You missed this year’s ad:tech London? Well we can’t say you didn’t miss much but fret not, we’ve rounded up all the best bits of the two days – read on for the news, speaker highlights, industry trends and digital marketing know-how we picked up! It’ll be very almost like you’re actually there.
Lesson #1: The uber-ultra-hyper-connected ‘brand experience’
Keep up, gear up or get out, was in a (somewhat abrupt) nutshell the ultimatum of Day 2’s keynote speaker and Unilever’s Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Keith Weed. “We should no longer be talking about ‘digital marketing,’ but marketing in a digital world,” was the soundbite Twitter went mad for. Digital, like it or not, isn’t going anywhere and evolves and innovates with such unceasing speed that you either “build your toolbox or find a new career.” His keynote was anchored in the concept of ‘brand experience,’ the hyper-connected customer who demands individualised attention, genuine human interaction and engagement (needy right?) and how a conglomerate as giant and multi-national as Unilever goes about humanising and localising that experience. His mantra? ‘Connect with authenticity, engage with relevance, innovate with talkability.’ Market responsively, reactively, in real time – for, not to your customer.
As Blippar’s EMEA Commercial Director, Jon Barrowman discussed in his Day 1 keynote, the future of the brand experience, with this progressive pace of digital – and especially the further development of AI and augmented reality technologies. The brand experience no longer just ends when the job’s done and the sales made. Blippar as an app utilises AR technologies for brands to communicate to their customers through the everyday objects they’re purchasing – every object therefore becomes a potential advertising space and every step of their experience, online or off, digitally interactive. “AI isn’t a gimmick,” Jon said, “it fleshes out distribution, the consumer is interacting with a brand every step of that journey. It’s a literal tangible brand experience.’
And the last seminar we made it to of the two days, with the Museum of London’s Director of Communications, Antony Robbins, ‘Transforming the Museum’, was almost the perfect happy ending case study of the ‘brand experience’ fable. Dragging an institution firmly rooted in (and housing an awful lot of) the past was no small feat, but their ‘Streetmuseum’ app is perhaps the most innovative and successful of its kind. The app itself is an AR time machine, overlaying historic images of London throughout the ages onto your camera as you travel through the city – but more than this, it’s the Museum of London itself condensed into your pocket, every user now a MoL veteran. Lessons taken away? Keep up! The ‘brand experience’ is now grounded in the innovative and the interactive, connecting with your customer on their terms and through channels that genuinely excite them.
Lesson #2: Advertising is now a ‘value exchange’
Ad-blocking inevitably cropped up a fair few times across the two days, but Stefan Bardega, Chief Digital Officer of ZenithOptimedia, seemed to most succinctly hit the nail on the head at the ‘5 must-watch mobile marketing innovations’ seminar: ‘ad-blocking is fundamentally audience avoidance.’ The consensus from all speakers was that consumer attention had significantly, dangerously shrunk, audiences reclaiming their autonomy and actively avoiding direct marketing. Captive Media’s Mark Melford produced the statistic that specifically the demographic of the ‘millennial male’ was exposed to up to 3,000 ads each day, but was skipping and filtering most of them – word-of-mouth actually being their biggest consumer influence by 74%.
So it’s pretty conclusive: we’re being ignored. However, this shouldn’t spell the end of advertising, but simply of bad advertising. As Andrew Keen in his Day 1 keynote deliberated, ad-blocking is actually something to be embraced, that will redefine the value of advertising – “only those who want to see adverts will.” Advertisers need to grasp this autonomy of its audience and advertising as content needs to step up. Adverts themselves need to be created as a ‘value exchange,’ as reciprocal and worthy of that investment of their audience’s attention. Mark of Captive Media continued, advertising needs to transform into ‘an interaction that not only engages, but entertains your audience and offers them something, be in this in the form of talkability, novelty, a game, a discount code – some form of online capital or digital currency.’
Winner of Unilever’s Next Big Thing: Relative Insight!
This year we got to witness all the developments and heats of Unilever’s Next Big Thing, a $50k pilot scheme for the most innovative new madtech startups, as they happened. They pitched, we marvelled, we even got to mingle and there was some new advertising and marketing tech being rolled we’d definitely keep an eye on, from micro-video ads to predictive language apps utilising on-the-cusp AI – but Relative Insight and their fascinatingly innovative intelligence system, translating language into data, was a hugely worthy winner! Congrats guys!
Lesson #3: Audiences love content they’ve created
Video is the perpetually heralded ‘next big thing’ and video as a marketing medium is still evolving as rapidly as it ever was. One of our favourite seminars of the day was from Emily Forbes of Seenit (which ironically was the Next Big Thing, as chosen by Unilever at last year’s ad:tech), its theme: ‘the importance of the crowd.’ Seenit is a platform for crowd-sourced video footage, essentially galvanising and getting involved those at the heart of your brand – be they followers, fans, customers, employees – to collaborate with you, to submit or create content to then be edited and tidied up into slick visual campaigns. “Everyone’s filming, everyone’s documenting,” Emily began, “nobody can capture a perspective like the subject living it.” Emily continued that, “whereas working in the film industry it took me seven years of making tea to even touch a camera,” now everybody with a smartphone can capture footage and create content – and it’s in fact the rawness, the lack of precision and glossiness, of that crowd footage that is so key. It grounds it in an inherent, much necessary authenticity, an unfiltered, un-curated insight into a brand – “it’s a very human interaction and video content needs to offer that two-way conversation.” Lessons learnt? Download Periscope, put a moving, talking, breathing face to your brand. The brilliance of Seenit however, that Periscope lacks, is that it taps into and capitalises on that ingenuity of user-generated content: how could content be more interactive and engaging for your audience than their contributing to and collaborating on its creation? If you listen to your ‘crowd’, incorporate their voices, give them a platform, they’ll invest in you, trust you, engage – and ultimately, distribute. You’ve not only got yourself content creators, but loyal, involved brand ambassadors.
The launch of Retortal (hey, that’s us!)
And of course, the best until last: we launched the free version of our white label, social media management platform! It was a hugely busy two days –that even included a certain Director’s birthday- that launched our Freemium service with all the gusto we could’ve hoped for.