IAB UK Digital Upfronts 2018: “It’s not just what you say, but where you say it.”

 JC Decaux’s IAB UK Digital Upfronts 2018 session, entitled ‘The Brand Gap’, focused on both the theory and the reality of successful marketing activity. 

Hosted by Ebiquity’s Morag Blazey, the event took place at the Institution of Technology and Engineering (IET) in central London.

Blazey introduced four guests: Justin Gibbons, founding partner of Work Research, who outlined in particular the tension between long-term brand building and short term sales; advertising legend Sir John Hegarty, on the power of creativity and the need for effective context; 02’s head of creative and media, Simon Valcarcel; and JC Conti, CEO of out of home marketplace, VIOOH. 

First up, Gibbons spoke of a research project he has recently undertaken, from which the session got its title. This looked at the gap between what practitioners accept as best practice and what they actually do when planning campaigns. Gibbons said that while there is understanding around the need for a balance between brand building and sales, this survey of 125 media planners revealed a ‘growing set of admissions … that things aren’t quite right’. 

There is some ‘predictably irrational’ behaviour going on, he said, before pointing to a number of theories which he believes help to explain this behaviour: the theory of instant gratification, or short-termism; the thinking that ‘it’s different for me’; herd mentality; confirmation bias, whereby we seek information that confirms what we already believe; and our attraction to ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ – whether these be buzzwords like ‘immersive content’ or ‘integrated opportunities’. 

Next, controversial columnist and marketing professor Mark Ritson added his view on the issue of short termism via a recorded on-screen message. Ritson stressed that ‘better balanced’ marketing is the hot topic of the day and also pointed to OOH as one medium which can achieve both short term results and longer term brand building.

Sir John Hegarty then looked at how bravery, creativity and media combine to build brands and sell stuff. 

“Context is all,” he told the audience, adding that, with audiences bombarded with thousands of brand messages daily, “we give up – not realising that creativity is the answer to virtually everything.”

Posters are one of the most ‘amazing’ mediums, he continued, especially given that 85% of the UK’s population live in urban areas. Media is treated as a commodity but it’s ‘fundamentally important to the creative process’, he said, stressing that artists like Banksy really understand this. 

“If you want your advertising to be more effective, it’s not just what you say but also where you say it,” he concluded.

02’s Valcarcel then pointed out that, while the telco giant seeks always to invest in the long term health of the brand, this involves ‘lots of quite challenging conversations’ with colleagues. “It’s easy to become addicted to short term,” he warned. 

Les Binet, co-author of landmark study ‘The Long and The Short of it’, which outlined the so-called 60/40 rule, that brands ought to aim for 60% long term brand building and 40% short term activation, was on screen next, via recorded message, to stress that media like outdoor - and digital outdoor in particular, given the ‘emotional power’ of moving images – has ‘tremendous’ potential for building long term memories.  

Last but not least, JC Conti, CEO of digital out of home trading platform VIOOH, pointed out that DOOH is the second fasting growing media channel behind mobile. He claimed that this channel is predicted to grow by more than ten per cent over each of the next five years. “Leverage the momentum,” he urged the audience, stressing also current interest in location-based marketing and the ‘brand safe’ nature of outdoor. Used together, mobile and DOOH can represent a very powerful combination, he added.

The session wrapped up in a panel discussion with all guests, Hegarty then implored the audience to ‘think more like fashion brands’: “The customer doesn’t know what they want. They love to be inspired,” he said.  

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