directors approach us, big stars wanting to do stuff for us," Roberts said.