IAB Engage 2017: Morning Session


Read the highlights of the morning session at IAB Engage 2017.

Jon Mew, IAB UK 

Our industry is increasingly focused on the short term, which is in stark contrast to hugely successful companies that plan years in advance. The digital industry needs to change; excuses about growing pains are no longer justified. At twenty years old, the IAB is changing too by taking a step back and thinking long term. Our new goal is to “build a sustainable future for digital advertising” and an industry that works for everyone – businesses and consumers alike. One of the major keys to this is the launch of our Gold Standard, which aims to raise standards in digital advertising by tackling ad fraud and brand safety and improving the digital ad experience. You can read more about the IAB Gold Standard here.

Tracey Follows, Futurist

Are we limiting digital innovation in the way we think about it? Historically, it’s been seen as an efficiency play, measured by performance metrics. Consequently, we’re thinking and acting more like machines, which blurs the lines between what it means to be human. Efficiency seems to be the Holy Grail but humans need an element of surprise and discovery – not the relentless march towards perfect efficiency. So, we’ve reached the point where we need to make digital more alive and more than just an information system. We should be thinking of digital as being part of the natural world and fusing the two together so it has greater meaning among people in the 21st Century.  

Matevz Klanjsek, Celtra

Artificial Intelligence excels at fact- and logic-based decisions like medical diagnoses and investment decisions. However, machines and algorithms have always been a distant second to human beings when it comes to creative and aesthetic processes but some question how long that will last.

An experiment at the Tribeca Film Festival pitted an AI judge against humans to evaluate the subjective matters of storytelling, perspective and artistic style to select the best films. It didn’t match up on their decisions. A result summed up by the French saying “je ne sais quoi,” an indefinable quality that makes something distinctive or attractive. Something that can be boiled down to a formula or algorithm. This is why human creativity won’t be replaced by AI – yet.

Gandhi Kawal, Google Cloud

Delightful and engaging experiences – be it avoiding coffee queues at Starbucks, instant answers on search engines or the ease of Uber – are increasingly being driven by data and machine learning.  Google is working on an algorithm that can better create responses to emails, just one example of how machine learning use is scaling up fast. Can we use it to anticipate if a subscriber is thinking of leaving a service and act accordingly? Moving from being reactive to proactive. The key is to amalgamate the disparate data sources you have to create those delightful experiences and a better, more successful future.

James Chandler, IAB UK 

There are four principles to understanding the past in order to help create a better future. One: numbers can be misleading (think Nokia’s 1 billion milestone customers). Don’t focus on them so much – instead look at patterns and shapes in data. Two: it’s OK to make mistakes. Would Snap spectacles ever have happened without Google Glass or would Spotify codes have happened without QR codes? Three: storytelling won’t change, the spaces will. The context of the message will be super important, which is increasingly relevant for the likes of video and wearables. Four: beware the shiny and new. Don’t just jump after things simply because they differ so much from what has gone before.

Emily Somers, McDonald’s UK 

Digital has transformed the way we serve customers and our ability to improve targeting through increasing amounts of first-party data. We’ve seen a 21% increase in digital spend and a 22% increase in ROI. However, digital has challenges, namely the proliferation of misinformation or untruths that can snowball online, having been previously limited to the “water cooler.” This forced us to drive trust by opening up the black box of how we do things – transparency. This was an unfamiliar move for McDonald’s but resulted in a significant rise in trust of our food. The tips for rebuilding trust are - lean into the online conversation, embrace sceptical online voices and have the courage of your convictions.

Ken Fawes, The Cincinnati Sentinel / David Walsh, The Sunday Times

Highlighting the impact his paper had in helping Trump win the critical swing state of Ohio, Fawes went on to share his views on the powerful role of AI algorithms in the production of news to drive audience figures. With some strong opinions, and bold claims around scale and tech being more powerful than human journalism, part way through his dialogue David Walsh took to the stage, outing Fawes as a fake (Ken Fawes being an anagram of Fake News) in a live stunt. Walsh went on to champion the role of human journalism. In 2017, 27 journalists have been assassinated for trying to uncover the truth. Now more than ever, journalism has never been more important. Journalism isn’t about profits; it’s about uncovering the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable, as highlighted by the fallout from the Lance Armstrong scandal and how exposing the “beautiful lie” undermined the positivity about beating cancer. The ugly truth is better than the beautiful lie.

Clare Rush, Mail Advertising

Journalists are the very cornerstone to democracy – holding politicians accountable, uncovering crime and the like. We need to keep finding people tough enough to take on such a challenge. Fake news, for all its ills, is also harmful to advertising and brand associations, so the industry has a responsibility, and a direct need, to support journalism. 

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