Engage 2018 Afternoon Session: Authenticity, bravery, ethics and experimentation as an industry in rapid evolution moves forward

Highlights from the afternoon session at IAB Engage 2018.

See the morning session write-up here

Tom Goodwin, head of innovation at Zenith then said that, in this period of 'peak complexity' it's important not to create a 'reactionary' environment in which we leverage technology for the sake of it. Looking ahead to what he described as the post digital age, in which we create - rather than repurpose - for the digital world, he said that the first step is to understand people. And, in the future, he said, advertising experiences will be 'blended around us', with devices becoming contexts rather than channels. He, too, urged the industry to be bold. 

John Stoneman, General Manager, Europe at Triplelift then took a look at where the digital advertising industry is at two weeks after GDPR first came into force, on May 25th. Having studied the impact on the Top 100 publishers in the US and Europe, he noted that premium European publishers are adapting to a GDPR world faster than other players, describing this finding as 'incredibly positive' for the industry. He claimed that buyers are looking for safe harbours. "There are reasons to be cheerful about GDPR," he concluded.  

Next up on the jam-packed agenda came panel on the science of influencer marketing, led by Social Circle's James Erskine. The panel reiterated again and again the importance of authenticity, with creator Fleur de Force claiming that the best collaborations are often a result of a brand being willing to relinquish control. 

Brian O'Kelly, co founder and CEO at AppNexus, then urged the industry to remember ethics and admitted to being very concerned about the possibility of a world in which 'all good, quality, balanced content is behind a paywall'. He asked those present: "Are we going to continue as media buyers to ask for campaigns with the highest click rates?"

HQ Trivia presenter Beric Livingstone and its director of partnerships Dylan Abruscato were up next, alongside Katie Deighton, from Engage's media partner, The Drum. They said that the 'participatory' and 'interactive' nature of the platform has led to its runaway success. When it comes to branded partnerships, they said that they look for brands or agencies which are willing to innovate or take a risk - as long as it resonates with the players." 

"The future of advertising is content that consumers will engage with. Disruptive ads are slowly becoming a thing of the past," said Abruscato.

Frances Ralston-Good, CEO at Hearts & Science UK, then made an impassioned case for using media as a 'playground' for insights. And, with challenging the status quo an ongoing theme of the day, she said: "There is nothing wrong with norms per se, but the problem comes when they become rigid assumptions that undermine the ability to find the unique KPI."

Last but certainly not least, journalist, broadcaster and author Stacey Dooley was in conversation with James Chandler, the IAB UK's CMO. "When I started out, editorially I had no idea," admitted Dooley, who became an overnight sensation thanks to her natural interviewing style, even when dealing with the most difficult topics. Dooley bemoaned a lack of diversity in the media world, admitting that she is something of a black sheep having left school at 15 and being, in her words 'definitely not' middle class. "There aren't enough women making documentaries," she added, rounding up a day which served to highlight the industry's endless opportunities but also the many battles which are still to be fought. 

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