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Bruno Bertelli on Consistent Disruption in an Age of Safety

London, UK
The Publicis Worldwide global CCO reckons work is becoming too safe and that it’s time for brands to get emotional, writes Laura Swinton
“We are confusing efficiency with efficacy and there’s a big difference.” Publicis Worldwide’s global CCO Bruno Bertelli has just come off stage at the IAA conference in Bucharest, where he’s been speaking about the ‘golden rules’ of marketing and why the industry needs to break them.

Data has been misunderstood and used as a crutch, and advertising has begun to over-focus on using marketing budgets to reach existing customers in as efficiently as possible, rather than building brands and building markets.

“My speech was about the fact that today marketing is going to a very safe place,” says Bruno. “We have a lot of information, we have data, we have a lot of tools that we didn’t have in the past but what we tend to do with that is to go in a safe direction to make decisions and not to be different.”

The current narrative may pit short term and long term approaches against one another – but while it’s true that today’s real time data capability encourages a focus on immediacy, Bruno argues that agencies have always had to help clients navigate those two goals.

“In the past there was pressure to sell, it wasn’t that big a difference – the only difference is that now we need to have results in short terms. Careers don’t last as long and a CMO has to bring results in the following six months – in the past it was two years. As we have to get results immediately we go safe,” he says. “Our role is to be challenging and follow a longer path. We also need consistency, long lasting relationships between network agencies and companies… So consistency is something that we need to follow. If you look at the most successful brands today, they are the most consistent.”

As well as consistency, long term success relies on the ability to surprise or delight or disrupt. The false harbours of safety and predictability may help marketers sell ideas into the board, but what’s lost is the persuasive power of emotion. 

“What’s interesting, if you look at the relationship between consumer and brand, if you play it safe it becomes very rational. The strong ones are emotional relationships and to do so you have to be quite disruptive and surprising,” explains Bruno. “If what people get from brands is what is expected, then it’s very difficult to create emotions. This is what is missing a little bit. If everything is expected then it’s difficult to build emotional connections between brands and consumers.”

So, although it may sound paradoxical, if advertising is to be efficacious and not just efficient, it needs to be both consistent and disruptive. If it sounds daunting, there are brands out there showing that it can be done. “I think a very good example is Burger King. It’s exactly as I describe – they keep breaking rules but at the same time they’re very consistent,” says Bruno. “I like what they’re doing, I think it’s very modern. They’re always on and they keep coming up with new stuff. It’s a conversation with the target that never stops.”