IAB Debrief 2023: What we learnt

Posted on Wednesday 22 November 2023 | IAB UK

Following its successful debut last year, IAB Debrief returned to the Ham Yard Hotel for 2023, bringing together Abercrombie & Fitch, ASOS, Boots, Bodyform and more to showcase the very best digital campaigns

IAB Debrief kicked off with IAB UK’s CMO James Chandler inviting our audience to “unshackle” themselves from scam ads, 2024 planning and a cookie-less future, and - for the following couple of hours at least - focus on the brilliant work of advertisers. “My sense is that in digital, we’re not always as proud of our work as other media,” he said, pointing to the often romanticised world of TV. Over the course of the morning, the audience enjoyed a selection of small, but perfectly formed sessions from advertisers and agencies. Here are five things we learned:

1. Find the perfect home

Emma Webster, Marketing Campaign Manager at E.ON Next and Lily Taurau, Key Account Manager at Acast were first up and took us on a journey into how they created a campaign that tackled the unchartered terrain of eco-anxiety and encouraged listeners to reduce energy consumption in the home. “Podcasts were the right move because long-form engaging content in a highly attentive environment are a natural fit for the wellness space”, explained Tarau. The partnership picked a small selection of podcasts that felt like an authentic home for the conversations between the hosts and eco-anxiety experts - achieving an 80% listen-through rate.

Group of people talking together

2. Turn the dial

“Female bodies are surrounded by shame in most societies and cultures - we wanted to give women+ trustworthy information in a world of doubt”, said Thais Bogarín, Global Digital Content Manager at FemCare at Essity, appearing on stage alongside Zenith's Content Marketing Associate Director, Beth Hurst. Essity’s brand, Libresse (Bodyform in the UK), wanted to create a taboo-busting campaign to tackle period anxiety, so turned to the team at Zenith. The objective to create content that would resonate globally necessitated working with local agency teams to understand local cultures and restrictions, dialling the ‘taboo-breaking dial’ up and down accordingly. The result? Original content that reflected the audiences' needs and didn't bore them with too much science, and an incredible 745% ROI to boot.

Thais speaking on stage

3. Work with brands your audience trusts

Established as a sportswear brand for most of its 130-year history, Abercrombie & Fitch has in recent years sought to become a fashion destination for ‘Zillenials’. In ASOS, Abercrombie & Fitch has found a natural partner. ASOS’ Senior Brand Partnerships Manager, Nicola Rose, and Abercrombie’s Senior Marketing Director EMEA, Katie Adams, explored the shared understanding they have of their target audience. The brands planned how they wanted to authentically target 20-somethings: take inspiration from quiet luxury brands to create an aesthetically serene home for Abercrombie & Fitch clothes, while remaining relevant to the ASOS customer. The creative across social channels resulted in an impressive 50% uplift in searches for Abercrombie & Fitch and +83% uplift in sales YoY, illustrating that one of the best ways to reach your target audience is through trusted voices in their own spaces.

James speaking on stage

4. Meet customers where they are

The key to Uber Advertising? Reaching customers where they’re going. Chelcie Martin, Media Manager at Boots, and Paul Wright, Head of Uber Advertising, delved into their successful 2023 summer campaign, which met Uber customers exactly where they were travelling to. From Pride-inspired beauty looks over celebration weekends to top suncream brands for seaside-goers, the brands worked together to “anticipate, prepare and react”, using unique insights and ride data to precisely target and drive awareness around key summer moments. The campaign performed really well, thanks (in part) to the effectiveness of bright creatives against Uber’s monochrome interface.

A mobile phone pointed at the stage

5. Spark a debate

Marcos Angelides, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at Spark Foundry, wrapped up the morning with his ‘Digital Ad Edit’, rounding up his six steps to creating a standout digital ad. First up - seeking debate over consensus: “There’s an opportunity - particularly in the digital advertising industry - to find ways to be more provocative”, challenged Angelides. “Never to be offensive, but to start a conversation and not appeal to everyone.” He went on to question the wisdom of forcing people to spend more time with a brand via 30-second videos, and instead favoured a ‘less is more’ approach by showing how brands can make an impact in a matter of seconds. “If I were a small challenger brand, I would be pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable”, said Angelides of CGI adverts, arguing that CGI doesn't take away from DOOH if the creative execution clearly wouldn’t be possible in the real world. Finally, Angelides believes 2024 will be the year of adaptation as advertisers and agencies embrace and shape the burgeoning potential of generative AI.

Marcos speaking on stage


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