Oath focuses on trust, authenticity and content, warning that creators must ‘start with the story’  

Posted on: Monday 02 October 2017

Nigel Clarkson, Oath’s UK MD, kicked off this morning’s Upfronts session at The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London, describing the 170-year old venue as a centre of ‘cultural entertainment’.

He drew parallels between the setting itself and the coming together of a ‘dynamic house’ of brands in Oath, following the merger of AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and Millennial Media earlier this year. 

Allie Kline, global CMO was on stage next, having travelled to the UK specifically for the event. She set out to describe why the name Oath was chosen, as ‘a tie to bind 20-plus diverse brands together’. With trust a central tenet of Oath’s brand values, she and Clarkson spoke of ‘trusted scale, trusted content and trusted data’.

Clarkson also pointed to branded content marketing as a focus for the business, announcing, too, that by Q4 of next year, Oath aims to have one DSP, one exchange for mobile and one for video. 

Stuart Flint, VP of sales, EMEA, was up next. “Content is Oath’s differentiator,” he announced, pointing out that the business is the largest digital commercial publisher in the UK. “Content is the most important ingredient for building brand love,” he said, before identifying four separate streams: Oath content; branded content; premium partner content and influencer content - which he said is growing in importance. 

Polly Curtis, HuffPost UK’s Editor-in-Chief then joined Flint on stage. Formerly digital editor at the Guardian, Curtis said that the title looks for “the space between the main news lines”. 

“The most brilliant branded content can pay for journalism without taking anything away from your brand,” she added, whilst warning that, to this end, authenticity is critical.

Now at the helm of a brand which boasts some 200m unique visitors globally, Curtis said: “Five years ago we were all chasing clicks. Now we are saying, ‘What’s the meaningful thing to do?’ This will produce more powerful journalism as well as a richer environment to work in.”  

Alex Timbs, Oath’s head of data and attribution in the UK, then spoke about the importance of ‘humanising’ data, in a world which is awash with it. “It means nothing unless you use it in the right way,” he told the audience. 

What’s more, to unlock value in data, Timbs said that Oath wants to want to work with brands, agencies and other partners in their offsites and strategy meetings, and to go ‘far beyond’ looking simply at demographics.  

Zoe Cocker, Agency Group Lead, also urged brands to ‘move on from sweeping generalisations’; while Jem Djemal, Head of Programmatic Demand in the UK, emphasised the importance of brands and agencies sharing campaign and business objectives. “Not all sectors are equal when it comes to quantifying performance,” he explained. “Make sure that when you choose your partners you are open about your business objectives. Start with a tangible end goal.” 

Last but not least, Mark Melling, head of RYOT Studio UK showcased some of the great branded content the studio has produced. “Tech has democratised storytelling, whether for good or bad,” he said, pointing out that branded content is ‘quite a complicated matter these days’.

“It’s important not to start with a desire to leverage a particular piece of technology, such as AR and VR. The story comes first,” he warned.  

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