Advertising has a history of putting lipstick on gorillas, not telling the truth, says BMW

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen at an excruciating press conference in Australia

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen at a difficult press conference in Australia earlier this year

Advertising has a history of “putting lipstick on gorillas” and not telling the truth, the global head of marketing at BMW said today at the Cannes Lions festival.

In a session titled ‘You can’t trust marketers’, hosted by tech brand Adobe – which took a hammering in a press conference in Australia over pricing in March this year – Stephen Althaus, director of brand management at BMW, told delegates that the role of marketers is to “get closer to the business and make sure we are telling genuine stories.”

Also on the panel was Lisa Donohue, CEO of Starcom USA, who said that the industry has “a bad rap” because it has become swamped “in nomenclature and silos”.

“We love to put labels on what is traditional and what is non-traditional,” she said. “I beg us to stop talking this way. Now everything is digitised, so what’s the point in making these distinctions?”

Adobe’s SVP and CMO Ann Lewnes said: “We need to stop thinking about marketing in terms of channels. We need to think how to communicate value.”

“People understand that brands are human. They don’t expect them to be perfect. But they expect them to be real in their exchanges,” she said.

A global survey of consumers by Adobe found that 43 per cent of marketing was believed to be “bogus”.

The sense coming through the research was that ads were trying to sell rather than tell a story, and that traditional media – TV and print – were more favourable than digital marketing, Lewnes said.

Only a third said that they enjoy advertising, and only 32 per cent said that they thought advertising was effective.

The survey also found that of the most “valuable professions”, marketers were near the bottom of the pile, with actors, dancers and politicians.

“We have a history of putting lipstick on gorillas rather than telling the truth,” said Althaus.

Adobe was itself subject to scrutiny in Australia earlier this year, when IT journalist Renai Lemay repeatedly asked the company’s CEO why some of its products were more expensive in Australia than elsewhere.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella Asia newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing