IAB UK Leadership Summit 2022: Day One, morning

Posted on Thursday 10 March 2022 | IAB UK

With speakers including analyst Benedict Evans, writer & vlogger Christine Armstrong and Microsoft’s Theo Theodorou, we wrap up the morning of the first day of Leadership Summit 2022

“It’s two years since we were last here, with much hand sanitiser and bumping of elbows”, IAB UK’s CMO James Chandler said, opening Leadership Summit 2022 - our first large-scale, in-person event since the start of the pandemic. With delegates gathered at Sopwell House in St Albans for two days of talks and townhalls, Chandler described Leadership Summit as our annual opportunity to “get decision makers in the industry to come together, frankly talk about the issues that matter and forge ahead with solutions.”

Up next, Jon Mew, CEO of IAB UK, called on attendees to take “your passion and dedication and collectively point it in the right direction”. From the regulatory landscape to brand safety online, Jon said that our industry - while very good at knowing what to walk away from - needs to have a better collective vision of what we’re walking towards. He called for industry leaders to come together and help to make digital advertising less fragmented and complex for advertisers: “We can achieve so much more if we pool our expertise and unite around a common purpose.” 


Jon Mew speaking at Leadership Summit 2022


The ‘great unbundling’ was on the agenda next as analyst Benedict Evans shared thought-provoking insights into the role of technology in retail at a time when, excluding groceries, 40% of shopping in the UK takes place online. Yet while digital is continuing to drive change across markets, all of this has happened before: “This is another generational change in the nature of retail that happens every 30 years… department stores were Amazon once. The traditional shopkeepers thought they were maniacs, selling hats and gloves from the same shop.” 

It simply comes down to a different way of reaching customers, he said: “Should we put more money into same day shipping or Instagram? Rent or returns? All these budgets become interchangeable.”

Evans also touched on how brands reach people online and the need to clarify - and unify - our definition of privacy around digital advertising: “It should be possible to build advertising that’s private, but how do you build something that’s targeted - yet private - if we can’t agree on what privacy means?” 


Christine Armstrong speaking at Leadership Summit


Hybrid work - is it the answer to our dreams or a nightmare? This was the theme of Christine Armstrong’s session, author, researcher and vlogger. She drew on both big data and lived experience to delve into what the pandemic has meant for our working lives and how we navigate a new status quo. “There’s a lot of shifting plates and it’s all moving very fast”, Armstrong explained, adding that the cognitive overload of how we balance our time at home and time at work - particularly for those who are parents or have caring responsibilities - is not straightforward. 

Outlining key points that business leaders need to be aware of, Armstrong asked that we “stop talking about going to the office as being about collaboration and innovation - we go because we have mates there, and everything else comes out of that”. Being aware of the spaces we’re creating, communicating more than we think we need to and offering employees professional development opportunities in the face of the ‘great resignation’ are all essential as the world of work evolves. As Armstrong put it, if we get this right, “we have an incredible moment to make work work for a lot of people”. 


Theo Theodorou addressing audience at Leadership Summit


Next up was Theo Theodorou, Managing Director of Microsoft Advertising, who discussed the ‘missing middle’ of the marketing funnel, pointing out there is an assumption that - once in the funnel - gravity will take over and pull every consumer through to the bottom. “We’ve painted ourselves into a corner with the promise that digital was measurable,” he said. “We are not sheep to be herded through the funnel. All ad formats can play multiple roles at multiple times, which makes it very hard to fit into a model.”

Theodorou’s solutions for the missing middle is to bring purpose front and centre into advertising, to use data in more compelling ways, and to bridge the gap between brand and demand experiences.


Martin Siegert at Leadership Summit


Professor Martin Siegert wrapped up the morning with a talk about the climate crisis. With the Earth’s carbon dioxide concentration having increased dramatically in the past 60 years, Siegert explained that this change is akin to the temperature change that pulled us out of the last ice age 20,000 years ago -  but it has happened astronomically faster. 

Looking to the future, Siegert shared some stark facts. If all of the world’s ice melted, sea levels would go up by 66m, swamping cities such as London. With half of the world’s total sea level change having happened in the past 30 years as we’ve continued to burn fossil fuels, fast action is clearly needed - particularly as melting polar ice sheets are now driving rising sea levels, rather than glaciers.

We can’t run the clock back, but we can stem the change if government ambitions are greater. Crucially, the outcomes of COP26 don’t go far enough and we can’t rely on the Government to fund the changes we need, Siegert explained, private business has a big role to play: “We’re in a bad situation but we’re the first generation that knows this is happening and we know that we can do something about it.”

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