Virtual currency, self-driving cars, and AI with a real personality are no longer just possibilities. Our industry has changed to accommodate a world with these giddy inventions in a hyper-connected technological world. Last week, Europe’s experts in advertising, PR, and marketing gathered in Rome’s magnificent Palazzo Barberini for Eurobest, the world’s pre-eminent festival of creativity in Europe to reflect on what this change means not just for us as an industry, but for our audiences. 

The new dolce vita

We know our industry is changed and changing, but many of the talks at Eurobest examined what this change means for our audience, the public. Public relations firm Weber Shandwick joined forces with economist, author, and strategist Professor Noreena Hertz to unravel the secrets of Generation K (the ‘K’ stands for “The Hunger Games’” Katniss Everdeen). According to the speakers, 14 to 21-year olds today are the “generation fundamentally formed by technology.” They are politically-savvy, altruistic–92 percent of the generation believe it’s important to help others—and suspicious of big brands.

Amongst 25-year olds and older, 60 percent trust big corporations to do the right thing. This number is decimated when it comes to Gen K, with a mere six percent feeling the same. Suspicious of advertising and preferring brand advocacy, they admire brands with purpose that fit in with their sharing economy ideals – such as Ebay, Wikipedia, and Uber. It’s clear that for brands to communicate effectively to this young audience, we have to understand their values.

Not all roads lead to all audiences 

If the speakers Rachel Mwakule and Gillian Benneh from consultancy Nea Onnim had one thing they wanted to leave their audiences with at Eurobest, it was that there is no one-size-fits-all mentality about marketing to Africa. “One size fits none,” remarked Benneh, whose work at Nea Onnim focuses on providing guidance and insight for businesses looking to work with different African markets. Benneh and her partner Mwakule want to encourage brands to tailor their campaigns to a continent that contains 54 countries and 3,000 languages. Africa is huge, and the possibilities and new audiences there are boundless as the new world of hyper-connectivity opens up to new audiences. Yet due to marketing budgets, brands often overlook African markets, offering them a retrofitted global campaign. Nea Onnim encouraged us listen to this new, diverse, digitally savvy audience, and communicate with these markets as a public in their own right.

Journalist Philip Ellis furthered this point in his speech, hammering home the point that diversity is non-negotiable criteria, and brands can’t expect praise for getting it right. “A gay is for life, not just for Pride Week”, argued Ellis. Ninety percent of consumers would boycott a company they deemed unethical, and many judge brands when they jump onto the Pride Week bandwagon, but don’t continue this commitment to diversity all year round.

Creativity wasn’t built in a day

We don’t have to change our industry DNA to communicate with these overlooked and growing audiences, but there are small changes we can and should make. From Don’t Panic’s campaign for more humor in our work to Madonna Badger’s call for #WomenNotObjects, which challenged the advertising industry’s famously apathetic and objectifying treatment of women, it’s clear that as technology changes, as our industry changes, we must take a more tailored, authentic approach to marketing or get left behind.