Leadership Summit 2024: The highlights

Posted on Thursday 07 March 2024 | IAB UK

With speakers including GroupM’s Josh Krichesfki, Sky News’ Sophy Ridge and Magic Numbers’ Grace Kite, Leadership Summit 2024 brought together experts in their fields to inspire, inform and spark debate

Day one

“What if we could all be more bear?” asked Jon Mew, CEO of IAB UK, opening Leadership Summit 2024 at Sopwell House. As Mew explained, bears are intelligent, peace-loving (unless provoked) and confident. With the help of our own resident bear and Chief Digital Cheerleader Joy, he urged delegates in the room to embrace the joy of digital and come together to effectively address shared challenges.

What happened next? Read the highlights. 

Jon Mew at LS 24

A restless decade

According to Ipsos’ Kelly Beaver, 64% of the population think that British society is broken and many are also disillusioned when it comes to the UK’s leadership. Labour are ahead in the polls with the Conservatives seeing their lowest level of support since tracking began, but people don’t actually feel positively about Starmer in comparison to previous leaders - they just don’t feel as negatively as they do about the current leadership. 

Turning her attention to the leaders in the room, Beaver urged the audience to remember that “we’re prone to get caught up in our bubble”. For example: 79% of business leaders have used or tried out AI once while OpenAI’s reach across the UK currently stands at 7%. So in this “restless decade”, what can brands do to reassure and resonate? “People are looking for a mix of creativity and empathy” Beaver said, with brands able to provide a level of continuity and familiarity that connects with consumers.

Kelly Beaver

Are we using time wisely? 

Up next, Dale Whelehan, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, turned people’s attention to whether the world of work is working for us. “We all feel like we don’t have enough time”, he explained, “but what if we’re actually not using it wisely.” Whelehan’s talk took us through how embracing a four-day week allows people to meet human cognitive and psychological needs - such as building connections and engaging with our communities. By looking back at the history of the five-day week - which was created 100 years ago - Whelehan is on a mission to redefine what the future of work can look like and called on the leaders present to “build high performance by following the science”. 

Dale and James at LS 24

Redrawing of the electoral map

“Yesterday’s budget all but rules out a May election”, according to Sophy Ridge, Sky News’ Political Correspondent. “If there was an election around the corner, there would have been another rabbit out of the hat”. She believes that it will instead be towards the end of the year and that there will be another fiscal event ahead of it - likely to be tax cuts as the Conservatives are focusing on a small pool of voters. 

On the other hand, Labour’s manifesto is harder to predict. “They don’t want to talk about spending… [and] we haven’t got much of a sense of how they will deal with the economic challenges they stand to inherit. Will they impose austerity? Would they spend more? Would they borrow more?” According to Ridge, Labour has an eye on the prize and is being incredibly disciplined by not revealing too much detail behind strong rhetoric. On how the election will play out, she said that “we are going to see a redrawing of the electoral map” vs 2019 (a Brexit and Corbyn shaped anomaly), with Labour set to do very well in 2024. 

Sophy Ridge

Agencies’ core purpose hasn’t changed 

GroupM’s Katie Grosvenor, MG OMD’s Tom Nash and dentsu’s Toby Benjamin spoke to TikTok’s Joni Morriss about the changing role of media agencies, what they are looking for from media owners, and the talent retention challenge. Grosvenor said that while the media landscape has become more complex and agencies have had to become experts in many different areas, their fundamental purpose hasn’t altered: “Clients come to us to navigate challenges and that’s our role always. That doesn’t change.” Reclaiming joy was also a theme across the discussion with Benjamin saying that there is growing optimism in the market after a tough couple of years and “we need to step up and champion that”. 

LS24 Panel

2024 as a pivotal opportunity 

Google’s Dyana Najdi took to the stage to explain why the rapid acceleration of AI and the departure of third-party cookies are creating a pivotal juncture for our industry that is “setting the path for businesses in terms of growth”. Likening our current period of transformation to the shift to digital marketing and the later shift to mobile, Najdi said that “in both instances we saw that the marketers that got ahead were the marketers that stayed ahead”. She urged the audience to “meet this moment” by getting prepared for the deprecation of cookies and embracing the potential of AI to “allow you to market at the speed of consumer change”.  

Dyana Najda

A state of diversity & confusion 

“We’re living in a state of diversity and confusion”, explained Asad Dhunna of The Unmistakables. “It started around 2021 when there was an accelerated push for more diversity and more inclusion”, resulting in D,E&I languishing in the trough of disillusionment according to Gartner’s hype cycle. Dhunna’s session focused on how we move inclusion into the slope of enlightenment. As he put it, we’re currently living with a sense of fear over what we can ask and whether we’ll get things wrong, fuelled by the ‘woke blob’ that is so dominant in media narratives. This crescendoed with Elon Musk’s ‘DEI must DIE’ tweet last year, further merging D,E&I with ‘wokeness’ in popular consciousness. For Dhunna, understanding and effectively measuring the business benefits of investing in inclusion and diversity is essential to creating an equitable future. 

Asad Dhunna

Unlocking sustainability superpowers

How do we find our own superpowers to accelerate towards a sustainable future? As a sustainability advisor, Joanna Yarrow said the question we actually all need to ask ourselves is ‘How shall we live?’ We have a “tsunami of challenges coming at us”, not least the very real effects of climate change meaning that we need to shift how we live. Yarrow urged delegates to think about 2030 as the client, consider how your offer needs to evolve to meet the brief, and then identify your businesses’ unique superpower to realise the objective. 

Rather than just being sustainable, this requires us to regenerate: “If you go away with one thing today, ask yourself ‘what can I do in my role to regenerate to have a positive social and environmental impact?’” Radical collaboration, daring to fail, and then daring to be transparent are vital to bring about positive change. 

Joana Yarrow

The end of brand vs. activation

“We’ve had good mileage out of brand vs activation, but the world has evolved and there is a third pot that we need to consider”, said Magic Numbers’ Grace Kite. That third pot is ‘be easy to find online’ - the importance of which was supercharged during the pandemic years. “Digital can do all three of the pots - brand, activation and findability online,” Kite explained, but how important is the third pot? According to Kite, making sure your brand is findable online is actually what needs to happen first. Without it, there’s no point doing the rest as people can’t act. 

Delegates at LS

'How I Became…' Live

Rounding up the first day of Leadership Summit, GroupM’s Josh Krichesfki sat down with hosts of the hit podcast ‘How I Became…’ Charles Parkinson and Ashley Samuels-McKenzie. Coping with stress, insomnia and having healthy work/life boundaries were all on the agenda. As Krichesfki put it: “Don’t assume things about people because you have no idea what is going on in their lives”. He also pointed out that there is a big difference between being emotionally invested in your work and doing the best job you can possibly do, with the latter now his approach to maintaining a balanced life.


Day two

A combination of mega-events 

Day two of Leadership Summit opened with Daniel Knapp, IAB UK’s strategic advisor and Chief Economist at IAB Europe. While 2024 is set to deliver “a combination of mega events to fuel global ad spend” the effect on the UK market will likely be muted. Knapp explained that cyclical events like the Olympics and elections historically drive ad investment far more strongly in the US, with the impact in the UK lagging behind the rest of Europe. Essentially, any events-induced boost “won’t address the structural issues in the polycrisis”.

There is cause for optimism however. As Knapp put it, “economic competition is in the DNA of the UK economy” and the uptick in new businesses opening post-pandemic will help to power digital growth. Add to this the fact that big brands are accelerating a move to digital, with Knapp urging delegates to “find ways as an industry to deliver on these motivations”.

Daniel Knapp speaking on stage at Leadership Summit 2024

AI in action 

While there is a lot of hype, excitement and fear surrounding AI, Microsoft Advertising’s Ravleen Beeston focused on “bringing it down a notch” to show delegates how we can use the technology in our everyday lives right now. From Co-pilot (that has seen 5 billion chats since launch) to image generation via DALL-E, Beeston provided a whistle-stop tour of what’s possible and how marketers in the room can harness the technology to drive greater creativity. Essentially, generative AI is “not a marketer, it’s an enabler”. 

Ravleen Beeston

The quality opportunity 

“91% of UK consumers expect the products they use to be advertised on quality sites and would think less of them if they weren’t”, according to The Telegraph’s Karen Eccles, who joined Immediate Media’s Cath Waller to spotlight the quality environments publishers offer for advertisers. In a world of deep fakes, false news and MFAs, “it’s never been more important to secure funding for journalism”. Added to this, quality publishers know their readers and can offer unique insights for brands to successfully plan and activate campaigns, explained Waller. While there is no golden ticket when it comes to the deprecation of third-party cookies, “[publishers] have an absolute mass of first-party data” and are primed to help brands deliver. 

Karen Eccles speaking at LS 24

Marketing’s seat at the table 

Zaid Al-Qassab - currently Channel 4’s CMO, soon to be Global CEO of M&C Saatchi - spoke to Roisin Donnelly - IAB UK’s Non-Executive Advisor - about why marketing deserves a seat at the top table. “If you define marketing as making some ads and putting them out there, you won’t have much of a seat at the table, but if you broadly define marketing as being the engine of growth for the company you’ll have a much better seat.” He added that the definition “is too narrow sometimes and that’s to the detriment of our industry”.   

On the digital vs. traditional dichotomy, Al-Qassab believes that it’s futile to pitch one against the other as “everything is digital now” and when it comes to marketing “the only way forward is to understand both worlds”. And when it comes to how we create a more inclusive and diverse industry, Al-Qassab pointed out that “change is deliberate, not accidental” and stressed the need for businesses to put measures in place if they actually want to see a shift. 

Leadership is bigger than you 

During her time as part of the England rugby team, Maggie Alphonsi represented the country 74 times, scored 28 tries and helped England win a record-breaking seven consecutive Six Nations crown. She closed Leadership Summit 2024 by sharing her journey and what it is that keeps driving her forward - from the PE teacher that empowered her to recognise her strengths “and run with it”, to getting out of her comfort zone to diversify her career. 

Alphonsi summed up why visible leadership is so important, with her achievements showing that women of colour can be part of a sport that is so dominated by men: “Leadership is bigger than you. It’s not about me, it’s about the people around me.” She encouraged people in the room to share their strengths, stories of empowerment and what it is that drives them. For her part, it’s “making my single parent mum proud” that keeps her pushing forward to reach new goals.  

Maggie Alphonsi


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