DigitasLBi kicks off the IAB UK’s Digital Upfronts with ‘Marketing in the Maelstrom’

The inaugural session of 2016’s Digital Upfronts event focused on ‘Marketing in the Maelstrom’ – and highlighted the fact that we are living in an era where everything is not quite as it seems.

Fern Miller, Chief Marketing Officer, international at DigitasLBi, set the scene by talking about Brexit – one of 2016’s most hotly debated topics.

“It took us by surprise,” she admitted. “You’d have thought we would be better connected to the mood than we were.”

She warned that, today, most news journeys start on social, “with people clicking on the news stories their friends told them to.”

And Andrew Collinge, Assistant Director at the Greater London Authority – an expert in how data and tech can help cities – said that, “there are new ways of doing things … but we need to be more deterministic – to think about the potential uses [of data]”.

Pointing in particular to challenges around privacy and the development of effective public/private partnerships, he admitted that, “there is no coherent, city-wide strategy”.

DigitasLBi’s Chief Media Officer, International, Paul Dalton then took to the stage, along with Anne-Marie Tomchak, the new UK editor of Mashable; Liam Harrington, CEO of UNILAD; and Tris Reid-Smith, Director and Editor-in-Chief of Gay Star News, to talk about how to engage amidst this digital maelstrom.

In Reid-Smith’s view, “we should stop [simply] broadcasting messages and engage in a deeper way,” and Tomchak added that, “while analytical tools are powerful, ultimately it’s about what you do with insights.”

Gemma Charles, Acting UK Editor of ad industry bible, Campaign, then introduced a set of challenger brands to the stage: Jim Cregan of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee; Lucy Clayton of Community Clothing; Tim Grimsditch of Kano Computing; and Sam Michael of Monzo Bank.

According to Clayton, “we all feel disconnected, so authenticity and transparency are really important.” In her view, people are primarily looking for ‘decency’. 

The final session focused on creativity and culture, and saw Chris Clarke, DigitasLBi’s Chief Creative Officer, International, up on stage with David Baddiel, comedian, author, screenwriter and TV presenter.

They warned that many brands feel awkward in the social media space and are overly risk averse as a result.

“Comedy by its nature is nuanced and has double meanings,” said Baddiel. “Emojis eradicate the ability to be nuanced.”

Meanwhile, Clarke said that people are “shying away from difficult conversations”.

Both agreed that social media is causing great anxiety amongst younger generations in particular.

“I’ve got a 15-year-old daughter,” explained Baddiel. “Young people … exist in a hierarchy of who is getting the most followers.”

“Platforms have turned young people into brands themselves,” added Clarke.

After a broad-ranging discussion, it was agreed that we are all grappling with the impact of new digital channels – and living in an era in which all is not always as it might appear.

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