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AW2020 kicks off in Europe before shifting to the US

This week marked the start of Advertising Week 2020 (AW2020), a reimagined virtual event broadcasting live this week from London, and from New York in Week two.

AW2020 promises to be the world’s largest gathering of the creative, entertainment, media and technology industries. The event provides a global platform to explore the big issues affecting society, business and everything in between, with a purpose-built agenda to drive change. 

Attendees will attend more than 350 events over the course of eight days, with speaker highlights including Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps, hip-hop heavyweight Nas, Paris Hilton, Kristen Bell, Jennifer Garner, Halle Berry, Kevin Hart, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, Fab Five member Bobby Berk and Sir Martin Sorrell.

Among the highlights from Week one include former Dragon’s Den panellist Theo Paphitis speaking candidly about the opportunity for the retail sector to bounce back stronger post-Covid.

In a broad-ranging conversation with Kathleen Saxton, retail magnate Paphitis said the pandemic had the potential to be a game changer across all industries: “All bets are off. Things that were sure-fire bets pre-COVID are now disasters; things that were disasters pre-COVID are all of a sudden incredibly popular.”

He added: “This is a perfect brilliant situation for entrepreneurs to look at doing something for themselves. The pot has been shaken – there are opportunities and crumbs everywhere.”

Elsewhere, Snap’s VP of Diversity Baroness King shared her insight on the need for business transformation to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement. Baroness King stressed that any approach to increasing diversity and inclusion is bound to fail if it is not at the core of the business plan: “You can’t have a separate diversity annual report that has nothing to do with your business strategy. Our diversity report is actually melded, it is at the heart of SNAP’s business strategy.”

Speaking with Advertising Week’s Global CEO, Matt Scheckner, Comic Relief co-founder Richard Curtis praised the activist spirit among the younger generation, predicting that agitation for change would not go away overnight.

“Young people are bringing a whole new energy into the debate and a whole new determination,” he said. “They’re not saying ‘I’ll just give money to charity’ or ‘I’ll vote once every four years’,” he added. “They’re changing the clothes they wear, the food they buy, the way they travel, the cars they want. They’re not going to stop, that’s for sure – they’re not going to suddenly lose interest in these things. This is part of their DNA you know as Empire was of my parents DNA.”

Stop Hate for Profit co-founder and best-selling author Jim Steyer spoke out about the role advertisers must play in tacking misinformation across social media, laying down the gauntlet for the industry to act before it’s too late.

“This is the time for people to speak up, and in the advertising world, you speak up with your wallet,” Steyer said. “That’s why we did Stop Hate for Profit, because basically we said if advertisers speak up and say ‘we are not going to participate in this, even though it hurts us economically’, that is sending a powerful message.

“The fact that 1,000 companies joined in, including major, conservative Fortune 500 companies, means that the public knows this, the advertising world knows this. Our democracy, our kids’ lives, many different aspects of our lives, are being profoundly interrupted and in many ways harmed by the misuse of these platforms.”

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