This year’s conference focussed on ‘reflections’; a theme represented by the literal reflection of the conference centre in the adjacent river Danube and also the industry challenge to take a step back and look at itself in the mirror.
With all this reflecting going on it seemed almost mandatory that I looked back on my own conference experience to share what struck me the most.
Firstly, it was amazing to see so many speakers championing positive social change. As someone who works in advertising it’s really important to be reminded of our industry’s ability to influence society and the huge responsibility that brings with it.
Channel 4’s Zoe Bowen-Jones demonstrated the damage advertisers can do to their brand by lazily including gender stereotypes in ad creative. Something the ASA and CAP are starting to clamp down on!
Marina Haydn from The Economist, talked us through how she was asked to set up a full female team to ensure their magazine was inclusive of (and appealing to) female readers. Something that made both ethical and commercial sense.
Cog Research continued on the diversity theme, extending the discussion to the importance of accurately portraying the UK’s ethnically diverse population in advertising.
Further, Pauline Robson turned our attention to the, equally important, issue of mental health with Mediacom’s research on how social media has the potential to negatively affect young people.
But MRG 2018 wasn’t just about social change. A big highlight was sneaking a preview of the exciting digital future for advertising. Wavemaker’s Kathryn Saxon demonstrated why advertisers should be considering their brand’s literal voice to prepare for a world of voice technology (a message mirrored by the IAB’s Find Your Voice research).
Facebook’s, Jo Tenzer talked us through the future of work - Thankfully chat bots will be booking meeting rooms and organising our diaries so we won’t have to.
Finally, Futuremade's founder, Tracey Follows put her bets down on smart cities, immersive media and the presence of multiple, physical and digital identities as the macro changes that will most dramatically shape our future society.
All in, it was a fascinatingly interesting three days of reflection that left me feeling incredibly positive, not just about an exciting digital future, but also about our willingness as an industry, to change it for the better. In fact, the only negative reflection from all of MRG 2018 appeared on Saturday morning on my bathroom mirror as I groggily tried to remember just how many red wines I’d drunk the night before...