Global media network PHD and world-renowned marketing consultant Mark Ritson, took to the virtual mainstage at Cannes Lions Live International Festival of Creativity today, to explore the idea that the marketing industry is facing a “midlife crisis”.

In an interview with Mark Holden, PHD’s Worldwide Strategy and Planning Director, Ritson discussed the symptoms, the causes and how the industry can lift itself out of the crisis.

Holden commented: “Just as we might experience midlife questions about our own existence, it is possible that an industry can have the same existential issues threaten its development. And that has certainly been the case given the scale and pace of change that our industry has undergone over the past decade. We’ve attempted to draw parallels between an individual crisis, and what we are seeing within the marketing industry today.”

Speaking to Holden, Ritson commented: “We’ve had a midlife crisis for quite a long time. The symptoms are obvious – they’re all around us. I made up two words a few years ago; the first symptom is ‘tactification’, an almost complete obsession with marketing tactics at the expense of diagnosis, listening and understanding the market, and at the expense of more strategic thinking first; the second word is ‘communification’, where not only do we only talk about tactics, we only really talk about advertising within the mix of all the different tactics.”

The session – which is available on demand from 21-25 June – coincides with the launch of PHD’s latest thought leadership publication, Shift | A Marketing Rethink, which sets out to help marketers and agencies rethink the way that marketing is structured and looks ahead to how marketers can reorganise and rebuild for the future.

The book includes a contribution by Ritson, as marketing therapist, which considers the impact a midlife crisis has on the consumer/marketer relationship. PHD’s Cannes Lions session brings this to life through the lens of a fly-on-the-wall style therapy session, before speaking to Ritson himself on how the marketing industry is suffering and what it can do about it. Written by Ritson and directed by award-winning director Tim Hope, the five minute film acts as an introduction and takes a light-hearted and entertaining look at the challenges in today’s consumer/marketer relationship.

In a parody-style teaser for the session, PHD lists the symptoms of a midlife crisis, including: a yearning for simpler times and fondness for nostalgia, a bias towards short-term decision making, dramatic behavioural changes and thoughts about infidelity; all of which are underlined by the constant comparison of oneself to others. For those suffering with these symptoms, PHD prescribes its latest book Shift.

Shift with Holden as lead author, ­includes insights from some of the most renowned leaders in marketing, including Les Binet, Byron Sharp, as well as client-side marketers such as Diageo’s Isabel Massey, Unilever’s Conny Braams, Volkswagen’s Stefan Buescher and HSBC’s Suresh Balaji. It looks back at the last decade and resultant midlife crises occurring in marketing; and then looks ahead to the next five to 10 years to analyse how marketing appears to be changing, the implications for talent, and how marketers can prepare to rethink marketing for tomorrow, today.

Philippa Brown, Worldwide CEO of PHD said: “Thought leadership is at the heart of PHD’s DNA. Our vision is to be the most creative and strategic agency in a data and tech world. One of the ways we support this vision is through the creation of our thought pieces and books; we’ve built a library of 10 books over 10 years covering subjects such as gamification, emerging technology and challenger thinking. Our latest book has been written with the sole focus of empowering our people to help their clients make a leap in creativity and therefore business growth.”

All sessions will be available on demand on the Lions Live platform starting 21 June until 25 June, 2021.